Focus: Corporate Responsibility - Side by side

The Co-operative Group and Shelter have founded Co-op Caring Together 2005. The campaign pushes for better housing for the UK's million children who are living in filthy, dangerous conditions.

RICHARD LEE, SENIOR FUNDRAISER, SHELTER

With this scheme, the Co-operative Group works with a charity for six months every two years so it can focus on fundraising for an intense period.

After approaching us in March to pitch, Co-op put it to a vote of all its staff and members - in other words, people who are passionate about the Co-op's ideals.

We wanted to work with the people at Co-op because their overriding principle is to make the world a better place by doing business in an ethical way - this means they are more open to the whole array of charitable causes.

One of the major passions of the Co-op is that it's involved with its community - which, from Shelter's point of view, is great because we want to try to improve people's situations. There is also the opportunity for staff to involve members with this campaign - many Co-ops are in rural areas and have close relationships with their customers, which makes it easier to ask for donations or sponsorship.

All Co-op staff get involved at a grass-roots level with the fundraising.

We've already raised £450,000 and are well on the way to exceeding our target of £500,000.

SARAH LEES, COMMUNITY INVESTMENT PROGRAMME MANAGER, THE CO-operative GROUP

This is the first year we have run this initiative across all eight of our business divisions. After a company-wide consultation in October on our ideal partnership, we shortened the number of charities to three.

We invited all our staff and active members - more than 125,000 altogether - to vote.

It emerged that our staff and members wanted to work with children and support Shelter, so our target was to raise awareness of issues covered in Shelter's Million Children Campaign. It's proved to be very popular.

For instance, our Funeralcare division has been travelling around England supporting Shelter's sit-in protest, which involves getting people to sit in a red chair and have their photographs taken.

At our initial meetings, we said we wanted something that would have a local benefit. Richard put together a team that reflects our regional structure by bringing together eight regional co-ordinators. The partnership comes to an end in November, but discussions are already under way about possible future initiatives with Shelter.

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