The Co-operative Group is the fifth largest food retailers, the third largest retail pharmacy chain and the number one provider of funeral services in the UK. The Group employs 120,000 people, has 5.5 million members and around 4,800 retail outlets.
The members own the Co-operative Group. As a consumer co-operative, the organisation runs for the benefit of its members. Members are involved in democratic decision making, and The Group shares profits with its members. Members also set a social and campaigning agenda which The Co-operative Group supports. The Group is also a pioneer for Fairtrade and combating climate change.
The Co-operative Group was initially founded in 1863 as a buying group called Co‑operative Wholesale Services (CWS) for a collection of co‑operatives in the North of England. In 1933, the society launched a retail division to take over failing co‑operative societies that was demerged from the parent society in 1953 to form Co‑operative Retail Services (CRS), which operated as a consumer society in its own right. In 2000, CRS was merged back into the CWS to form the modern Co‑operative Group, the largest co‑operative society in the whole of the United Kingdom and 10th largest in the world.