The Co-op Group is, as its name suggests, a co-operative, which means it is a corporation owned by its members rather than by shareholders. This gives members more democratic control over the way the company is run, as they choose some of its most senior roles.
The Co-op Group has a board of 11, four of which are member-nominated directors and are nominated by a ballot of members. All the directors are members themselves. Co-op also has a 100-member National Members Council, which hold the board to account for their decisions and meet six times a year.
Motions brought forth by Co-op members can affect how the company is run. Proposed motions this time include pushing for greater animal welfare considerations in their products and pushing for a fairer world for young people, including lobbying for the teaching of the cooperative business model in schools. The AGM will be held at the Auditorium, Manchester Central.
Electing the directors
Independent non-executive directors are put forward by the board to be elected or re-elected. They are not chosen by members.
This year, the board has put forward CEO Shirine Khoury-Haq, who has been in the position since 2022, for re-election. It has also put forward Stevie Spring and Lord Victor Adebowale for re-election as independent non-executive directors.
Spring has been the CEO of media company Future PLC and chaired BBC Children in Need, and currently chairs the charity Mind. Adebowale has been involved in a range of mental health charities, and currently chairs the NHS Confederation and Social Enterprise UK.
Chosen by the members
However, the part of the process in which members have the most say is in the election of a member-nominated director.
Member-nominated directors are the main instrument through which the company’s members exert influence over how it is run. They take up positions on the board and represent the interests of the members, overseeing business and financial strategy whilst ensuring that the members’ needs and wants are made an integral part of the company.
There are four candidates for member-nominated director this this year. The first is chartered accountant John Dalley, who currently serves as society secretary and chief financial officer on the Members’ Council from Scotmid. “We need to balance escalating business and energy costs with the needs of hard-pressed members and colleagues,” he said, “and the important support we provide for local communities.”
Then there is Christine Tacon. Tacon led the Co-op’s farming business for 11 years, and has also worked as a groceries code adjudicator. “As your director, I’ll ensure members’ voices are at the heart of decisions,” she said. “That means really listening to Co-op members, be they young or old, new or life-long, and whether in village, town or city communities.”
Thirdly, there is Ben Reid, who has worked as CEO of Midcounties Cooperative and Elected Director of the International Cooperative Alliance. “All retailers, and the Co-op group is no exception, face significant headwinds given the current economic conditions,” he said. “The experience I gained as CEO of an independent society . . . puts me in a unique position to support management in their mission to deliver commercial success.”
Finally, Margaret Casely-Hayford is the current member-nominated director, and also currently chairs Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre and Coventry University. As a member-nominated director, she wants “more focus on colleague pay and conditions, reduction of plastic waste, measures that improve environmental impact and greater diversity.” She goes on to say “The board should be accountable to its members. That’s achievable through information and transparency.”
The AGM will decide which one of these will take up a position as member-nominated director.
“The board should be accountable to its members. That’s achievable through information and transparency.”