We are owned by our 150,000-plus customer and colleague members. They are entitled to a Share of the Profit when they spend money with any The Southern Co-operative business (subject to certain product exclusions); they have the opportunity to vote, influencing key business decisions, and subject to certain requirements they can seek nomination as a Director of the Board.

They are also able to attend a range of educational visits throughout the year. Events in 2015 included trips to local suppliers The Garlic Farm, Isle of Wight, Bowmand Brewery, High Weald, Calbourne Mill as well as our apiaries on Bee Island at our Lakeside central offices. To find out more about our latest member trips, click here (opens in new window).

Shaping the way we communicate
We’ve already begun creating new communications about member benefits, and we’ll work to ensure that as many people as possible see them. Hopefully, our Annual Review (opens on new window) will also go some way to giving members easy-to-access information about governance, the Board and how we plan to make it even stronger. We’ll keep working to be smarter about our communication with our members, online and in more traditional ways; to keep you better informed about different opportunities to get more involved if our members want to.

Strengthening our community support
The Southern Co-operative has a respected reputation for caring about our local communities, with an active programme of fundraising, volunteering and funding schemes; last year we invested over £630,000 back into our communities across southern England. Having digested the feedback from over 4,800 members to our community investment strategy survey in Spring 2015, now we have developing a new approach, tailoring this to what you told us is most important. The one thing that has come through loud and clear as most important for everyone is our support for local communities.

With this feedback in mind, The Southern Co-operative is launching a refreshed new community programme; ‘Love your Neighbourhood’ (opens in new window), which builds upon our history of supporting local groups and replaces our community support scheme that’s been running for 10 years.

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Optimized-Supporting Young People Into Work

It’s a challenging time for our young people in the UK, with the rising costs of education, a challenging job market, a legacy of national debt and an uncertain future shaped by climate change.

Our Learning and Development team has worked with colleagues, schools and charitable organisations to broaden and improve the range of work experience placements we offer.

Our TSC Academy has continued to evolve and our aim is that, as soon as a colleague joins The Southern Co-operative, there is an opportunity to learn and develop. We know that people learn in different ways, so our training team is working to create the right training programmes to meet both our business need and our colleagues’ preferred learning styles. From excelling in a current role to taking on a new one, we want to ensure there is something for everyone. We want to empower our colleagues to be involved in their own development, whoever and wherever they are in the business.


Apprenticeship opportunities
Across the business, we know that apprenticeships present a great opportunity for people who join the business at the entry level to develop. It gives them a recognised qualification, and provides a launch pad from which to begin their career. The Southern Co-operative will be looking at apprenticeships in the light of the Government’s proposed apprenticeship levy in 2017.

The Southern Co-operative is working with Business in the Community (opens in new window) to establish their Business Class programme in the Solent Region. Business Class, a government-endorsed programme, helps businesses support socially disadvantaged young people through long-term partnerships with the schools they attend.

Our partnership with Portchester Community School has enabled us to work with the school on its strategic focus areas, such as raising career aspiration. Support for pupils to date has included an employability session at our offices in 1000 Lakeside with workshops on CV writing and interview skills, mock job interviews and career talks to year 11 students, which have highlighted the range of roles available and career paths our colleagues have taken. Our 10 mentoring partnerships between colleagues and pupils continue to give support during the pupils’ exam year.

Our Chief Executive is chairing the newly established Solent Cluster, a group of Business Class partnerships in the region who share experiences and best practice, with a view to promoting business involvement with schools across the area. Other businesses involved include KPMG and the University of Southampton.

Optimized-Helping Colleagues Realise Their Potential

Our business success ultimately depends on our people. Their commitment to our business and the service they provide to our customers is what sets us apart from other businesses.

Foundation Skills

Our Foundation Skills programme is a series of workshops to help colleagues to develop their personal effectiveness in the workplace, and tackles skills such as time management, conflict management and personal effectiveness. Since its launch in the spring, total attendance at workshops has reached 586, and new topics will be added throughout 2016.

