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#SocialSaturday: How the Co-op is creating equality through business

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Today, the Co-op teams up with Social Enterprise UK to support their annual campaign, Social Saturday 2018.

The campaign is all about celebrating and promoting the work of social enterprises. These companies are changing the face of businesses and “set up to trade for a social purpose...using business to create a more equal society”.

Students are the workforce of the future so, as part of the Social Saturday campaign, Social Enterprise UK have launched a petition for students to encourage FTSE 350 companies to utilise social enterprises in their supply chains.

Image: Pixabay

The Co-op was founded in 1844 on the premise of ethical trading and has continued to expand this pledge throughout its growth. Based on a set of values and principles, the Co-op was founded “to address the exploitation of factory workers living in slum conditions during the industrial revolution”.

Although the shape of the Co-op has changed over the years, it still operates with those principles, with equality in business at its heart.

An example of this is how the Co-op is campaigning to tackle modern slavery. Living in the UK, you may think that we live away from such a breach of human rights but this is sadly very far from the truth. The government estimates that there are tens of thousands of modern-day slaves in the UK.

Slavery in the 21st century is something that is not always at the forefront of the headlines but is still a massive issue. Statistics by Anti-Slavery International show that there are an estimated 40.3 million people still in a form of slavery around the world. 

Modern-day slavery can take its form in any forced action, labour, or placement against the will of an individual. This includes breaches of human rights such as human trafficking, child and forced marriage, bonded labour, as well as many others.

Ahead of Social Saturday, we have put together a number of ways the Co-op is aiming to improve conditions and tackle modern-day slavery:

1. The Co-op’s Supplier’s Guide to Ethical Trade sets standards for working conditions that employers working in conjunction with the company must meet. Through frequent inspections on both its producers and suppliers, Co-op maintains these high standards and helps to tackle modern-day slavery. This scheme covers 1,173 sites over 69 countries covering 6 continents, supporting over half a million workers.

2. As well as this, the Co-op openly acknowledges the limitations of such schemes, working closely with organisations such as Stronger Together (tackling modern slavery in supply chains) and Sedex Stakeholder Forum (who pride themselves on being used by tens of thousands of companies to manage their performance around labour rights).

3. The Co-op is a member-owned company with 4.6 million members. Head of Co-operative Relations, Russell Gill, highlighted in a blog post how this work is particularly focused on tackling modern slavery and “providing paid employment opportunities to some of those who have suffered from human trafficking”. So, not only do the Co-op help to prevent and end modern-day slavery, but they also help people get back on their feet after they have been freed from this bondage.

4. The Co-op has also established its Global Suppliers Forum, UK Regional Suppliers Forums, Strategic Supplier Forum, spaces where suppliers can come together and discuss any issues they may have. Working closely with these suppliers enables co-op to ensure that their ethical trading requirements are met, as well as enabling them to push for better working conditions for migrants.

In a world where human rights are still breached on a wide spectrum, shop somewhere which puts your money back into programmes that help to keep its trading ethical and its employees happy.

Students get 10% off at Co-op with a Totum or NUS extra card. Find your local Co-op here.

To find out more about how Co-op are working to protect the lives of workers, visit their website here.

Social Saturday is on 13 October. Find out more here.

For more inspiration from Co-op throughout the year follow @coopukfood

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