What can Co-op Group members achieve with their votes at the AGM?

As the Group gets ready for this year’s meeting, here's a look at how membership democracy has influenced its recent course

The Co-operative Group holds its AGM on Saturday at Manchester Central, with a series of motions being put to members.

They range from approval of the reports and the appointment of senior figures to recommendations to extend the Group’s ethical policy on issues such as pay ratios, modern slavery and Fairtrade.

The Group, which has revamped its membership offer as part of its three-stage project to re-establish itself after the crisis of 2013, says the member votes are a sign of its responsiveness – putting it simply on its website as “You said, we did”.

Members were involved with projects including writing the label notes for the Co-op’s new ales

At last year’s AGM, it says: “Our members voted for us to continue to make sure our members have a voice.”

It cites member involvement in product development, including improving the pet food range, selecting ales for stores and “even finding out that mushrooms are the Marmite of pizza topping”.

Related: Our guide to the motions at this year’s Group AGM

This “product collaboration” has 16,000 members enjoy 1,000 hours of imput into more than 50 projects.

It says moves continue after the vote to ensure members have a meaningful engagement, with a Join In section of the Group’s website.

There is a system of Member Pioneers at work around the country to connect the Group with its membership, and members also have the chance to select good causes for the Co-op Group to support.

Members also voted for an ongoing commitment to Fairtrade, which led to the Group deciding to use Fairtrade cocoa in all its own products, launch the UK’s first own-brand Fairtrade Halloween chocolates and sell a million extra Fairtrade Christmas products.

The 2016 AGM also called for ethics and sustainability to be put at heart of the business, held to measurable standards, and in response the Group set up The Co-op Way policy framework, which reports this month.

The Group says it has also been responsive to AGM calls to follow principle 6 – co-operation among co-ops – citing its monitoring of trade with other co-ops through its Co-op Compass and its involvement in Federal Retail Trading Services, a platform for collaboration with other co-operative societies.

It also said it was reviewing its pay to see when it could achieve AGM calls to move to being a living wage employer, although this is a “considerable additional challenge” and it needs “to get the balance right so we can continue to thrive”.

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