A new code of conduct for consumer co-operatives sets new standards for board composition, board size and terms of office for board members.
Speaking at the Practitioners Forum in Manchester, Senior Legal Officer for Co-operatives UK Emma Laycock introduced the Co-operatives UK Code of Governance for Consumer Societies, saying feedback on the draft published at Co-operatives United last year had been carefully considered, but not all had been taken on.
Despite some calls for an upper age limit for board members, the code states there should be no discrimination by reason of age, she told delegates. And there will be no quotas for women on boards. There was not adequate support for this, according to Co-operatives UK.
The code stipulates a maximum board size of 15 and that board members should be re-elected after three years or less. After three terms of three years, they should stand down. “We want a balance of experienced and newly elected board members,” Ms Laycock said.
However, Ms Laycock added, the provisions in the code could be overridden if a co-op provided a suitable explanation. “All co-operatives are different and we understand that,” she said.
Societies should use the code from 2014, she added, and updated appendices should assist with compliance. “2014 is an opportunity to implement and embed the new provisions,” Ms Laycock said. “We’re still discussing how best to deal with 2014 compliance reporting.”
There will be regular reviews of the code, which has been approved by the Co-operatives UK Corporate Governance Working Group and its board.