Coop Italia, which consists of 115 consumers’ cooperatives, is the largest retail chain in Italy with an 18.1% market share. It has put that negotiating power to good use: according to global consumer watchdog Consumers International, the supermarket chain comes out on top among leading supermarket chains in eight European countries in terms of corporate social responsibility.
Among the key reasons is its “Prodotto Coop” (Coop Private Label), which became the first company in Europe to attain SA8000 (Social Accountability) certification for its compliance with ethical standards on topics like workplace safety and anti-child labor practices. (It has also taken the standards several steps further: suppliers to the private label, too, have pledged compliance, and have been asked to involve their sub-suppliers of raw materials). The private label line also follows environmental and health guidelines that include a ban on artificial coloring agents, hydrogenated fats and genetically modified products.
In 1995, Coop Italia reached another milestone, introducing its first private label Fair Trade product (coffee) under the Solidal brand, which it has since extended to include chocolate, cane sugar, bananas, rice and clothing.
To celebrate the International Year of Cooperatives, Coop Italia has partnered with British designer Katharine Hamnett on a capsule collection for Solidal. Famed for her slogan t-shirts with messages like “Knowledge is Power” and “Stop and Think,” Hamnett’s collection for Solidal includes the new slogan t-shirt “Together it is possible,” along with minidresses, leggings and shorts.
They’re made using organic, Fairtrade-certified cotton produced by a cooperative of farmers in India, and sewn together by 70 women in Kerala who receive a contribution towards a fund that pays for their healthcare and nursery school for their children for each item they create.