The leading retailer has launched a new fund that will award grants to organisations innovating in low carbon food and farming

The Co-op has committed a total of £11m to supporting community action to enhance the environment and catalyse low carbon innovation, the supermarket this week announced.

The retailer is this month launching a £3m Carbon Innovation Fund in partnership with its charity Co-op Foundation, as part of its pledge to support projects that aim to slash greenhouse gas emissions in the food and farming sector in the UK and abroad.

The Co-op will also expand its Local Community Fund, which currently supports three causes – access to food, mental wellbeing support, and education and employment for young people – to support a fourth category, community-run environmental and emissions reductions initiatives. The supermarket estimates that as a result approximately £3m a year will be shared among community groups working on environmental projects.

“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,” said Jo Whitfield, CEO of Co-op Food. “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 will offer up to 10 grants of £100,000 per year over the next three years to charities, community organisations, and local, regional, and national governments that are developing low carbon solutions in the food and farming sectors. The Co-op has said the projects must also aim to drive positive impact within hardest hit communities, such as helping local communities mitigate or adapt to the impacts of climate change.

Applications for funding are now open until 10 December, while a second stage of applications will open in January with the Co-op aiming to support around 10 projects in a year.

Nick Crofts, CEO of the Co-op Foundation, urged organisations to submit applications to the fund. “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,” he said. “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.” 

As part of the fund, Co-op aims to produce annual reports on the social challenges that the UK faces in the transition to net zero to help inform major decisions on climate change.

The company has also pledged to introduce a fourth funding stream to its Local Community Fund, which raises millions of pounds by donating 2p for every pound spent by its members on Co-op branded products to community causes.

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.”

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