Co-op and the RSPB

Working together to protect our precious peatlands and working with others to mobilise community action for nature, the climate and people.

Natural pools in the mountains, Cerniau, Wales.
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In partnership for wildlife, the climate and people

As part of a 3-year strategic partnership, the RSPB and Co-op are working together to further the RSPB’s peatland restoration ambitions in response to the nature and climate crises.   
An initial £1million investment in 2023, generated by sales of Co-op compostable carrier bags*, will firstly support two Peatland Code registered projects to enable the ongoing restoration and long-term management of over 300 hectares of internationally important, RSPB-owned peatland across Wales and Scotland, with further sites to follow at RSPB reserves in Scotland.  
These long-term projects, also supported by National Peatland Action Programme in Wales and Peatland ACTION in Scotland, will protect the precious peatlands that local communities enjoy and that are home to many rare and threatened species, and help to avoid the emission of the equivalent of 40,000 tonnes of CO2. 
The new partnership forms part of Co-op’s Climate Plan commitments to fund UK natural restoration however, Co-op will not be counting this work towards its carbon reduction targets or using this as an ‘offset’ to make claims towards carbon neutrality**

Protecting our precious Peatlands

Peatlands are unique wetlands made up of rich organic soil and mossy vegetation, and are among the most valuable ecosystems for nature and carbon on Earth. Peatlands improve our water quality, support natural flood management, are home to an array of special species and provide wild places for people to enjoy too.  
In the UK, peatland covers around 12% of our land area and stores over 3 billion tonnes of carbon, however over 80% of it is degraded.

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Initially the Co-op-RSPB partnership will support the protection of two areas of degraded blanket bog; 115ha at Cerniau, part of RSPB Lake Vyrnwy in Powys, Wales, and 154ha at Lumbister, part of RSPB Yell in Shetland.  

A lone Whimbrel stood in the grass calling with its beak open.

Cerniau, Wales

Cerniau at is at the southern end of the Berwyn mountains range, which is designated as a Special Area of Conservation, a Special Protected Area and Special Site of Scientific Interest. It is part of the largest area of blanket bog and European dry heath in Wales and considered to be the most important upland block in Wales for breeding birds. 

Work at this site involves rewetting areas of degraded blanket bog, starting with an intense 3 year period of restoration (also supported by the National Peatland Action Programme in Wales) followed by a long period of maintenance, enhancement and monitoring to ensure the project is delivering on its outcomes over the next 65 years.  

This project will eventually provide nesting and foraging habitat for a range of breeding birds including Hen Harrier, Merlin, Peregrine and Red Kite. It will also reduce greenhouse gas emissions, reduce erosion, improve water quality and enhance water storage at the site, providing resilience against extreme weather events.  

A landscape shot of the Berwyn Mountains as far as the eye can see.

Lumbister, Scotland

Lumbister is part of RSPB Yell, situated on one of Shetland’s most northerly isles, and is dominated by blanket bog and wet heath habitats with deep peat that is often over 1 metre in depth. 

Building on a first phase of work, which took place in 2021 and restored 95ha of peatland, the project at this site will involve a programme of restoration works, supported by Peatland ACTION, to block ditches that are actively draining the peatland and restore significant areas of eroding peatland features. 

With Co-op’s support this will be followed by a long period of maintenance, enhancement and monitoring over the next 100 years.

Ultimately, this project will help bring the local habitat at Lumbister back into good condition. This includes building the resilience of the site, protecting vital carbon stores as well as improving the variety of plant and animal life that call it home, including birds such as Snipe, Dunlin, Golden Plover, Curlew, and Whimbrel, Otters and scarce plants like Bog Orchid.

Rock pool formations across RSPB Yell with a very blue sky and scattered clouds.

Mobilising communities for nature

Co-op have also donated £300,000 and given access to their unique network of Member Pioneers to help deliver the People’s Plan for Nature: Nature Neighbourhoods project. This is a collaboration with the RSPB, The National Trust, WWF and the National Lottery Community Fund, the largest community funder in the UK, who have donated £750,000 to the project.  

The People’s Plan For Nature showed us that people want to take action for nature in their communities, and to hold themselves and others to account. As a direct response and thanks to National Lottery players and to Co-op, the national charities are working with 18 selected voluntary and community partners including community centres, social enterprises and food growing schemes, to create a people-powered plan.   

Through training, financial aid and collaboration with local authorities, the organisations will be supported in mobilising their communities to take action for nature. 

Two people with gardening gloves on tend to planted wildflowers.

Co-operating for a fairer world

As a recognised leader for its social goals and community-led programmes, Co-op does things differently – bringing people together to take action and making things fairer for their members and communities and fairer for the planet. 
As a business, Co-op is committed to becoming Net Zero by 2040 (2035 in their operations). They are prioritising making long-term changes to how they do business, setting near-term science-based targets and rapidly reducing the carbon in their operations and products. Natural restoration and innovation play a vital part in reaching their commitments, as does empowering their members and communities to protect our environment, restore nature and tackle climate change on their doorstep by equipping them with tools and resources. 

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A closeup of Sundew flowers.

*The governments introduced a levy on every sale of carrier bags in England, Scotland and Wales to help reduce the impact of single-use carrier bags. Co-op donates the profits from the sale of our compostable bags to good causes across the UK including our Local Community Fund which helps improve communities across the UK.
**The carbon offset credits generated from the partnership will simply be ‘retired’ but will be a good indicator and measure of the climate impact that this partnership is delivering. 

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