Co-op targets 20 million members

The Co-operative Group said it wants to increase its membership to 20 million over the next decade, as it unveiled 47 new targets to improve its ethical credentials.

Peter Marks, the chief executive of the group, which includes food retailing, funeral care services and high-street pharmacies, said he was "very confident" of hitting the growth target for members, who receive a dividend based on the organisation's profitability and amount they spend with it.

Founded in 1863, the Co-op has more than doubled its membership from three million to six million in the past three years. The group will amend its dividend scheme to reward "ethical consumerism", though details were not disclosed yesterday. The group set out a "new benchmark for corporate sustainability in the UK", with 47 targets. These include the Co-op's corporate bank increasing its lending to small businesses which are involved in renewable energy, from £400m to £1bn by 2013, and massively growing the number of Fairtrade products it sells.