Steve Murrells, who is chief executive of the £10 billion business, is donating 20 per cent of his salary over a three-month period into the newly created fund.
It has been established so that the Co-op’s 4.6 million members can donate their unspent existing member rewards, totalling more than £30 million, into these vital areas.
The fund will initially support food banks, a funeral bereavement fund established for those in financial hardship and local causes that are already being supported by the Co-op and working to alleviate the impact on the present lockdown.
The Co-op – which says it is one of the world’s largest consumer co-operatives and dates back to 1844 – said members receive a 5 per cent reward every time they buy an own-brand product or service, which is held in an online wallet that can be redeemed on future purchases. By visiting the Co-op’s website, members will be able to donate the existing money in their wallet to the Co-op Members’ Coronavirus Fund.
Murrells said: “Millions of people are suffering financial hardship at the moment and so it felt right for me to offer to take this pay cut and directly support causes which are very important to me and close to my heart. One per cent of what our members spend already goes to local causes and now if they wish they can donate their 5 per cent personal rewards to help lessen the impact the emergency is having on millions of our fellow citizens.”
Last week the Co-op said it had pulled its Easter TV advertising campaign, which was originally publicising its chocolate eggs, and donated the airtime – worth £2.5m – to promoting the work of food bank charity FareShare.
The Co-op, in partnership with the charity, created an ad honouring those helping feed the nation during the coronavirus crisis. It encouraged customers to support food banks, boosting the £1.5m of food Co-op has already pledged to FareShare.
In the last week, The Co-op has also launched Co-operate, an online community centre to lessen the impact of the lockdown on people’s mental health.
The initiative connects vulnerable people to local and national support initiatives, as well as volunteers willing to run virtual events such as exercise classes, music groups, or arts and crafts classes for others.
The Co-op said that with 9 million UK residents already suffering from loneliness on a regular basis before the crisis, Co-operate “makes it easier for people to connect and stay in touch with each other virtually as the pandemic continues”.
Matt Atkinson, chief membership officer for The Co-op, added: “I know that many of our members want to support others at this very difficult time and our new fund makes it as simple as possible for them to contribute in their own way.”
He added: “The collective effort of our members could have a massive impact for thousands of lives in the weeks and months ahead.”
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