I am standing as a Member Nominated Director for the Co-op at their AGM held on Saturday 20th May 2023. I have been asked to produce a brief candidate address, a 500-word statement and a 2-minute video. These can be view below.
My application and those of the other 3 candidates can be viewed on the AGM pack for the Co-op Group.
Summary candidate address
I led the Co-op’s farming business for 11 years. More recently, as Groceries Code Adjudicator, I regulated the Co-op. I’ve been an insider and an outsider. I know first-hand that balancing commercial and co-operative isn’t always easy, but I care about Co-op values. As your MND, I will ensure members’ voices are at the heart of decisions – 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.
- I live in Macclesfield, am a Chartered Engineer and have an MBA but most of my career has been in food, including at Mars Confectionery and Fonterra (New Zealand’s dairy co-op)
- I led the Co-op’s farming business, when it was the biggest in the UK, for 11 years
- Since leaving the Co-op, I have worked as a non-executive director of the Met Office, Natural Environment Research Council and AF, a large farmer purchasing co-op
- 2013-2020 I was Groceries Code Adjudicator and regulated the 13 largest retailers, including the Co-op: my role was to enforce a legally binding code of practice on how suppliers should be treated
- I now chair Red Tractor, the food standards body assuring customers that British food is safe and farmed with care
- And I founded and run a network where women in food and farming can meet and find role models and mentors.
How I have served the Co-op so far and how I work
I took over the Co-op farming business when it was loss-making, but we quickly returned to profit by taking courageous decisions like getting out of livestock farming and investing in produce packing. Most of our successes came by putting co-op values and principles heart and centre of operations: we shared machinery; centralised professional expertise, like buying and selling; and empowered farmers to focus on what they did best – producing food efficiently and responsibly. We launched an education project, 250,000 children visited our farms and learned where their food came from; we developed a range of “Grown by us” products for Co-op shops; each farm developed their own wildlife project, and we welcomed Co-op members onto farms. The farm business improved through living the Co-op values of co-operation, education, concern for the community and local decision-making.
As Groceries Code Adjudicator, I listened to suppliers and ran annual surveys so that I could make retailers aware of the issues their suppliers were experiencing. I investigated Tesco and found them in breach of the Code by delaying payments to suppliers; Tesco’s behaviour improved dramatically as I ensured that they implemented all my recommendations. I also investigated the Co-op and found them in breach of varying agreements without reasonable notice. There was no malice, but I found poor governance controls, missing documentation and systems that did not match policies. A highly effective Co-op team worked through my recommendations, and with new practices in place, Co-op was voted by their suppliers to be the second most compliant retailer the following year. A remarkable improvement.
I would bring to the Co-op board
- a focus on an inclusive organisational culture and colleague progression;
- food supply chain experience with insight about future opportunities, such as forecasting to reduce food waste in the supply chain;
- a desire to listen and advocate for members, especially the young who want business to work on the issues that shape their future society like sustainability and animal welfare
- because co-op values and principles in action make for better business.
View my 2 minute video here
How do I vote?
* please note that you must be a member of the Co-op in order to vote *