The Co-op has announced plans to massively accelerate its membership recruitment, after claiming its rebooted scheme had smashed expectations.

The society today revealed a target to recruit a million new members by the end of 2017 - a year ahead of its original plans, announced in September.

The mutual has also hired acclaimed This is England film and TV director Shane Meadows to create a series of short films backing its Join Us campaign to illustrate its support for local causes.

The Co-op aims to sign up 500,000 new customers and encourage a further 500,000 existing shoppers to become members, having announced in September it hoped to sign up one million further members by the end of 2018.

Today it said the scheme’s success has already led 400,000 new members to join in the four months since launch, giving it a total of 4.1 million members.

Under the scheme, Co-op members receive a 5% reward for purchases they make on own-brand products and services, with a further 1% benefiting local causes.

Members can choose the local cause they want to support from a list of three in each of 1,500 communities across the UK, centred on Co-op Food stores and Funeralcare homes.

The Co-op said since the launch of the scheme, members had earned £15m, with a further £2.7m being raised for more than 4,000 local good causes.

It added that £10m was still sitting in members’ digital wallets.

Today’s announcement caps a good few weeks over the festive period for the mutual, which saw food like-for-like sales across the core convenience estate increase by 4% year on year, with total Co-op food like-for-like sales up 3.4%.

It said the 2017 member growth target will also help the Co-op achieve its 2018 goal of having 50% of sales across all its businesses coming from members.

Meanwhile Meadows, best known for the Bafta award-winning feature film and TV series This is England, was said to have chosen to partner with the Co-op because of its business ethos and purpose.

A four-minute version of his work created to illustrate the Co-op’s support for thousands of local good causes will be shown in cinemas across the UK from 20 January.

“The Co-op is back and our members and our communities are once again at the heart of all we do,” said Rufus Olins, chief membership officer. “In looking to grow our membership significantly in 2017, we are in effect looking to grow the Co-op economy, and the very positive impact it can have in communities throughout the UK.

“We are delighted that such an authentic and critically acclaimed director as Shane Meadows has chosen to work with us as we aim to introduce a new generation to the Co-op. Like us, Shane believes in the power of people working together to change things and the difference the Co-op can make in strengthening communities.”

Meadows said: “When the Co-op asked me if I’d be interested in making a film about all the charity projects they are now committed to helping, I have to be honest and say I had no idea what they were really up to or what separated them from any other supermarket chain. I’d unofficially retired from making ‘commercials’ a number of years back, but as this seemed to be coming from a genuinely good place, I was intrigued enough to find out more and once I realised I could use the actual people from the groups rather than a load of advert actors, I was in.

“With this sort of material you never know how it’s going to turn out until you get there - filming real people just doing what they do with no script and no real structure is always a bit of a leap of faith, but once we began the first day’s shoot with a group of children, their teachers and the volunteers who ran a community garden project in one of the toughest areas of Glasgow, I knew we had the opportunity to make something both touching and unique.”