Co-op unveils new Carbon Innovation Fund and community funding pledges

Co-op has announced it will be committing over £11 million in the next three years to help community environmental causes, social enterprises, charities and groups, both in the UK and abroad.

In partnership with its charity, the Co-op Foundation, the retailer has created a £3million Carbon Innovation Fund* to support UK entrepreneurs, start-ups and groups with funding for projects that will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and deliver added social value,

Alongside this, Co-op is creating a funding stream within its existing Local Community Fund, to enable its members to support local UK community causes dedicated to helping the environment and reducing carbon emissions. This will lead to thousands of these effective and committed groups sharing approximately £3million each year** to making a difference in communities across the UK.

  • Organisations tackling climate change are invited to apply for funding of up to £100k from a new partnership between the Co-op Foundation and Co-op.
  • The £3m Carbon Innovation Fund will support projects run by charities, social enterprises, community organisations and local, regional and national governments that aim to cut greenhouse gas emissions in the food and farming sector and contribute to real system change.
  • First-stage applications for funding is now open. Applications will close at 12pm (midday) on Friday 10 December before a second stage in January. The Foundation expects to fund approximately 10 projects in year one. Interested organisations can apply here.

Jo Whitfield, Co-op Food CEO said: “At this time, when Cop26 brought into stark focus the realities if we don’t all co-operate for healthy planet, it is clear investment is critical to building a greener, healthier and more prosperous future. Both the new Carbon Innovation Fund and our new commitment through our Local Community Fund will give us strong and impactful opportunities to make a difference.

Jo continued: “With the Carbon Innovation Fund, we’re looking to do something different. Rather than ideas for individual commercial benefit, we want innovations that can be freely shared and can be of benefit to society in general. It’s this type of co-operation that we believe we need to help accelerate our response to the climate crisis. Equally, the support from the Co-op membership is always so fantastic,  and I am proud that through the community fund we will be able to support the work of groups on the ground in our communities, working day in and day out to look after our planet”

The Carbon Innovation Fund, launching this month, will provide funding of up to  10 grants of up £100,000 per year –  up to a maximum of £1M a year for the next three years, helping to drive solutions to reduce carbon emissions within the food system and farming communities.  The fund is aimed at projects and ideas which benefit the environment and also contribute to real systems change, with a positive impact for people and some of the hardest hit communities, globally. For example, this could include supporting coffee or cocoa producers to help mitigate or adapt to climate change impacts in their communities.

This funding, which comes as part of a new partnership between Co-op and the Co-op Foundation, has been donated by Co-op from the sale of compostable carrier bags in the UK, with the remainder coming from the Co-op Foundation’s own funds. The Foundation expects to support up to 10 projects a year, which benefit the wider community and those most affected by climate change. Eligible organisations include from charities social enterprises, community organisations and local, regional and national government.

The Fund will also look to produce an annual research report providing insight into the social challenges that the UK faces in the transition to a decarbonised society. This supports the Fund’s principle that we need innovation in policy as well as practice and that Climate Justice needs to inform major government and inter-governmental decisions on climate change. Interested parties should subscribe to the Co-op Foundation’s blog to find out more about the Carbon Innovation Fund.

Nick Crofts, CEO of the Co-op Foundation, said: “The Co-op Foundation is committed to tackling climate change, and through this new Carbon Innovation Fund, we want to inspire businesses and organisations to get involved in reducing the emission of greenhouse gases to help communities across the UK and the world. These don’t have to be new ideas – we’re also interested in ancient and indigenous knowledge that may just need investment to become something that can benefit food system and farming communities. Learning from the past can inform a greener future that can be enjoyed for generations to come.”

For many years, Co-op’s thriving membership has been able to raise millions of pounds to support community causes, through the scheme whereby when members buy Co-op branded products and services, 2p for every pound they spend is given to thousands of community causes and community partnerships which help develop happier, healthier and now more sustainable communities. Grassroots groups working to protect the environment and reduce carbon emissions will now join the three-existing cluster of causes, focused on access to food, mental wellbeing support and education and employment for young people, to benefit from this ongoing funding.

Rebecca Birkbeck, Community Director, Co-op said: “The way money is raised through our membership is unique and is co-operation at its finest.  Being able to invest this multi million pound figure every year to help fund thousands of local community causes who are working so tirelessly to keep our planet healthy, brings to life our vision of co-operating for a fairer world and is just simply the right thing to do.”

*: The Carbon Innovation Fund will provide funding of up to  10 grants  of up £100,000 per year –  up to a maximum of £1M a year for next three years

**: Based on previous annual membership pay out amounts. Figures vary and are not guaranteed.

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