News and events
Leading energy provider, Co-operative Energy, which is part of Midcounties Co-operative – a Sunday Times ‘Top 25 Best Big Companies to Work For’ winner – will be educating pupils from Black Country schools about the energy industry and the exciting career opportunities available, when it attends Business In The Community’s Your Future, Your Choice careers event, which is being supported by Black Country LEP.
Co-operative Energy, which is committed to supporting the community and was also awarded the Sunday Times ‘Giving Something Back’ award, recognising its contribution to colleagues, communities and members, will be attending the event, which is taking place on Tuesday 8 April at Wolverhampton Racecourse. Supported by Black Country LEP, the aim of the event, is to inspire and educate pre-GCSE pupils from local schools about the variety of careers that exist within various different sectors and industries, as well as elaborating on the qualifications needed to enter such careers.
Ramsay Dunning, Group General Manager at Co-operative Energy said: “As a society we’re passionate about helping out and supporting the community. When the opportunity arose to support the BITC Your Future, Your Choice event, we were keen to be involved and offer advice and guidance to young, aspiring students, on the energy industry and the huge and exciting career opportunities available.”
Dave Hughes, Regional Education Manager for Business in the Community added: “This event forms part of our flagship Business Class education programme, which matches schools and businesses together in sustainable partnerships to help improve young people’s employability skills and knowledge of the world of work.
“With young people facing stiff competition for jobs, we want local employers to show students the variety of job roles available in their businesses and to explain the skills and aptitudes they’re looking for in potential employees. It’s great to have the Co-operative Energy involved and we’re keen to encourage other companies to follow their lead”.
Co-operative Energy will be one of 22 businesses volunteering at the event. Around 600-700 pupils are expected to attend who will be split into groups and rotated from one business zone to another to ensure they gain a full understanding and appreciation of the wide range of career prospects available to them.
Part of The Midcounties Co-operative, Co-operative Energy supplies gas and electricity to more than 200,000 customers.
In February, Midcounties Co-operative, the UK’s largest independent co-operative and parent co-operative of Co-operative Energy, became one of the first UK businesses to be accredited by the new Fair Tax Mark, the world’s first independent accreditation scheme to address the issue of responsible tax.
As part of Midcounties Co-operative, Co-operative Energy also became the first energy supplier to receive the Fair Tax Mark accreditation. As a responsible customer-owned organisation, Fair Tax Mark accreditation is a reflection of our commitment to the whole UK economy and is in line with responsibilities towards the customers and communities we serve and the environment.
This is an accreditation which we are proud to have been awarded and as a leading energy supplier we believe that all other energy suppliers should show the same level of commitment to their customers by following our lead.
The accreditation of the Fair Tax Mark pioneer companies comes at a time when recent polling from the Institute for Business Ethics has found that corporate tax avoidance is now the number one concern of the public when it comes to business conduct. The energy industry has also been embroiled, with the tax practices of some Big Six energy providers being called in to question. In May last year, npower felt the heat of a mass consumer boycott after thousands of its gas and electricity customers said they planned to switch supplier to protest at its tax affairs. It was revealed that npower had paid almost no corporation tax between 2009 and 2011.
In recent months, global firms such as Google, Starbucks, and Amazon have come under fire for allegedly avoiding paying tax on their British sales. With the start of a new tax year just days away – the 2013-14 tax year ends on 5 April – transparency on tax is a key issue at Co-operative Energy , as we are founded on putting customers first and ensuring that they get the fairest deal possible.
The Fair Tax Mark has been developed by a team of tax justice campaigners and tax experts, and shows that a company is making a genuine effort to be open and transparent about its tax affairs and pays the right amount of corporation tax at the right time and in the right place.
Co-operative Energy was launched with a pledge to be fair and transparent and to challenge the Big Six to stamp out sharp practices. To be the first energy company in the UK to receive the Fair Tax Mark accreditation demonstrates our commitment to customers that we’re committed to reforming the industry and that we are a socially responsible energy business, paying our fair share of tax and investing in the UK economy.
