Following the launch of the Co-operative Group’s ethical plan 12 months ago, the group has surpassed expectations, exceeding many of the original targets.

Over the last year, The Co-operative has reduced its operational greenhouse gas emissions by 35 percent. The group’s water consumption has also been reduced by 20 percent.

Group Chief Executive, Peter Marks, said: “Despite the economic downturn we have remained true to our pledge to show the way on corporate responsibility.” 

The Group, which operates 4,800 retail trading outlets, employs more than 106,000 people and has an annual turnover of more than £13 billion, has achieved savings of nearly £40 million a year from the newly-implemented environmental efficiency initiatives. Marks explained that the energy savings are being ploughed back into the business to help further reduce costs.

Commenting on Co-op’s results, Jonathon Porritt, Founder Director of Forum for the Future, said: “The UK’s energy economy has been profoundly weakened by an over-dependence on the big energy companies and inconsistencies in both policy and regulation.”

Last year, the group lent £700 million worth of funding for green energy products. Porritt commented: “Community energy schemes are at last coming into their own, and the very substantial support now promised to community energy by The Co-operative has the potential to transform this hugely exciting sector.  If you want to see what the ‘green economy’ looks like in practice, look no further.”

Marks added: “Our work in the communities in and around our stores is going from strength to strength. Amazingly, the average person in the UK is now only a mile away from a community project that has received our support.”

Looking forward, the Co-op has pledged to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent by 2020. The group’s water consumption will also be reduced by 30 percent by 2014.