Guest Blog: Charlotte Sewell, COOK
COOK is a family business that makes and sells remarkable food for your freezer. Since 1997, we’ve been cooking food using the same ingredients you would at home so it looks and tastes homemade. We have 53 company owned shops across the UK and employ more than 900 people working in our shops, in our two big kitchens in Kent and Somerset and in our offices and warehouses.
The driving purpose at the heart of COOK is Nourishing Relationships. Home cooking is all about nourishment, not just for the body but for the soul, and COOK is a business built on strong, caring relationships between people. We seek to Nourish Relationships in four areas: with food and where it comes from; with our customers and their communities; between business and society; and with our people and their work. We want to create a thriving workplace community where people can have meaningful relationships with their work and each other. An environment where people can discover and realise their potential - both as individuals and in teams. We believe this will ripple out and benefit families, firends, and communities.
We have always paid people as much as we could afford, and well above the minimum wage, but in 2015, after 18 years of sometimes precarious existence, we finally found ourselves making a decent profit. Most of that money is ploughed back into the business. What’s left over is available to be paid as dividends to shareholders. But, given our commitment to using business as a force for good, we felt it would be inappropriate for shareholders to receive a dividend if any of our staff were being paid less than a true Living Wage.
So, in 2015 we were proud to become the second manufacturer to become an accredited Living Wage employer - a remarkable step showing our commitment to fair pay. As well as our Living Wage accreditation, we also run a profit-share scheme for every member of staff after one year’s service, so our success is shared further. And, for any team member going through a really touch patch, financially, we offer an interest-free hardship fund.
In 2016, we were delighted to be nominated for a Living Wage Champion award which we won for the South East England. This recognized our efforts to champion the Living Wage to customers and other businesses. We helped the Living Wage team to raise awareness by working with them to create a video featuring Jody from our Clapham Store who told his story. This was used on the Foundation’s website and played at the London Mayoral election to 5000 people in April 2016.
Since 2016 we have continued to share the Living Wage story. We’ve included the Living Wage logo on 14 different types of packaging to date making our support for the Living Wage visible. Customers in our shops might see the living wage badge on pins on staff aprons, on the shop walls, and for people shopping online, the logo is now pride of place in our new home delivery box. We have a dedicated Living Wage page on our website and regularly tell the story of why we’re committed to being a Living Wage Employer on social media.
We’ve found that the more we take care of our people, the more they take care of COOK, and so we urge other companies in a position to make this commitment to join the growing ranks of employers that pay the Living Wage.
Charlotte Sewell, Head of Impact and Learning, COOK.