By Steve Murrells – Co-op CEO
You’ve stepped up to meet extraordinary challenges.
This morning we’re announcing our half year results for 2020, and as you’d expect, our news is dominated by our response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Just as important as our commercial and community performance, has been the incredible effort all of you have made during this extraordinary year. During the first six months, you stepped up to meet challenges I’ve never witnessed in my entire career.
Through these critical months, you fed the nation, you cared for the deceased and the bereaved, you got medicine delivered to people stuck at home, insurance appropriate to lockdown, and legal support easy to access. In addition, you did the very best for some of the most vulnerable in our communities, including: families who had to turn to food banks for help; pupils on free school meals at our academy schools; and those shielding through ill-health.
In years to come, our business will be judged by how we reacted to the pandemic and whether we did the right thing for our colleagues and the communities we serve. I’m in no doubt that we’ll be judged to have risen to the occasion.
As you can see from the above infographic, our overall operating profit doubled to £121m, driven by an exceptional performance in our Food and Wholesale business. That was achieved through the incredible dedication shown by colleagues working at every level and in every part of the Food operation.
Our colleagues in Funeralcare saw a 22% increase in the number of funerals they carried out, sadly reflecting the dramatic increase in deaths caused by Covid-19. Colleagues worked tirelessly to support every family in the best and most creative ways possible, while keeping to all of the Government’s social distancing restrictions.
Meanwhile, across our Co-op family of businesses, and in our Manchester support centre, you’ve shown immense resilience and flexibility, balancing work and family commitments, to make sure we could continue to support our members and customers.
Despite the increase in revenue for some parts of our Co-op, much of our additional operating profit was offset by extra costs we incurred through changes to our operations, including the recruitment of seven thousand temporary posts across Food and Funeralcare, and purchasing PPE, which in total came to £54m.
Supporting our communities
Through various channels, we gave £15m to support local communities. Addressing food poverty created by the crisis was a priority and we worked closely with FareShare to support food banks across the UK. We also gave £2.6m free school meal vouchers to 6,000 Co-op Academy pupils. The work of our Member Pioneers and the national launch of our Co-operate platform enabled many communities to find the resilience they needed to get through the last six months.
We didn’t forget our partners abroad either. We created a global fund of £950,000 which we directed to our Fairtrade suppliers and to One Water sustainable water projects, to help them get through the current crisis.
Staying strong in the times ahead
The coming months remain uncertain, and we know our own Co-op and our millions of members will not be immune to the pressures the recession will bring to family budgets and to local communities. We’ll continue to invest in our business to remain strong for our members and able to invest in the things that matter most to them.
Our vision of Co-operating for a Fairer World has taken on even greater resonance this year, with the pandemic bringing to light inequalities and injustices which no longer feel remotely tolerable. That’s why we’re announcing four important new ways we’re helping our colleagues, members and local communities to stay strong in the hard times ahead.
1. Improving pay
In recognition of the vital role played by you this year, and the tough times ahead for the nation, we’re going to work with our union partner USDAW to further improve our front-line colleague pay by aligning our hourly pay rates to the Real Living Wage from next year. This will give a significant pay boost to 33,000 of our colleagues, mostly working in our food stores.
2. Tackling racism
As I said in my message to colleagues yesterday, we’re going to tackle the unfairness of racism through a set of bold and distinctive commitments including doubling the number of leaders and managers working for us from Black, Asian and ethnic minority groups. We’ll also publish an annual ethnicity pay gap report and encourage the government to make this mandatory for big businesses. And we’ll work with our Co-op Academy Trust to develop an anti-racism curriculum for schools
3. Improved Co-op Membership
At the end of September, we’re relaunching Co-op Membership which will double the amount we give to community causes and organisations. We’ll also be using improved data and technology to tailor weekly discounts to our members. This is in addition to a multi-million-pound investment in price reductions in our Food stores.
For Colleague Members there’s even more. To thank you for all you’re doing, we’re doubling your member discount on Co-op branded products from 10% to 20% everyday, all year round. And the 20% Colleague Member discount will apply to our full Food product range for 13 special payday events each year.
4. New routes to work
The younger generation is being hit hardest by the economic fallout from Covid-19, so we want to give a helping hand into work to even more young people.
We’ll offer 150 of the Government Kickstart work placements to candidates in communities where opportunities are most needed. And we’ll make at least 50% of those placements permanent when training is complete. We’ll also top up the national minimum wage allowance, to ensure candidate income is in line with colleagues pay. This is in addition to 1,200 apprentices currently active across our Co-op.
To keep our commitments to colleagues, members and communities, we need to be effective and efficient in all we do. So, we’ll be continuing our operating model work in our Support Centre functions to ensure we’re fit for the future.
You can read business specific updates below:
Once again, let me say how proud I am of every one of you. We’ve succeeded this year because of your grit, determination and the values of co-operation. Thank you again for all you’re doing to keep our Co-op strong as we Co-operate for a Fairer World.