In July 2020 Ethical Consumer viewed the Co-operative Group's website looking for information on the company's use of GM crops. Nothing could be found. The company's most recently completed questionnaire had stated:

‘The use of genetically modified (GM) crops, ingredients or additives in Co-op brand products has been prohibited since 1999. We work closely with our suppliers to ensure that this policy is adhered to at all times.’

Regarding animal feed, the company stated ‘Due to the dominant use of GM crops for animal feed globally, for example soya, we cannot guarantee that our meat products have come from animals fed a non-GM diet’.

In June 2017 the British government website www.food.gov.uk stated that the EU animal feed industry imported 70% of its maize, soya and rapeseed requirements; that "almost all" of the soya from the major producers Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and the USA was genetically modified and that "much of" the maize imported from the USA was genetically modified.
The company therefore lost half a mark in the Controversial Technologies category.

Reference:

Ethical Consumer questionnaire (14 March 2019)

According to the Co-op's Annual report 2018:
"Co-op is a subscribing member of The Co-operative Party, which was founded by the co-operative movement in 1917 to promote its Values and Principles. The Co-operative Party works to raise awareness of the benefits of co-operative and mutual models.
We made donations totaling £625,600 (2017: £625,600) to The Co-operative Party, which is our financial subscription to the Party for 2018, in line with our members’ approval at the Annual General Meeting in 2017."

As a result the Co-op lost a whole mark under Political Activities.

Reference:

Annual Report 2018 (23 January 2020)

In July 2020, Ethical Consumer viewed the 2019 Annual Report for Co-op, this was the latest report available on the company's website. It listed the remuneration of its executives. Of these, two had received over £1 million in 2019. The highest paid of these received £1,485,000.
Ethical Consumer considers any remuneration over £1 million to be excessive and the company therefore lost half a mark under Anti-Social Finance.

Reference:

2019 Annual Report (24 July 2020)

In July 2020, Ethical Consumer viewed the Co-op 2019 Annual report, which stated that the company had been re-accredited with the Fair Tax Mark in 2019. The report included its taxation disclosures. Its tax policy was at : www.co-operative.coop/investors/tax-policy
The Fair Tax Mark website was also viewed which listed The Co-operative as one of the companies with the Fair Tax Mark.

The Co-operative was considered to have a positive policy on an anti-social finance issue and scored Ethical Consumer's best rating for likely use of tax avoidance strategies.

Reference:

Co-op Annual Report 2019 (4 January 2020)

In January 2019 Ethical Consumer searched the Co-operative website for an investment policy in relation to Co-operative Insurance. The company had sent Ethical Consumer its 'Ethical Investment Policy' in February 2018 and this was still assumed to apply.

This stated:

Human Rights
We support the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In line with this, we will not invest in:
• any government or business which fails to uphold basic human rights within its sphere of influence
• any business whose links to an oppressive regime are a continuing cause for concern
• any organisation that advocates discrimination and incitement to hatred
• the manufacture or transfer of armaments to oppressive regimes
• the manufacture or transfer of indiscriminate weapons, e.g. cluster bombs and depleted uranium munitions
• the manufacture or transfer of torture equipment or other equipment that is used in the violation of human rights.

Ecology
We will not invest in any business whose core activity contributes to:
• global climate change via the extraction or production of fossil fuels (oil, coal and gas), with an extension to the distribution of those fuels that have a higher global warming impact (e.g. tar sands and certain biofuels)
• the manufacture of chemicals that are persistent in the environment, bio accumulative in nature or linked to long term health concerns
• the unsustainable harvest of natural resources, including timber and fish
• the development of genetically modified organisms where there is evidence of uncontrolled release into the environment, negative impacts on developing countries, or patenting e.g. of indigenous knowledge
• the development of nanotechnology in circumstances that risk damaging the environment or compromising human health

International Development
We will seek to support poverty reduction. In line with this, we will not invest in organisations that:
• fail to implement basic labour rights as set out in the Fundamental ILO Conventions, e.g. avoidance of child labour, or that actively oppose the rights of workers to freedom of association, e.g. in a trade union
• take an irresponsible approach to the payment of tax in the least developed countries
• impede access to basic human necessities, e.g. safe drinking water or vital medicines
• engage in irresponsible marketing practices in developing countries, e.g. with regard to tobacco products and manufacture.

Animal Welfare
We will not invest in any organisation involved in:
• animal testing of cosmetic or household products or their ingredients
• the exploitation of great apes, e.g. in experimentation or general commercial use
• intensive farming methods, e.g. caged egg production
• blood sports, which involve the use of animals or birds to catch, fight or kill each other
• the fur trade.

The Co-operative Group did not publish any ethical investment, engagement or voting policies on its website. It fell into the bottom Ethical Consumer category for transparency of financial firms (EC172). Usually it would therefore lose half a mark under most Ethical Consumer categories for likely investments in companies criticised by Ethical Consumer. However, as the company had a thorough ethical policy it received an exemption. This reference is for information only.

Reference:

website (19 February 2018)