Central England Co-op is awarded Leading Co-operative of the Year to celebrate its community work

Posted by rob smyth | Published: 05/07/2021

Central England Co-operative described being named Leading Co-operative of the Year 2021 as an ‘honour’ and recognition of the hard work and support of its colleagues, customers and members.

The Society, which has over 400 stores and funeral homes across 16 counties, received the award after winning a public vote as part of the annual Co-operative of the Year Awards.  They were shortlisted for supporting communities during the pandemic, their ongoing partnerships with FareShare Midlands and food banks to create millions of meals a year for those in need, and for their target to become carbon neutral by 2030.

Central England will take this opportunity to promote its core purpose which is to ‘create a sustainable Society for all’ through community support and innovative new customer initiatives.

It has also been revealed that Vice-President of Central England Co-op Elaine Dean has been given a Lifetime Achievement Award for her pioneering support of the co-operative movement and its values and principles.

Central England Co-op Chief Executive Debbie Robinson said: “We are all honoured to have been recognised as Leading Co-operative of the Year.

“Having worked through extraordinary times during the pandemic, this is fantastic recognition for our colleagues who have come to work each day to serve their communities.

“Co-operation as a way of working and living has become even more relevant during these uncertain times and our values of solidarity, self-reliance and self-responsibility in particular came to the fore.

As Rose (Marley, Chief Executive of Co-operatives UK) often says, ‘We are the Rebuilders’ and now is a time for all co-operatives to work in solidarity with our communities and each other to support the country’s recovery.

“Thank you again, to all our members, colleagues and customers who have shown us such support.

“I would also like to congratulate Elaine on the recognition of her dedication to co-operatives. She is a real powerhouse and all of us here at Central England and across the co-op movement would like to congratulate Elaine on this most deserved Lifetime Achievement Award.”

Elaine Dean, after learning of her Lifetime Achievement Award, said: “I was delighted to hear that I had been honoured with a Lifetime Achievement Award as part of the Co-operative of the Year Awards organised by Co-operatives UK as it reflects well on Central England Co-op and helps continue our aims to showcase the amazing work we do for our members and communities.”

The Co-operative of the Year Awards 2021 are organised by Co-operatives UK – the network for Britain’s thousands of co-operative businesses.

Rose Marley, Chief Executive of Co-operatives UK, said: “Huge congratulations to Central England Co-operative, who along with other retail societies provided a real lifeline during the lockdowns. Rooted in their community, their staff get to know and really care about customers, who often become members when they learn how this gives them a share in the co-op’s success. And because they are a co-op, these values are sustainable, they are not just a flash in the pan reaction to a crisis – their ethics form a core part of the organisation now and into the future.” 

“I'd like to also congratulate the powerhouse that is Elaine Dean on her lifetime achievement award. As it was so eloquently said in her nomination Elaine has championed co-ops and the co-operative values for over 40 years. We need more Elaine’s to drive our ambition to build a fairer and more equitable economy and society through co-operative enterprise. Congratulations on both of these well-deserved awards.”


Notes to editors

Elaine Dean biography:

The former teacher and retired magistrate, who lives in Mickleover with her husband Peter, has had a passion for the co-operative movement from a very young age and takes great pride in showcasing the work of Central England Co-op not just across the UK, but across the globe.

Elaine was elected Central England Co-op President in May 2017 and was then re-elected to the role in both 2018 and 2019. She has subsequently been elected to the role of Vice-President.

In her current role, Elaine works with President Jane Avery and the Board to ensure the Society carries out its commitment to be a successful co-operative business and to serve the best interests of the members by determining policies and strategies.

Elaine is also proud of her work to better promote women and gender equality within Central England Co-op and beyond by presiding over several Women’s Voices events.

Away from the Society, Elaine takes on several other interesting roles including being Vice-Chair of Co-operative Press, having been on the Board since 2008 and Chair between 2013 and 2019, which publishes industry trade magazine and website Co-op News.

She has also been involved with football supporters’ trusts and was the first elected Chair of the Rams Trust. She was on the Board of Supporters Direct for 10 years and Vice-Chair for the last five.


About Central England Co-operative

Central England Co-operative is one of the largest independent retail co-operative societies in the UK with interests in food, funeral, floral and property investment.


Owned by hundreds of thousands of members, its over 7,800 colleagues serve customers across 400 plus trading sites in 16 counties in the East and West Midlands, Yorkshire, Suffolk, Norfolk, Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire.


Its purpose is to inspire communities to create a sustainable Society for all.


It actively campaigns for the Government to increase sentencing for violent attacks on retail workers and works with FareShare Midlands and hundreds of food banks, generating enough food donations to create over 2.1 million meals for people in need.


The Society embraces inclusivity and equality and is a signed-up member to the Business in the Community (BITC) Race at Work Charter, while it is also fully committed to addressing the impact of climate change and is on track to be Carbon Neutral by 2030. 


It invests a percentage of its trading profit into local communities through its Community Dividend Fund scheme which has seen over £175,000 shared out between 116 good causes over the past 12 months.


Press office contacts: Rob Smyth and James Brindle


Phone - 01543 421390


Email - publicrelations@centralengland.coop