The Co-op has ignored the Responsible Advertising motion
In 2018, over 92,000 Co-op members (96% of voters) backed a resolution urging the company to advertise ethically. Given the scale of the support, and the Co-op Group’s commitment to its internal democracy, members were hopeful that the Co-op Board would respond positively, and would want to engage with us to talk about how to take the motion forward. Sadly, this hasn’t been the case.
Stop Funding Hate staff and supporters repeatedly asked the Co-op for an update and possible meeting, but they did not respond for nearly a year. And their statement came just weeks before the 2019 Annual General Meeting, making it extremely difficult for members to respond in time.
In Stop Funding Hate’s view, the Co-op Board’s response does not respect the instruction given to them by Co-op members at the 2018 AGM.
The statement contains no update on the company’s policy to “challenge those views expressed in print which we and many of our members believe are incompatible with our values” and “use our contacts with publishers at every level to make the case for change”. It also does not contain any mention of challenging the Daily Mail, Sun or Express in relation to racism, xenophobia, Islamophobia, or anti-LGBT sentiment – issues that are incompatible with Co-op values.
What the statement does mention is the impact of their engagement on the company itself, as it states: “increased coverage, reach and positive sentiment towards the Co-op in the Daily Mail, the Daily Express and the Sun during 2018”, and says “Three of top five messages in terms of reach and volume were about our social purpose – the Co-op as an ethical retailer, as a leading exponent of responsible business and as championing a better way of doing business”.
The only reference to hate in the Co-op’s response, other than a reiteration of the text of the Responsible Advertising motion, is a statement taken from our update last autumn: “over the past year we’ve started to see some big changes… there has been a noticeable drop in the number of anti-migrant and anti-Muslim front pages”.
Had the Co-op agreed to meet with Stop Funding Hate or the motion proposer, we would have reiterated that despite this progress, groups representing affected communities still have many concerns.
So what’s next?
The AGM motion proposer is writing to the Co-op Board, to outline that the terms of the resolution have not been respected, and raise concerns about how this process has been handled.
Stop Funding Hate is considering what next steps to take and would welcome your views. Please get in touch on firstname.lastname@example.org, especially if you’re planning to attend the 2019 AGM.