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Climate change driven by members of one of the UK's largest co-operatives

Case study

9th July 2021
Climate action
Members of The Midcounties Co-operative are driving the organisation's climate change agenda

From eco-bricks to plastic reduction to community energy, the members of The Midcounties Co-operative are driving transformational change to support climate action.

Asking people what they think is the easy part. Acting on their collective voice isn't as simple - but that's exactly what The Midcounties Co-operative is doing after hearing from tens of thousands of its members, with climate change the number one priority. In response, Midcounties launched its '1 Change' campaign.

Chief Values Officer at Midcounties, Pete Westall, said: "We launched the 'Your Co-op Voice' programme two years ago to improve the feedback we get from our members. Since then we have actioned nearly 100 surveys, receiving almost 40,000 responses from members on a range of issues central to the development of our plans.

"Our member-owners told us that climate action is a real priority to them, and that they want to be able to work with us to understand what they can do, what we can do and what we can all do together to take action on Climate Change."

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Collective impact places our movement and each and every co-operative in a unique position to raise member awareness and political influence on the importance of so many subjects, including the UN Sustainable Development Goals both today – and long into the future. 
– Pete Westall, Midcounties Co-operative

The 1 Change campaign focuses on working with members, colleagues and communities to drive transformational change to support climate action.

Pete added: "Many of the over 1,000 ‘1 Change’ pledges made by our members were around re-using waste plastics in some way. Members created eco-bricks, which were used by one of our community partners, Fairy Tale Farm in Oxfordshire, to build animal houses. That simple example helped educate local school children, as well as their parents, of practical uses of waste plastic rather than disposal."

Collaborative community tidy-up activities were also launched, enabling over 700 volunteers to tidy up 380 bags of litter from the natural environment. And as a result of member feedback, Midcounties set about reducing more than two tonnes of plastic from its operations per year, while replacing single use plastic carrier bags with compostable bags across all its food stores.

Did you know?
By going compostable Midcounties has reduced the number of single-use plastic bags in circulation by eight million every year!

Pete said: "Our 1 Change programme will be a catalyst to further engage our members and communities in helping to achieve the UN 35 REPORT 2020 Climate Action - what large cooperatives can do to meet SGD 13 Sustainable Development Goals by driving behaviours around issues such as climate action, responsible consumption, and helping to build sustainable communities. Increasingly, we are using member insight to influence the development of values-led products and services."

The support of community renewable energy is another area MidCounties' members have targeted. Peter said: "In response, we have established Younity, a joint venture with Octopus Energy, which supports community energy projects across the country. Crucially, we also have agreements with around 100 community energy groups which guarantees them a fair price for the electricity they generate. This is then supplied to our customers and members through the Your Co-op Energy Community Power tariff – the only tariff in the UK powered solely by community generated electricity.

"Our energy business is one part of our utilities trading group, which also includes Your Co-op Broadband and Your Co-op Mobile, and we’re uniquely placed to offer ethical and sustainable ways for our members and customers to connect and power their homes – this includes ensuring our broadband packages are not only fast and reliable but also carbon positive, by offsetting 50kg of carbon and planting a tree for every one of our customers.

"We also aim to inspire our younger members and indeed the next generation of co-operators by working with our 50 partner schools to educate around climate action, helping to develop and showcase co-operative solutions to the UN Global Goals."

Collective action is key according to Midcounties' Chief Values Officer - not just in the UK but through the global network of co-operatives. He said: "The sharing of best practice among all of us is fundamental to ensuring co-ops remain relevant and effective for all our members.

"That collective impact places our movement and each and every co-operative in a unique position to raise member awareness and political influence on the importance of so many subjects, including the UN Sustainable Development Goals both today – and long into the future.