Co-operators honoured in Queen’s Birthday List

The list includes Co-op Group colleagues, credit union professionals and Paul Birch of Revolver World

The Queen’s Birthday Honours List for 2020 has been announced, and includes recognition of outstanding achievements by several people in the co-operative movement. 

The list includes two Co-op Group employees – Jean Hughes from Prescott, Merseyside, and Margaret McLean from Isle of Arran, North Ayrshire – praising their work during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“I never expected anything like this. It really hasn’t sunk in yet – it is an incredible feeling to be recognised and honoured in this way,” said Ms Hughes, who receives the MBE. 

She was recognised for services to the food supply chain during the pandemic, having worked closely with frontline retail workers and the Co-op Group’s central support centre. Her work ensured feedback and insight from Co-op’s 2,600 food stores was gathered, prioritised and acted upon – initiating and implementing a range of key measures in communities to ensure colleagues, customers and the most vulnerable in society were supported throughout.

Related: Updates from the co-op movement on Covid-19

Elizabeth McLean is a frontline food retail worker at the Group’s store on the Isle Arran, and was nominated for putting the store at the centre of the island’s community response – including working round the clock to ensure deliveries were made to elderly and vulnerable members of the community. This also involved liaising with local food banks and social services. She has become a Medallist of the Order of the British Empire (BEM).

“It was a feeling of disbelief when I received the letter, I thought it was a joke at first.” she said. “I love our customers to bits, they are brilliant. And the way the community has responded has been incredible. Local businesses, volunteers, community groups, the local authorities and especially the port manager of Calmac, all co-operating and helping the community to get through this together.

“The whole Co-op team has been fantastic – so it feels like this is in recognition of all their hard work too. I really am delighted.”

Also recognised in the list is footballer Marcus Rashford, who receives an MBE for services to vulnerable children in the UK during Covid-19. In September, Mr Rashford teamed up with some of the UK’s biggest food brands to launch a food insecurity taskforce to tackle child food poverty, an initiative supported by the Co-op Group, Central England Co-operative and East of England Co-operative, as well as employee-owned Waitrose and Partners.

“Obviously I think it’s a nice moment for me personally, but I still feel like I’m at the beginning of the journey that I set out to try and achieve,” he told BBC Breakfast. “What I’d like to do, now that I’m in this position, is speak directly to the prime minister and ask for vouchers to be extended at least until the October half term, because that’s what the families need.”

Related: Co-op retailers join food insecurity taskforce set up by Marcus Rashford

Cllr Dr Paul Birch J.P. is to be awarded the British Empire Medal (BEM), recognising his work in the music industry, Fairtrade, and in his local community. As well as being the founder of the Revolver Records music label, he is a Labour councillor in Wolverhampton and the MD at Revolver World, a co-operative specialising in Fairtrade and ethical coffee, tea, and chocolate. 

“I am really grateful for the nomination and to the team around me who make every day an opportunity,” he said. “After all, to quote Browning, ‘A man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s Heaven for?’”

Related: Music mogul’s journey from rock and roll to a Fairtrade revolution

Phil Ponsonby, CEO of Midcounties Co-operative said: “This is a much-deserved recognition of Paul’s tireless commitment to Fairtrade producers. Revolver has been an important partner to the Midcounties Co-operative over many years by providing innovative product development and supplying Fairtrade coffee of the highest quality from growers across the world.”

Elaine Dean (president) and Debbie Robinson (chief executive) of Central England Co-operative added: “We are absolutely delighted to congratulate Paul Birch on his award of the British Empire Medal (BEM). This is very much deserved as not only are the Revolver products fairly traded but they deliver excellent quality and have won the coveted Great Taste Award. We look forward to working with Paul and his team and wish him continuing success as a Fairtrade Co-operative.

The credit union movement was recognised too, with Joanne Swaine (area branch manager, Leeds Credit Union) and Christopher Bell (senior member services officer, Capital Credit Union, Edinburgh), becoming Medallists of the Order of the British Empire (BEM) for services to the financial sector and community during Covid-19.

Karen Bennett, chief executive officer, Enterprise Credit Union in Liverpool, was named Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for services to the credit union sector and financial inclusion.