Co-operative Group set equality target for boards and committees

The UK's largest co-operative has made a pledge that at least 40 per cent of its main boards will be women within five years.

As part of the Co-operative Group's five-year Ethical Plan, the society will encourage the election of more women to its boards of directors and seek to ensure that its elected area committees are more representative of the communities they serve.

The recent announcement marks the beginning of a new push to ensure that area committees, regional boards and the Group’s main board are more representative of the UK population as a whole.

A pledge that at least 40 per cent of its Group and Bank boards are women by 2018 goes well beyond that recommended for FTSE100 companies to reach 25 per cent by 2015. Indeed, the Group’s main Board has been 25 per cent female since 2011.

And, by next year, the membership of the Group’s 48 area committees will aim to be consistent with 50 per cent of that proportion of the UK population that are carers, disabled, or lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender and by 2016 will be consistent with 75 per cent  the proportion of the population that are from ethnic minorities.

In July 2011, a group of women from across the Co-operative Movement launched the Co-operative Women's Challenge in Leeds. The 2020 challenge argues that 48 per cent of the workforce and six in every ten University graduates are women. It hopes that by 2020 there will be equal representation of women/men on boards and committees of all co-operatives.

Group Chair Len Wardle said: “We want to be the most socially responsible business in the UK and our latest Ethical Plan sets out our intention to improve the diversity of our governance structures. 

“These are difficult targets and we have far to go, but our businesses operates in communities across the UK so it is essential that we work even harder to ensure that our governance structure represents them.”

Other highlights from the revised Ethical Plan include:

•         Stores and branches to act as a focus for 12,000 community initiatives per year. The Group will continue to be socially inclusive, maintaining a physical presence in every UK postal  area.

•         The Co-operative will provide an additional £1m of support to co-operative enterprise in 2013, and will maintain its £500,000 Community Shares Fund.

•         Having achieved a 40 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from its operations since 2006, the Group will increase this to 50 per cent by 2020.

•         Having facilitated over 40,000 loans by the end of 2012, the Group will grow its partnership with lendwithcare.org further in order to facilitate 100,000 loans to entrepreneurs in the developing world by the end of 2013.

•        The Group will continue to show its strong commitment to Fairtrade and says it is on track to meet its target that if a primary commodity from the developing world can be Fairtrade, it will be Fairtrade by the end of this year.

• Read the full plan below.

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