Co-op teams up with Amazon for robot grocery delivery scheme

Virgin Radio

17 Sep 2021, 13:09

Credit: Getty

Credit: Getty

Grocery retailer The Co-op has recently completed a successful pilot scheme using robots on wheels to deliver groceries to customer’s homes.

The pilot took place in Milton Keynes, chosen for its robot friendly conditions: wide, flat pavements, and low overall traffic. Following the success of the pilot The Co-Op will be expanding the scheme to include Northampton and Cambridgeshire, as well as several locations in the north of England.

The robots were developed by Starship Technologies, a San Francisco tech startup by Skype co-founders Janus Friis and Ahti Heinla. The self-driving cooler-on-wheels robot fleet currently sits at 200, with plans to expand to 500 units by the end of the year. 

Customers will be able to order their groceries directly from The Co-op website, or via Amazon Prime’s grocery delivery service. Amazon already has a similar partnership with Morrisons in several cities throughout the UK (but without the robots). 

The decision to team up with Amazon has been criticised by some on ethical grounds, considering Co-op’s proud history of diplomatic and ethical business practices. Critics include representatives at GMB union, a worker’s union campaigning for improved worker’s rights at Amazon. 

GMB’s national officer Andy Pembergast said “It’s really disappointing to see a company with a proud ethical heritage like Co-op teaming up with Amazon: a tax evading multinational with a horrifying health and safety record. Amazon has made billions throughout the pandemic and pays virtually no tax. Bosses won’t even recognise a union to improve the health and safety of their beleaguered workforce.”

A Co-op spokesperson responded, saying “We aren’t compromising our ethics and principles and the extension of the partnership is about getting our ethically sourced products into the hands of more people.”