The Co-op Group’s food chief executive Jo Whitfield is the 2019 winner of the Veuve Clicquot Business Woman Award.
Named after Madame Clicquot, who developed the iconic Champagne, the award recognises women in business who meet challenges and break ceilings. Since its inception in 1973 it has honoured more than 300 women from 27 countries, including Body Shop founder Anita Roddick.
A qualified chartered accountant, Ms Whitfield joined the Co-op Group in 2016 as retail finance director before being appointed retail chief executive in 2017. Prior to this she was with Asda for eight years, where she held a number of leadership positions across the business.
She has also held executive roles with businesses such as Northern Foods, GE Capital and Matalan.
In addition to her current role at the Group, she serves as ambassador for Girls Out Loud, a charity working to raise the aspirations of teenage girls in the UK. She is a member of the Women in Retail Group and leads the Co-op Aspire Network, a group designed to champion the internal progression for staff members.
In 2018 she set up Grocery Girls, a social enterprise working inspire more women to join the industry, be successful and develop themselves to reach their full potential.
Judges praised Ms Whitfield for her role in driving sales and boosting profit for the Group’s retail division, as well as increasing sustainability and trailing new channels and delivery methods.
Ms Whitfield said: “This is such a prestigious award and I am genuinely thrilled to have won. It is an amazing way to champion the success of businesswomen worldwide. There are still opportunities needed in many workplaces to match the diversity of modern society. That is why I felt it important to launch a new network, Grocery Girls, to develop and foster female talent in the grocery sector.
“I’m so pleased to have been awarded this honour, which is also great recognition for my colleagues at the Co-op. Our convenience business is growing ahead of the market and we’ve shown that you can be successful by doing good business and go on to do good things in community with the money you make.”
She added: “I’m proud to lead a business that gives back £39m to local causes, has the lowest plastic footprint of any retailer and is innovating for customers with pay-in-aisle technology and home deliveries on eco-bikes.”