The Midcounties Co-operative, which owns Co-operative Energy and is the UK’s largest independent co-operative society, achieved a record 24% increase in gross sales to £1.167 billion (2012/13: £943m) in the year ended 25 January 2014*.
Operating profit before significant items was up 21% at £22m (2012/13: £18.2m).
As a result, the Warwickshire-headquartered society has announced plans to make over £6m in share-of-profit payments to its members and colleagues.
Ben Reid, chief executive of The Midcounties Co-operative, said: “These excellent trading results demonstrate that the Co-operative business model really works. As part of our co-operative approach we will be returning a share of our profits to the members and colleagues who have directly contributed to the success of the Society.”
The Midcounties Co-operative is the first independent co-operative to achieve annual sales in excess of £1billion. The Society achieved sales growth across all of its businesses, which include food, energy, funeral, pharmacy, travel and childcare, during a year of restrained consumer spending and fierce high street and online competition.
Co-operative Energy signed up over 70,000 new customers during the year. It now serves over 200,000 households and delivered a 243% increase in sales to £159m during the year, making it the Society’s fastest-growing trading group.
Midcounties recently improved its ranking in the Sunday Times ‘25 Best Big Companies to Work For’ initiative, climbing three places to tenth in the list. It also picked up the prestigious Sunday Times ‘Giving Something Back’ award for its commitment to colleagues, communities and members.
Ben Reid said: “The engagement of our 10,000 colleagues is a key element in creating the momentum which ensures we continue to evolve as an innovative and successful co-operative. We are now an independent society with a turnover of over £1 billion. Co-operation is clearly working for Midcounties and gives us confidence that we have a sustainable future.”
Encouraging colleagues to volunteer in their local communities continues to be a central part of The Midcounties’ aim to establish a co-operative difference. During the year the number of hours volunteered increased by 10% to 44,440, making the Society one of the biggest supporters of volunteering in the UK. It also smashed its annual fundraising target by raising £273,000 for charity partner Teenage Cancer Trust in just one year and the Society has revised its two-year target upwards to £500,000.
The Midcounties Co-operative is one of the first UK businesses to be awarded the Fair Tax Mark, which confirms that an organisation is open and transparent about its tax affairs and seeks to pay the correct level of corporation tax.
*Audit of the financial results is being finalised and the auditors will issue their audit report on the annual report and accounts in due course
Co-operative Energy played host to Shadow Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Caroline Flint, on Thursday, 27 March, as the Labour MP for Don Valley visited the leading energy provider’s headquarters in Leamington Spa.
Caroline, who was appointed Shadow Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change in 2011, visited Co-operative Energy, which is part of Midcounties Co-operative, to gain an understanding of how the energy supplier operates and what it’s doing to ensure fairer energy bills for consumers. Taking time to talk to the customer service team and finding out more about Co-operative Energy’s community schemes, Caroline also spent time with group general manager, Ramsay Dunning to discuss the energy providers’ long-term plans.
Ramsay Dunning said: “We were honoured that Caroline took time out of her busy schedule to visit Co-operative Energy. She was keen to gain an understating of the structure of the company and was interested to hear about what we’ve being doing to help consumers. We discussed at length the importance of creating an impartial comparison site and our work in developing community energy projects.”
Caroline said: “I am delighted to visit The Co-operative Energy which is a shining example of a local business success story. It is one of a number of leading energy firms headquartered in Warwick and Leamington that are not just employing a large number of people locally, but also helping to increase competition and transparency into the wider UK energy market.
“Right now, the energy market isn’t working for ordinary families and businesses. Bills have risen by almost £300 for families since 2010, and businesses say that it’s the second biggest cost they face.
“The best way to change this, rebuild trust and increase fairness is by bringing more competition and transparency to the energy market, including introducing a simple new tariff. The Co-operative Energy, founded in 2010, is a fabulous local example of the types of new firms that are needed to help make this happen.
“Of course, it will take time before these reforms kick in so in the meantime we need to freeze energy bills up to 2017. This will save a typical household in Warwick and Leamington £120 and an average business £1,800”.
Member-owned Co-operative Energy was established in 2011 by the UK’s largest independent co-operative – The Midcounties Co-operative – and now provides gas and electricity to over 200,000 customers.
