A co-operative is a group of people acting together to meet the common needs and goals of its members, sharing ownership and making decisions democratically. Unlike a PLC co-operatives are not about making big profits for shareholders, but they exist to create value for customers – this is what gives co-operatives a unique character, and influences our values and principles. Since 1844 there have been co-operatives; organisations set up by communities for the good of local people, providing quality produce at fair prices.
We strive 'to be a successful consumer co-operative working towards creating a better, fairer world and to enhance the lives of our colleagues, members, customers, and the communities we serve'. That means that we are an ambitious business guided by the co-operative values and principles to ensure that everything we do benefits our members and the wider community.
Midcounties launched its first store in 1853 and there's been no stopping us since, but no matter how we grow our values of Democracy, Openness, Equality and Social Responsibility remain the same.
We're proud of our heritage, independence and our local roots - those are things that will never change. The Co-operative Movement has its roots in the 19th Century when the Industrial Revolution resulted in widespread exploitation and misery for many working people.
One particular form of exploitation that was common was the way many people found it difficult to obtain good quality food at a fair price.
The Rochdale Pioneers are credited with starting the first successful retail co-operative society in 1844, although there had been earlier attempts. The Pioneers opened a shop in Toad Lane, Rochdale selling unadulterated goods at reasonable prices to raise funds to create their own co-operative community. They also introduced a dividend that meant that all of its customers could become members of the Society and received a return in accordance with their expenditure.
By 1890, the efforts of ordinary men and women had forged a Movement of some 1,400 societies right across the century, with even more in Europe and elsewhere throughout the world. However, during the last century, the Co-operative Movement has undergone many changes in order to meet the challenge posed by multiple retailers, including combining to create larger and more efficient organisations.
Today, there are around 39 retail co-operative societies in the UK ranging in size from small 'one shop' societies to giants with sales of over £5 billion. Scroll through the timeline on the right or read more about our heritage on our main Society website.
Our team of travel experts are all extremely well-travelled and can offer advice based on first-hand knowledge of the many destinations they have visited.
As a Co-operative, we are fully independent and not tied to any individual tour operator and this means we are able to offer fully impartial recommendations to you for your next holiday.
Founded in 2003 the Travel Foundation is an independent charity working to ensure tourism benefits people and the environment in destinations all around the world. The Travel Foundation works closely with communities, tourism businesses, local authorities and many other groups and organisations in order to transform tourism in a way that makes it more sustainable, fairer and engaging for local communities as well as providing a more authentic experience for people vising the destination. In 2015 the Travel Foundation contributed over £1m towards the charitable activities that they support. 72% of the income that enabled them to make these contributions came through the generosity of people like you donating amounts as small as £1 when booking holidays. We are delighted to support the travel foundation and do hope that you will consider making a similar small donation next time you book with us to enable us to continue to support the great work that the Travel Foundation are doing all around the world. You can read more about the great work that the Travel Foundation do on their website, click here to visit the Travel Foundation.
Our shared goal is to measurably improve knowledge of sustainable tourism products and practices with the Co-operative Travel team and to support our customers in making more sustainable holiday choices. We will also seek to raise the profile of our charitable partnership and, in turn, increase the total annual funds raised from customers that directly support the ongoing work of the Travel Foundation.
The Travel Foundation are working in a number of ways towards their vision of sustainable tourism and they have a wide range of projects, working with tourism decision makers to embed change within the travel & tourism industry. Some examples of how the Travel Foundation have helped implement sustainable ways of working in the tourism industry are:
Enhancing the quality and sustainability of products and services in destinations, creating better customer experiences that also benefit the people and environment in destinations. Their work in Mombasa is a great example of positive industry change.
They deliver and develop bespoke training programmes to help entrepreneurs improve business skills, and to help organisations in the destination support their future development. They ran a train-the-trainer project in Jamaica so that local tourism trainers could support craft entrepreneurs.
They also support businesses and governments to embed change into their policies, to help destinations thrive. For example, they helped the Cyprus Tourism Organisation embed minimum standards for sustainability into their hotel standards for all tourist accommodation on the island.
We are proud to support the Travel Foundation with all their projects, especially those that are so closely linked to our own values.
Here’s one story that’s particularly close to our hearts….
1. To increase economic, social and cultural benefits to the Much Kaab honey co-operative and their families
2. To provide an incentive to support the conservation of the Melipona bee and the preservation of the Maya beekeeping cultural tradition
3. To provide a model of best practice for other communities, in relation to both beekeeping and business development Why? Communities living in rural areas have few opportunities to earn a living from tourism. Linking their product to the tourism industry will help the cooperative to earn a living from tourism, and remain living in their home village.