Learning library

Providing a place for self-directed learning, we’ve opened a lending library at 1000 Lakeside. Small, but growing all the time, it’s free and open to everyone, and contains a selection of books and other materials that can help users to develop leadership skills according to their own needs and timetable.

Future Leaders programme

For any business, planning for the future means recognising that our key people won’t be in their roles for ever. A comprehensive review of our entire senior management team has been carried out to identify colleagues ready for that next level of stretch, providing a sustainable pool of leadership potential. Four colleagues are involved in this three-year programme and, after the first year, all four participants have taken on either a more senior or a broadened role.

Retail Development programme 

As our business footprint expands, we are keen to identify new talent and colleagues inside The Southern Co-operative who are ready to take that next step. In 2015, 37 people completed our eight-week Retail Development programme, which identifies colleagues with the potential to step up to a store manager’s role.

Optimized-Promoting Local Food and Drink

As a fundamental part of our engagement with local communities, we remain committed to supporting growers and small local food producers across the south of England. 2015 saw the launch of our local food flagship store within the newly opened Freshwater supermarket on the Isle of Wight, and our Local Flavours range has been strengthened during the year, and now extends to some 2,000 product lines.

A selection of locally sourced products is now offered in 145 stores across 11 counties, with our full Local Flavours (opens in new window) range available in 64 locations. Total sales of our Local Flavours (opens in new window) products rose by 11% in 2015.  Furthermore, we know that the provenance of all of the food we stock remains important to our customers and members, so we take a rigorous approach to all food sourcing. Almost 2,000 UK farms supply us with meat, poultry and dairy products and fresh produce.

Dedicated farming groups for beef, chicken, pork, lamb and dairy are helping us to: address supply-chain environmental impacts and animal welfare; encourage long-term investment and improvement;strengthen our relationships with farmers, and improve the visibility and complexity of the supply chain.

We translate our strategy to store under the Local Flavours banner, aiming to Kate-Hibbertkeep this range true to the county in which they are sited. Occasionally, we find a supplier or product that is so good we offer it across our estate. We want everyone to try it!

We also work very closely with our Local Flavours suppliers, so that we really understand how they tick; we know some are very small and make sure we support them through preferential payments terms. Others may need help with packaging so we support them with branding suggestions and guide them to help with design or printing.

It is so satisfying to work with people who are passionate about their products, to see them move from a farm shop or market stall into the wider retail environment and achieve what they are really capable of. Our engagement with suppliers demonstrates our commitment to the area in which we trade and the food producing communities within it. I hope our Local Flavours range will continue to grow. In the competitive world of convenience retailing, it really gives us a point of difference. Kate Hibbert, Local Sourcing Manager

Optimized-Trading Responsibly

In line with our co-operative values and principles, we demand the highest ethical standards when sourcing the products and services we sell and use within our business.

All the products that we sell within our food stores (with the exception of Local Flavours) are procured through the Federal Retail Trading Services (FRTS). Through these arrangements and our membership of the FRTS Food Policy Group, we continue to develop and maintain market-leading sustainability policies on issues such as animal welfare, environmental protection, fairtrade and health and nutrition.

The Food Matters campaign – from making sure workers in our supply chain are treated and paid fairly to supporting British farmers, or from managing where we source ingredients from to helping people make healthier choices, we do it all because we believe that food matters.

The above approach extends through to the supply chain with the application of a Sound Sourcing Code of Conduct (PDF, 80kb), which identifies the labour standards expected to be applied across suppliers of all co-operative brand food products and products made exclusively for us. This is supported by a robust monitoring and support programme that helps suppliers in key sourcing countries to manage and raise labour standards.

For our End of Life Services clients, selecting a coffin or casket is just one of the many important choices they have to make. Our suppliers combine traditional skills with modern processes as well as taking account of environmental considerations.  The majority of the paper and timber used in the manufacture of our range of coffins is sourced from recycled or certified sustainable sources (eg, Forest Stewardship Council accredited).

We will be looking to extend our approach to ethical sourcing beyond our food retail and funeral supply chain to new areas of our business.