THE UK’S MOST GAY FRIENDLY RETAILER, THE CO-OPERATIVE, PROUDLY LAUNCHES THE UK’S FIRST INTER-RETAIL LGBT NETWORK CHECKOUT
Legendary campaigner and activist Peter Tatchell hailed a 'momentous year' for LGBT rights during The Co-operative Groups employee lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) network Respect’s ‘Equality in the workplace and beyond’ event held on 24 May 2013.
The event was attended by more than 160 people from 50 different organisations and was hosted at The Co-operative’s new headquarters at Angel Square in Manchester. The inspiring speakers included Paul Martin, Chief Executive of The Lesbian & Gay Foundation (LGF), Liz Bramley, Head of Employee Engagement & Diversity at The Co-operative, Sharon Pegg, Diversity & Inclusion Manager at The Co-operative and Charlie Wheeler-Quinnell, Client Account Manager at Stonewall.
Sponsored by The Co-operative Food, the event also included the launch of the UK’s first Inter-Retail LGBT network ‘checkOUT’.
checkOUT has been developed by The Co-operative with the support of Stonewall and will offer opportunities for retailers of all sizes and those working in or have an interest in the sector to network, share best practice and ensure the sector is positively representing the diverse individuals they employ and serve. The founding partners of the network include The Co-operative’s family of businesses, Telefonica (o2), Waitrose, John Lewis, Vodafone, Asda, Tesco, Morrison’s and Enterprise Rent-A-Car, who combined employ more than 500,000 people in the UK.
Charlie Wheeler-Quinnell, Client Account Manager at Stonewall commented, ‘Stonewall is proud to have been involved in the process of establishing checkOUT – a network to support the estimated 180,000 lesbian, gay and bisexual staff working in retail in the UK. We look forward to working with checkOUT in the future and hope it will inspire other sectors to collaborate on similar diversity initiatives. Modern 21st century employers know that people perform better when they can be themselves – and networks such as checkOUT help them do just that. With partners including The Co-operative Group – who secured the third position in the 2013 Stonewall Top 100 gay-friendly employers list – checkOUT is sure to go from strength to strength.’
At the event Peter Tatchell spoke of his joy at supporting The Co-operative, the Respect network, checkOUT and the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill, which recently passed a third House of Commons reading. “I am very proud to be here and support the Co-op in what they are doing,” he said. “It is about taking the LGBT movement into all sectors of society. There are some issues that I hope will be respected in the House of Lords as when we talk about marriage equality, we mean marriage equality. The process of law reform is about raising awareness because we need to win hearts and minds. The idea that this issue does not have public support is nonsense as it has. We have made history not just for LGBT people but for every single person in this country. We are on our way – let’s finish the task.”
With an estimated 2.6million LGBT people in the UK, workplace equality is an issue The Co-operative feels passionately about said Liz Bramley, Head of Employee Engagement and Diversity at The Co-operative. “Our values are very important to us. We work for an organisation that stands up.” she said. “One of the things we are most proud of is our Respect network and it gets bigger every month and arranged the fantastic checkOUT launch event. We know we are on a journey and we know we have lots of things to do. We won’t stop until we are sure all of our employees are being treated the same in society. It is a big challenge but I think with the support of everyone, I think we can’t fail.” The Co-operative was the only business in the UK to support equal marriage in the House of Commons, following their submission as part of the consultation process.