Co-operative Energy Welcomes Ofgem’s Plan to Investigate Big Six but Urges Action Now to Ensure Consumers Get Fairer Deal
Leading energy provider, Co-operative Energy, has welcomed the energy regulator Ofgem’s announcement that it will investigate the Big Six energy suppliers but is urging the Government to not hide behind the enquiry and to deliver on much needed market reforms.
The energy regulator has asked the competition watchdog, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), to investigate Britain’s energy companies in an effort to restore trust in the sector after public outrage over increasing domestic fuel bills.
Ramsay Dunning, general manager of Co-operative Energy is concerned that as the outcome of the investigation is unlikely to be known for two years, the Government may use this as a stalling tactic in helping to fix some of the fundamental issues affecting the energy market, which continue to hit weary consumers where it hurts – in their pockets.
He said: “We wholeheartedly support the move to take an in-depth look at the practices of the Big Six. They have neglected to serve customers in the best way that they could so to have this recognition at last is to be welcomed.
“However, waiting for two years for an outcome is worrying and there is a potential risk that the Government could hide behind the investigation and delay much needed reforms. We would urge the Government to continue to go ahead with some of the urgent steps which need to be taken now rather than wait until the findings are known before attempting to put the market right.
“Sensible investment in the energy infrastructure and new forms of energy needs to be encouraged and a complete reform of the wholesale market is still essential to ensure true competition and transparency for consumers. Creating a more competitive market which is inclusive for smaller, independent suppliers will help to drive down prices quickly so that consumers can see some instant action.”
The Big Six suppliers control 95% of the market for retail supply and Ofgem’s own review concluded that consumer trust had fallen with no clear evidence that companies had tried to reduce costs while bills increased fourfold in just three years.
Added Ramsay Dunning: “The creation of an impartial, free to use information and comparison service as a real alternative to commission-based sales sites is also key to restoring customer trust and confidence in the energy market and we’re concerned that the reality of this happening may be put on the back burner while the investigation continues. This can’t be allowed to happen as our own independent research showed that many consumers feel they are having the wool pulled over their eyes. Establishing a properly regulated, Government-backed alternative to existing sales sites represents a further step forward in creating greater transparency across the energy sector and we don’t want anything to get in the way of this.
“Consumers need to be put first by the energy companies and we will continue to do whatever we can to campaign on their behalf. We need the Government to do the same and ensure that energy customers see some instant action and that the market begins to operate in their best interests.”
Co-operative Energy, which is part of the Midcounties Co-operative, launched in 2011 and now has 200,000 customers.
Gen Community, is a community benefit society, which creates social impact through community energy projects. We operate throughout the UK but design and operate our projects to create maximum local benefit.
As part of an innovative relationship with Southern Staffordshire Community Energy (SSCE), we have developed a share offer (Staffordshire Sunny Schools) to fund the UK’s largest community solar schools project. With a total capacity of 1MWp the project will see 25 schools benefitting from solar PV, forecasted to save over £1.8m in electricity bills. The scheme will enable the schools to redistribute the savings to further improve facilities and children’s learning experiences. At a time when public services are still feeling the fallout from the budget cuts over the last few years this project clearly shows how local and wider communities can work together to support and improve public facilities.
In addition, the project has wider educational aims to fit in with the school curriculum, which is being delivered through a curriculum approved education package – Sunny Schools. The Sunny Schools program gives teachers the tools to engage children across a range of subjects around climate change, renewable energy and sustainability. The initiative will have a lasting impact on the children’s lives and the wider community, as they grew up in an increasingly energy fragile society.
The project generates a community fund, distributed through SSCE. One of the aims is to train the premises managers of the schools semi-annually on energy efficiencies, awareness and behaviours. The community fund will also finance the deployment of the solar learning tool, synced with on site generation, and enable other community energy initiatives to be supported. The schools are incentivised to export as much solar generated power as possible, as this increases the community fund. When the power is exported to Co-operative Energy – the FiT license supplier to the schools – mutual ownership of energy generation and supply is a very strong message of energy independence Gen Community are keen to support. Gen Community is also working closely with SSCE in developing a second local authority project. Co-operation across communities is one of the most powerful and useful tools we have and I look forward to seeing many more community assets being developed across the UK as we help tackle our underfunded infrastructure and social services.
