Three member-nominated directors announced for Co-operative Group board

Three member-nominated directors have been announced to stand for the main Co-operative Group board, following changes to the governance structure last year. The three directors will fill the...

Three member-nominated directors have been announced to stand for the main Co-operative Group board, following changes to the governance structure last year.

The three directors will fill the three seats subject to approval from members at the annual meeting on 16 May. They are:

  • Hazel Blears: Former Labour MP for the Salford and Salford and Eccles constituencies between 1997-2015.
  • Ruth Spellman: Chief executive of the Workers’ Educational Association.
  • Paul Chandler: Former chief executive of Traidcraft.
Hazel_Blears for web
Hazel Blears

In her election address, Hazel Blears said: “As a member of the Co-operative Group for over 20 years I know that Co-op members like you want the Group to succeed providing top quality food and services to our Communities at fair prices, sharing our profits and helping those in need – it’s a great and worthwhile mission. Co-operative values and principles have been central to my life and work.”


Ruth_Spellman for web
Ruth Spellman

Ruth Spellman commented: “Elect me because I will uphold your ethos and values. I’ve successfully led three high profile membership organisations, including the Workers’ Educational Association, which grew out of the co-operative movement. I am a hard working wife and mother. Women make 75% of consumer choices and actively prefer to deal with organisations with the right values. I would serve the Co-op as a loyal team member and I would be 100% committed to your success.”

Paul Chandler
Paul Chandler

While Paul Chandler added: “As former chief executive of Traidcraft, the pioneering fair trade organisation, and director of a range of mutual and charitable enterprises, I would bring to the board my passion for promoting responsible and ethical business practices and a fairer society, underpinned by substantial commercial and financial services experience. I want to see the Co-op re-established as a successful and sustainable business that truly puts its members and customers first and demonstrates co-operative principles in action.”

Allan Leighton, the newly-appointed chair of the Co-operative Group who is currently working through a process to build the board, said: “I am putting together a Board which will be firmly focused on the tough job ahead of rebuilding the Co-operative, underpinned by the far-reaching governance reforms introduced in 2014. This is not just another commercial turnaround. The Co-operative Group is different because we are owned by our members. They have a direct say in running the business, through electing member representatives to the board and the council; and through having a say on key issues through the one member one vote democratic process.”

In its annual results report for 2014, former chair Ursula Lidbetter said: “In 2014 our members voted overwhelmingly for a radical overhaul of our constitution. These changes, essential to our recovery, were our response to the two reports, from Sir Christopher Kelly and Lord Myners, commissioned by the Group after the crisis year of 2013. Both the Kelly Report and the Myners Review pointed clearly to the need for us to address structural and cultural failures in our management and governance. We took these findings on board, as painful as they were to hear, and set to work to reform our ways of working.”

She added: “Suitably qualified independent non-executive directors will comprise a majority of the board, as well as two members of the Group executive and three elected from the wider membership, who will also have to pass high standards of professionalism and demonstrate the requisite experience. We have already appointed Sir Christopher Kelly as our Senior Independent Director, who brings valuable experience and insight to the challenges we face. The new constitution gives us a national members’ council, replacing the previous seven regional boards, with the responsibility to hold the Group board to account, and to protect and promote our co-operative values.”

Lesley Reznicek, president of the Transitional Council, said: “With the changes brought about through our governance reforms we are resetting the relationship between the board, the Group executive and the membership. The council will work with and support the board and executive in their efforts to rebuild the Co-operative Group. We must develop mature and trusting relationships founded on a shared understanding of what a successful future will look like for us. We are a member-owned business, rather than just an organisation with members, and that means membership is integral to all aspects of running the society.

“Harnessing both the democratic and commercial benefits of being a co-op will be key to our success. We have made a good start but there is still a great deal of work to do. We need to find the best way for the council to ensure it can fulfil its role to hold the new board to account. We must find new ways for members to show their co-operative commitment in their local communities.”

Read the full election statements from the member-nominated directors online:

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