The Co-operative Group has reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by a massive 35%, an update on the society’s Ethical Operating Plan has revealed.

The plan was launched last year and trumpeted by The Co-op as “the most radical sustainability programme in UK history”. It outlined 47 tough commitments, including increasing the society’s membership to 20 million by 2020 and promising to use Fairtrade-certified goods for 90% of the primary commodities sourced from the developing world.

Today The Co-op said it had reduced its water consumption by 20%, increased its membership by a further million and helped 700 co-operative enterprises.

This year’s updated plan has 53 new commitments, including launching a campaign with Oxfam to champion small-holder farmers and co-operatives; reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2020; and investing £17m in support of co-operative development.

“Despite the economic downturn we have remained true to our pledge to show the way on corporate responsibility,” said group chief executive Peter Marks.

“Our work in the communities in and around our stores is going from strength to strength. Amazingly, the average person in the UK is now only a mile away from a community project that has received our support.”