HR Excellence Awards 2009: Best Use of CSR in HR - The Midcounties Co-operative

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) plays an important role in the business of community-based retailer Midcounties Co-operative.

The organisation's stated aim is to be a successful consumer co-operative working towards the creation of a better, fairer world, one that enhances the lives of its colleagues, members, customers and the communities it serves.

However, this co-operative's CSR involvement goes beyond the norm. No "just going and turning a garden over", as one judge put it, but instead a strategy clearly linked to business objectives and embedded from the outset. Its community investment programme, which focuses on funding, volunteering and project work, awarded more than £130,000 last year through 257 grants, while Midcounties Co-operative staff carried out more than 22,000 hours of volunteer work.

Last year the group implemented a fresh strategic direction for community investment, identifying four key social issues to steer the strategy: the environment, social inclusion, education and public health.

Group general manager Trish Poole has overall responsibility for personnel and community work, which means HR and CSR are linked. The HR department is actively involved in delivering CSR strategy - for example, HR advisors help youngsters who have left the education system to write CVs and practise interviews.

Judges' comments

The judging panel was most impressed with the business data: in a sector with a high churn rate, turnover of staff volunteers is just 3.4%, while 1,788 new volunteers joined Midcounties Co-operative last year. "They have linked skills to community needs; this is not just regular CSR stuff," said one judge.


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