The project is being funded through a community share offer, which closes on the 30th April 2014 and has received £200,000 loan through Pureleapfrog, the low carbon investment charity. The minimum threshold has been reached but the offer is still open. An independent review of the project can be found on Ethex – the not for profit investment platform. Returns forecasted at 6.9% IRR (EIS approved – 10.48% IRR).
Leading energy provider, Co-operative Energy, is welcoming the call from the Government this week which could see QR (Quick Response) codes introduced on consumer energy bills to help bill-payers get an instant cross-market comparison.
However, Co-operative Energy believes the codes should only link to a not for profit, independent information site and not commission-based sales sites.
Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Edward Davey this week announced the Government’s plans to introduce QR codes to energy bills so consumers can get an instant cross-market comparison.
Ramsay Dunning, general manager of Co-operative Energy said: “If the proposal of QR codes is introduced it must be in the best interests of the consumer. This is the latest announcement from the Government to help consumers to make the switch and get a better deal, with collective switching and simpler tariffs already introduced.
“The ability to do this would allow energy customers wanting to know more about their energy use and whether they are getting the best value for money to have a new and easy way of finding the best deal, but if this was directly linked to an impartial and not for profit energy comparison and information service, consumers would always be guaranteed the best deal to suit them.”
Member-owned Co-operative Energy, which has over 200,000 customers, recently called for the Government to create a public serving, independent information and comparison service that is both impartial and doesn’t mislead the public. The only resource currently available for consumers to compare energy prices, beyond calling each of the energy providers individually, are the sales sites. These sites are misleading customers as they’re positioning themselves as a service when in reality they are profit maximising sales organisations.
Ramsay Dunning, group general manager of Co-operative Energy said: “In principal the introduction of QR codes to bills is a good, positive idea and a step in the right direction for consumers but it needs to embrace impartiality and independence if it is to be a success. Our own recent research tells us that consumers are not happy with the current situation with commercial sales sites and that many feel they are not as transparent as they should be. Establishing a properly regulated, Government-backed alternative to existing sales sites represents a further step forward in creating greater transparency across the energy sector.
“We are campaigning for an impartial, not-for-profit regulated comparison service as customers are being misled into believing they are being provided with a service showing the best prices, when in reality the commercial sales sites are only providing them with products paying fat commissions. Using technology in this way can only make this a stronger proposition for consumers who are fed up with the lack of transparency in the energy market and as we have experienced, have been switching from the Big Six to smaller suppliers more than ever before.”
Incorporating QR codes on customers’ bills will encourage the development of applications that use this data and will allow smartphone users to transfer valuable data from their bill (such as current tariff name and consumption) to their smartphone or tablet computer, helping to control consumption and costs.
Added Ramsay Dunning: “QR codes could also be of great benefit to vulnerable consumers or those who do not use smart phones, meaning people with smart phones will be able to help friends and family less comfortable with technology to be able to easily access accurate information to help people who need additional support. There’s no denying the convenience of commercial sales sites but hopefully we’re a step closer to linking the technology to an impartial and independent service which has consumers’ best interests at heart.”
Co-operative Energy turns up heat on Government to create impartial comparison service for energy customers
Leading energy provider, Co-operative Energy, is calling for swift action from the Government to set up an independent information and comparison service for energy customers after research* revealed that a staggering 78 per cent of consumers stated that they would use an impartial service instead of a commission based comparison site.
Member-owned Co-operative Energy, which has over 200,000 customers, is calling for the Government to create a public serving, independent information and comparison service that is both impartial and doesn’t mislead the public. The only resource currently available for consumers to compare energy prices, beyond calling each of the energy providers individually, are the switching sites. The switching sites are misleading customers as they’re positioning themselves as a service when in reality they are profit maximising sales organisations, charging the energy companies a disproportionately high commission which they in turn pass on to customers through energy bills.
