Just back from a day at the National Members’ Council, listening to an extraordinarily wide range of presentations including an overview of progress from our CEO Steve Murrells (see image above), a review of our franchising operation from Martin Rogers (see my blog below about visiting our Leeds Student Union franchise store), and an update on progress in recruiting and refocusing our network of member pioneers. We also heard a report on how our responsible advertising policy is being implemented and the remarkable success we have had in enlisting the (unlikely?) support of the Sun for our campaign in support of Lord McColl’s bill to help victims of Modern Slavery. In the last week the government has confirmed that victims will continue to be eligible for government support indefinitely rather than for only 45 days – one of our key campaigning asks.
Best of all, however, was a presentation from Cathryn Higgs and Sarah Wakefield on progress with implementing our sustainable food strategy. It was great to hear about our shift to increase vegetarian, vegan and healthy eating options; our commitment to source all soy used in our supply chains from sustainable sources (an issue that is so much bigger than the more prominent palm oil debates); further action to reduce plastic usage and tackle food waste. Perhaps the biggest surprise however was to learn that in terms of our carbon impact the total footprint of all our direct activities (transport, refrigeration, power for our stores etc) was only half that of the embedded impact of just the dairy products we sell. So our new commitment to build on the 50% reduction in our own GHG emissions (achieved three years early in 2018) will now focusing on reducing the total impact of what we do including carbon emissions from our supply chains. A big step but clearly the right approach in this time of climate emergency.
Questions to the directors were challenging as usual, focusing on the decline in members voting in our AGM, the need to give more attention to all parts of the UK in our publicity materials and charitable initiatives, and whether we could do more to help provide jobs for past offenders.
The Council’s democratic processes also led to the re-election of Nick Crofts for a third two-year term as President, and the return of Lesley Reznicek to a vice-presidential role (she was President for a period before Nick was first elected). With a range of fresh members elected to the Senate too it will be interesting to see how Council’s priorities will evolve for this next period.