East of England 

Our sustainability approach 2022

We believe being sustainable means looking at every part of our business and culture. It's about being accountable for our impact on the planet and supporting our colleagues and communities to thrive. Our strategy is intended to be a 'living' process, to ensure that it remains current and evolves alongside our co-op and the wider needs of our planet.

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Defining our priorities

Our co-op is a large and diverse business. This presents both opportunities and challenges.

Made up of colleagues with different areas of expertise from across our business, a Sustainability Group is working together to design and implement ideas that will have a positive impact on sustainability and provide social and environmental value within our local communities and across the globe.

There are a number of recognised models for tracking and reporting on sustainability. Closely matching our co-operative values and principles, we have chosen to use the Sustainable Development Goals Compass.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015. Also known as the Global Goals, they aim to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity by 2030.

We're a responsible, regional business, but it's important that we play our part in supporting the global sustainability agenda, answering the SDGs universal call to action to meet the worlds biggest challenges.

Quality Education

Ensure inclusive, equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all

Raising awareness and equipping our colleagues with the right knowledge and skills is key to integrating sustainability throughout our business and promoting it within our communities.


Training opportunities for all

Helping our colleagues flourish

We want to be the best place to work in the East of England and support our colleagues to reach their full potential.

Over the past year we’ve invested in a blended approach to training and we now offer a mix of face-to-face, digital and online training. All of our online courses are now mobile compatible too, so they’re available to every colleague. We’ve created our first-ever suite of tailored training videos for our Food store colleagues, and we’ve refreshed our training offer for our Funeral colleagues to cover everything from service arranging to supporting families.

For our new starters, we’ve developed the ‘Welcome to our Co-op’ curriculum and the ‘Onboarding Your New Colleague’ programme for managers to ensure we communicate everything about who we are, our values and our culture, right from the start. When we launched Our Co-op mission and vision, 65 colleague ambassadors delivered face-to-face training to 2,500 colleagues over 180 sessions.

People chatting on a sofa Chef cooking in a garden


Our learning and development offering continues to go from strength to strength, providing structured learning pathways for our people. Now in its sixth year, our Apprenticeship Programme has supported more than 150 colleagues to date, through schemes in areas including accountancy, leadership and HR.

In the last year we’ve added apprenticeships in PR and communications and learning and development to our offering and have welcomed 27 colleagues onto our programmes.

Our colleagues have flourished as a result, such as Food Branch Manager Jonnie Gilbert, who is completing a management apprenticeship and was named ‘management apprentice of the year’ by West Suffolk Business College, and Lewis Upson, who is completing a level 4 PR & Communications apprenticeship and was responsible for securing record attendance at an episode of ‘Your Co-op Live’, our interactive live shows for members.

Alongside our apprenticeships, we proudly support colleagues with a wealth of learning opportunities through the Hive learning portal, offering interactive content on how to do the job, as well as personal and professional development, delivered both virtually and face-to-face.

Leadership team

Not only is Lewis an integral part of our team, but he's also enthusiastic and a quick learner, and we value his opinion. I think the apprenticeship has been the making of Lewis; he's well respected within our co-op and I am incredibly proud of him and what he's achieved.

Lynn Warner, Line Manager to Lewis Upson

achieved Distinctions


colleagues have joined our apprenticeship programme


pass rate vs National average of 55%

Gender Equality

Achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls

We’re committed to being an inclusive organisation as diverse as our communities. We recognise that there is more to be done to realise real change, but we’re dedicated to achieving gender equality and continuing to empower all women and girls across our co-operative.


Gender pay gap

Being a responsible employer is something we feel passionately about here at the East of England Co-op. Central to that is ensuring men and women are paid equally across the organisation.

We’re fortunate that our median gap (the difference between the hourly rate of the ‘middle’ male role to the ‘middle’ female role) is quite small thanks to our pay practices. However, a key focus for us continues to be reducing the mean pay difference between men and women. This has come about because we’ve got more male employees in our most senior and highest paid roles, and an under-representation of women in roles which attract the highest level of premium payments, such as callouts and working unsocial hours.

We know that realising real change won’t happen overnight, but we’re committed to some long-term actions to help us get there. These include monitoring the gender balance of internal promotions, strictly governing any ‘out of cycle’ pay increases to ensure fairness and consistency and introducing a new agile working policy to create a flexible working culture.

Adult wages for all

We’re keen to ensure that all our colleagues, irrespective of their age, are paid equally. That’s why those who are under 23 receive our full ‘adult’ pay rate as opposed to national minimum wage.

Alongside this, our hourly-paid store colleagues receive the full rate of pay for a role as soon as they start working with us, rather than a reduced ‘starter rate’.

Our younger colleagues also benefit from enhanced sick pay, holiday entitlement, pension contributions and family leave benefits, along with a colleague discount. Life assurance, a Cycle to Work scheme and interest-free rental deposit salary advances, to help colleagues secure a rental property, are available too.

A fair and inclusive place to work

We value and celebrate the diversity of our colleagues and believe we’re stronger together. We know that a diverse workforce brings with it a wealth of knowledge, experience and talent, all of which are fundamental to the success of our business and its people.

Our vision is to be the East of England’s most valued organisation, and the diversity of our colleagues enables us to better meet and respond to our communities’ changing needs.

We know that it’s not enough to ‘just’ encourage diversity. We’re committed to creating an environment where all our colleagues feel included and that they belong.

Over the past 12 months we have established an Inclusion and Diversity Steering Group to influence and shape our strategy in this area. We have also developed an Inclusion and Diversity Action Plan, and together they will promote a broader Inclusion and Diversity remit within the organisation, including gender diversity.


of all colleagues are female


of our managers are female


of 16 board members are female

Decent work & economic growth

Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all

As a local co-operative, supporting the communities we serve is deep rooted in our DNA. To promote sustainable economic growth and employment we’ll continue to re-invest in our communities through local development projects and supporting local businesses.

Decent work
& economic

Supporting our local businesses

One of our core principles as a co-op is to reinvest in our communities. That’s why, when it comes to the development and refurbishment of our properties, we strive to use local suppliers wherever possible. This includes everything from materials and labour to professional services such as solicitors.

This enables us to create work opportunities for local people. We estimate that this year, we created 11,000 days of work on projects across our co-op. In the last year, we've spent £37.1million with business and suppliers in our local area.

By 2025, it is our goal for 100% of property development procurement spent with local contractors.

We spent

£5.1 million

with local suppliers last year

We created


days of work for local people across our projects

Property development with a difference

The £5.5m redevelopment of our historic department store in Long Wyre Street, Colchester was completed this year, offering 24 apartments and five retail units. One of the retail units is already occupied which has created 39 jobs, and more restaurants and shops are set to follow.

Elsewhere our other developments will make a real difference to our local communities, whether that’s through job creation or by providing new homes. In Ipswich, we have leased the main part of our former distribution centre to an existing rental client, supporting their expansion.

We are also installing solar panels at many of our stores and across our portfolio are prioritising renewable energy.

Pride of Mersea group I#InItToBinIt

Safety and wellbeing

The safety and wellbeing of our colleagues is of upmost importance, and we invest significant resources into ensuring they have a safe and secure working environment.

This year we’ve recorded:


accidents per 100 colleagues


accident Incident Rate (AIR) per 100 full time employees


RIDDOR incident rate of per 100 colleagues