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Resomation part of Co-op ethical strategy

The Co-operative Funeralcare has launched an Ethical Strategy of environmental initiatives that includes a pledge to invest in Resomation as an alternative to burial or cremation.

The support from the UK’s largest funeral director for the pioneering process, which breaks the body down chemically, would “signal the biggest change in the funeral industry since the Cremation Act of 1902”, according to Co-operative Funeralcare managing director George Tinning.

“Burial space is running out and many people want the choice of a more environmentally sustainable alternative to cremation,” he added. “Resomation offers an innovative approach which uses less energy and emits significantly less greenhouse gases than cremation… our support is a clear demonstration of the potential in this technique.”

The 17-point strategy will be rolled out across The Co-operative Funeralcare’s 850 funeral homes. It sets out the organisation’s intentions to protect the environment, support communities, help tackle global poverty and “lead the way in funerals”.

It has involved teaming up with ClimateCare to fund carbon offsetting for operations through a reforestation project in Kibale Forest National Park in Uganda, as well as reducing carbon dioxide emissions. This positions the organisation, which is responsible for 100,000 funerals each year, as the first UK-wide carbon neutral funeral director. Already, 93% of its coffins are manufactured from Forest Stewardship Council-certified wood.

Other strategic elements include acquiring more woodland burial grounds – it already operates three sites in England – and reducing the impact of 1,500 vehicles by fitting speed limiters or training employees in energy-efficient driving on the Energy Saving Trust’s Fuel Economy Programme. More than 100 employees have already completed this.

Socially, the strategy includes support for community activities, giving teachers free guidance on how to support bereaved children, serving Fairtrade tea and coffee in all funeral homes and involving 55,000 children in The Co-operative Be Safe, Be Seen campaign. This covers initiatives such as the ‘walking bus’ pictured, whereby children are escorted in walking to school safely and, not only get the exercise but also save on the carbon emissions of transporting them individually.

“Protecting the environment is an important consideration for many people and we recognise that in death this is no different,” added George Tinning.

“Becoming the first UK-wide carbon neutral funeral director is an important step for us. To achieve this we have implemented a series of measures to offset the impact of our services on the environment.”

The Co-operative Funeralcare took a majority stake in Glasgow-based Resomation Ltd in 2007 to research the innovative technique. Resomation has already been legalised in a number of states in the USA, including Florida, Oregon and Minnesota.

Resomation of a body takes roughly the same time as cremation and uses a heated alkaline solution to break down body tissue, leaving only a bone powder, which can be returned to relatives, and a quantity of sterile liquid.

Environmental research from independent consultancy and leading carbon reduction company Sustain showed that substituting Resomation for cremation reduces a funeral’s emissions of greenhouse gases by around 35% and cuts electricity and gas consumption to less than one eighth of that required for cremation.

DNA research carried out by Scottish Police Services Authority Forensic Services on a sample revealed that the remaining liquid contained no trace of an individual’s DNA. The research also showed that mercury fillings, which are a source of air pollution from cremation, are easily filtered out during the Resomation process.

“This technique will not only give people further choice but will particularly appeal to those with environmental concerns,” said George Tinning.

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