Why? Communities living in rural areas have few opportunities to earn a living from tourism. Linking their product to the tourism industry will help the cooperative to earn a living from tourism, and remain living in their home village.
Change in business practice
11 large hotels and one gift shop chain have changed their purchasing policies, giving market access to small scales supplier
The cooperative have gained experience of developing a brand, and running market testing, and now have a customer facing brand and packaging attractive to the tourism market.
Increased cooperative members confidence in meeting with suppliers and participating in trade events
In the first year of trading, the group generated over £5,500 in sales (an increase from £270)
You can see more information on this and many more Travel Foundation projects on the Travel Foundation Website.
Regional Communities' is a focussed, measured approach to supporting communities in an identified geographical location where the society has a strong trading presence. Measured, with clear targets, Regional Communities is a programme that puts Midcounties at the very heart of the local life, ensuring that we are truly community owned, community led, and community rewarding.
Our colleagues and members work together to support local community projects that matter to those who work, live and learn in the local community.
The Midcounties Co-operative is one of only a handful of UK businesses to achieve a 5 star rating in Business in the Community’s annual benchmark of responsible business, the Corporate Responsibility Index (CR Index). We are proud to have achieved 99% against an average of 91% for our sustainability practices.
Find out more and learn how to apply for funding for your local community project here.
As a Society, our colleagues also receive an entitlement of up to three days each year to volunteer within their normal working hours.
Last year our colleagues across the Society completed 36,100 volunteering hours (compared to 26,000 in 2015). If this work had been paid for it would have cost the beneficiaries over £500,000. 21,000 of these hours were completed in Regional Community areas (increase from 10,800 in 2015).
We believe that volunteering gives our colleagues a fantastic opportunity to develop individually and as part of a team while making a real difference to their community. Colleagues taking part in our volunteer programme have participated in numerous activities – anything from painting a church hall, to supporting employability events or one-to-one mentoring for young people.
If you would like to find out more about the scheme and how our colleague volunteers can make a difference at your community group, or if you are interested in volunteering, click here to contact the Midcounties Community team.
As a co-operative we’re working towards a better, fairer world. Our Society is working to make a difference in a positive way to the lives of people, both in your community and throughout the world. For example, on a local level our stores over essential services and we support and fund local community projects. On a worldwide level, we continue to support a variety of initiatives including Fairtrade, ethical sourcing and caring for the environment.
All of our trading groups are doing their bit, with our Funeral Group introducing LpG fuels for some funeral vehicles to achieve reduced emissions and launching a range of environmentally friendly coffins. At our Childcare nurseries biodegradable nappies are used and children are taught the value of recycling and environmental awareness.
As you can imagine, producing numerous travel brochures creates waste. As part of The Midcounties Co-operative’s commitment to the environment we endeavour to recycle all our brochures and, wherever possible, send e-brochures to our customers to help reduce waste even further.
The Society was reaccredited for the second time with the fair tax mark in 2016 , which certifies that we pay the right amount of tax in the right place at the right time. This Tax Charter represents a formalisation of our approach on tax matters and reflects our outlook and values.
Within the overall framework set by the Charter, we believe it is fair that we look for ways to mitigate the Society’s tax bill to ensure we do not pay more tax than we need to.
However, our approach will always be based on a recognition that as a values led and ethical organisation we should pay the taxes we are due to pay and we should not engage in aggressive tax avoidance schemes, even if legal.
Click here to view our Tax Charter
As an organisation that is owned by its members, co-operation is central to our purpose. Our members have the opportunity to tell us what is important to them, and we listen to and act on their comments. Members decide what percentage of our profits are returned to the members and to the local community. The AGM and the regional half yearly members' meetings are a key way that members can have a say in the running of their Society. And of course members are encouraged to use their vote in the Society's annual elections in the autumn, when members like you contest places for the Society's Board of Directors.
Being a member of The Midcounties Co-operative offers you the opportunity to earn membership points when you trade with us. These points are then converted into a Share of the Profits, the value of which is approved by our members at our members’ meetings. From childcare and energy, to healthcare and travel, being a Midcounties Co-operative member ensures you enjoy a range of benefits across all our business areas.
You can find a breakdown of how to earn points and our current rewards here.
We are delighted to announce that Midcounties Co-operative members now have access to exclusive travel benefits with our Member Travel Club. We are passionate about providing our members with the widest choice of holidays as well as hand-picked exclusive discounts, rewards and VIP rates on travel money, all available at your local Midcounties Co-operative Travel store.
We source unique new offers for our members every month which we distribute via exclusive email offers, to ensure you get the most from your membership with Midcounties Co-operative.
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