"In 1867, our co-op was set up for the benefit of local members and that’s something we’ve never forgotten."
How many businesses could say that and mean it? Most businesses are set up to make a profit and so they alter what they do in order to benefit the owners, but not necessarily anyone else.
But Chelmsford Star Co-operative, which is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year, does things differently. "In that time, though the challenges have changed and our society has adapted, our members are still at the heart of everything we do," says Kevin Bennett from the co-op.
"Local members are the ones that decide on how the co-op’s profits are used, and much is spent on local community causes."
Chelmsford Star Co-operative operates convenience stores, funeral homes, travel agents and department stores across Essex. Because the profit it makes stays locally, the co-op calculates that 33p in every £1 spent in any of its outlets stays in the region. This, plus it’s ‘The only way is local’ scheme helps create jobs and wealth in the area.
Its local members are the ones that decide on how the co-op’s profits are used, and much is spent on local community causes. Chelmsford Star assists over 350 local community groups and charities as part of its everyday business. This year, the co-op quadrupled the amount awarded as part of their 'Member of the Month' campaign, and is donating a free basket of shopping to a different member every week.
Though small in size for a retail business, Chelmsford Star consistently punches above its weight in areas of importance. The Fairtrade Foundation has said: "As a percentage of its turnover, Chelmsford Star has done more for overseas support than any other co-op."
You can’t say fairer than that.
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