The results showed that over three quarters (81 per cent) of consumers said that they think commission charges passed on via energy bills are unfair. Almost two thirds of consumers surveyed (60 per cent) stated that the fact comparison sites earn commission from energy suppliers will put them off using comparison sites in future. And many consumers confessed to being in the dark about how switching sites work with nearly half (48 per cent) unaware that they make their profits by charging the energy suppliers a commission per switching customer. 49 per cent think charging a commission is unethical.
The independent research commissioned by Co-operative Energy indicated that over a third (39 per cent) believe there should be no commission charge to pay to the comparison site during the switching process. 30 per cent thought an outlay of under £10 would be a reasonable payment.
Ramsay Dunning, group general manager of Co-operative Energy said: “Our research findings show that consumers are not happy with the current situation and that many feel they are having the wool pulled over their eyes. Establishing a properly regulated, Government-backed alternative to the switching sites represents a further step forward in creating greater transparency across the energy sector. For some time we have been campaigning for an impartial, not-for-profit regulated comparison service as customers are being misled into believing they are being provided with a service showing the best prices, when in reality the switching sites are only providing them with products paying fat commissions.
“We felt it only right to champion the need to create an independent information and comparison service, so the public can be confident of impartial trustworthy information to help choose the best deal available.”
The creation of an official, impartial and free-to-use service will present consumers with all the available tariffs currently on the market and enough relevant supporting information to allow an informed decision to be made on which energy supplier to use, it will also serve to bring energy bills down.
Mr Dunning believes the commercial comparison sites don’t always operate in the best interests of consumers: “Customers have a right to be able to compare energy tariffs and what we have at present is a situation where some online comparison sites are not being transparent in their dealings and are deliberately directing customers only to commission generating tariffs. Comparison sites are misleading customers as they are pointing them towards the tariffs that pay commission rather than displaying the whole range available.
“There is no questioning the convenience of comparison sites but this needs to be impartial and for the benefit of the public rather than designed to generate maximum profits for the site operators. We believe energy customers should be able to look forward to having the convenience of the comparison sites without fear of paying over the odds on their energy bills. Providing fair choice and competition for consumers is what is required and the sooner this becomes reality, the better.”
You may have seen an article in The Times today (27.02.14) which implies that Co-operative Energy is owned by The Co-operative Group. Co-operative Energy is owned by The Midcounties Co-operative, the largest independent consumer co-operative in the UK, and not The Co-operative Group. The two societies operate independently.
Leading energy provider, Co-operative Energy, has become the first energy supplier to receive the Fair Tax Mark accreditation. The Fair Tax Mark is the world’s first independent accreditation scheme to address the issue of responsible tax and The Midcounties Co-operative, which Co-operative Energy is part of, is one of the first businesses to receive the accreditation.
The Mark, which has been developed by a team of tax justice campaigners and tax experts, shows that a company is making a genuine effort to be open and transparent about its tax affairs and pays the right amount of corporation tax at the right time and in the right place.
The accreditation of the Fair Tax Mark pioneer companies comes at a time when recent polling from the Institute for Business Ethics has found that corporate tax avoidance is now the number one concern of the public when it comes to business conduct. The energy industry has also been embroiled, with the tax practices of a number of Big Six energy providers being called in to question.
Ben Reid, Chief Executive of The Midcounties Co-operative, said: “We launched Co-operative Energy with a pledge to be fair and transparent and to challenge the Big Six to stamp out sharp practices. To be the first energy company in the UK to receive the Fair Tax Mark accreditation demonstrates our commitment to customers that we’re committed to reforming the industry and that we are a socially responsible energy business, paying our fair share of tax and investing in the UK economy.”
Richard Murphy, a tax justice campaigner and one of the founders of the Fair Tax Mark said: “Around the world and here in the UK people are now aware that many big businesses routinely fail to pay the taxes they really owe. What they now want to do is spend their money with those companies who are doing the right thing by seeking to pay the fair tax that they owe in the right place at the right time.
“The Fair Tax Mark is designed to allow consumers to identify those businesses who are paying their fair share of tax. This makes the Mark the next step in the campaign for tax justice.”