Best Corporate Responsibility Initiative

The Bright Future Partnership Programme recently won CorpComms magazine award for Best Corporate Responsibility Initiative. The programme was praised by judges as being ‘quite simply, brilliant.’

Helen Dunne, for CorpComms online, wrote “Slavery may be thought of as an injustice from another time but the reality is that today, in the UK, there are an estimated 136,000 victims of modern slavery – that’s roughly the population of Blackpool – while more than 40 million people worldwide are believed to enslaved.

Campaigning is part of the Co-op’s DNA, and, at its annual meeting in 2017, members voted overwhelmingly in support of a campaign to tackle the issue of modern slavery which chief executive Steve Murrells has described as ‘a blight on society’ which leaves people ‘stripped of their dignity’.

The campaign, which was created entirely in-house with no additional resource, had three objectives: it had to raise awareness of the issue; it needed to create paid job opportunities to help victims rebuild their lives; and, it needed to force the Government to change its policy and ensure that victims of modern slavery are supported for longer than the statutory 45 days. The campaign, therefore, had many strands from job creation to lobbying to posters. 

Working with charity City Hearts, the Co-op created an innovative Bright Future programme, which offers victims the opportunity to find paid employment. Dozens of former slaves have enjoyed four week paid work placements in the Co-op’s food business, which potentially lead to full-time positions. 

But both organisations realised that, to truly tackle the issue, the programme needed support from others to create as many as 300 jobs every year. Working together, the Co-op and City hearts have gained support from a further 28 charities that work with victims and 20 businesses, including The Body Shop, Dixons Carphone and John Lewis.

The Co-op was also the only business to support Lord McCall’s Victims of Modern Slavery Bill, which looked to ensure that victims received support, such as housing, counselling and funding, for longer than the Government’s 45 day cut off. 

Since its launch, there have been more than 40 items of coverage in the national and regional media and many broadcast articles about Bright Future. More importantly, the initiative as led to 100 vulnerable survivors getting a meaningful job and Bright Future is now the largest employee programme of its kind in the world. And in June, the Home Office abolished its 45 day policy in favour of one tailored to an individual’s needs.

The judges said the campaign was ‘quite simply, brilliant’, adding: ‘The initiative had a great brand fit – working well with the Co-op’s values. It also had real impact in the community and drove legislative change.”