July 2019 Council meeting

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.

A flurry of awards!

I was delighted to be one of the group receiving an award on behalf of the Coop Group at the Coops UK Annual Congress ten days ago.  Voted for by individual members of the co-operative movement, we won the prize for “Leading Co-operative of the Year” in recognition of the progress we have been making as a group over recent years.  I was also delighted to see a Lifetime award made to Roger Sawtell, an inspirational co-operative leader now in his 90s but who – among many other things – was involved back at the start of Traidcraft in the 1970s.

In the last month the Co-op has also won the Evening Standard’s Consumer Business of the Year Award, and the Grocer’s “Grocer of the Year” award – the latter being the first time we have ever one this prestigious industry recognition.  And to top all of that the CEO of our Food Business, Jo Whitfield, won the Veuve Clicquot Businesswoman of the Year award, recognising her leadership of our retailing arm and the work she is doing to encourage women in retailing.