Cooperative Business New Zealand hands out its annual awards

Winners include the Foodstuffs Co-operatives, which took the gong for co-op of the year

The Cooperative Business New Zealand Annual Awards were presented at a ceremony held at the Christchurch Transitional Cathedral on Thursday.

“It was fantastic to be able to honour the contribution that our co-operative’s employees, managers and governors make to their businesses, their members, their local communities and the New Zealand economy,” said the apex body’s CEO Roz Henry.

“We had an excellent response to the awards this year with an exceptional array of businesses and individuals nominated in all award categories.

“The ceremony was an opportunity for us to hear about how leaders and businesses have been successful in growing, meeting challenges, responding to COVID-19 and how they are working hard to build more resilient and sustainable co-operatives for the future.”

Co-operative Business of the Year: The Foodstuffs Co-operatives

This is presented to a member business that has made a significant and positive impact within the co-operative community.

The Foodstuffs Co-operatives, which are two co-operative business entities that collaborate on key initiatives, were recognised for their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Strategy among other achievements.

Multiple initiatives were implemented to enact the strategy over the year including signing up to the Climate Leaders Coalition and the New Zealand Plastic Packaging Declaration. With the arrival of COVID-19, Foodstuffs implemented new initiatives through the CSR strategy including an additional 10% allowance for waged team members throughout lockdown and the establishment of a fund that distributed more than $1.3 million to 55 social organisations to help New Zealanders facing tough times.

Ms Henry said: “Concern for community is one of the international co-operative guiding principles and it is fantastic to see how the Foodstuffs Co-operatives are living this principle by going over and above to support their members, employees and communities while also committing to being a more sustainable co-operative.”

Co-operative Leader of the Year: Simon Manning, chief executive, Wealthpoint

This award is presented to an individual who has shown significant co-operative leadership as well as vision and courage for the co-operative model.

Wealthpoint CEO Simon Manning was recognised for leading the successful mutualisation of Wealthpoint, which involved transitioning more than 50 independently owned and operated businesses into one co-operative.

The new Wealthpoint co-operative covers life, health, general insurance, retail investments, Kiwisaver and mortgages, which makes it one of the most diverse financial services distribution groups in New Zealand.

Ms Henry said: “What Simon achieved in a short space of time was remarkable. He created Wealthpoint with no disruption to the member businesses in a year where there was incredible disruption.”

Emerging Leader of the Year: Katie Vickers, head of sustainability and land use, Farmlands

A new award category for 2020, the Emerging Leader of the Year recognises an individual (under 35) who is making their mark within their member organisation or an individual who has established a co-operative.

Farmlands head of sustainability and land use, Katie Vickers, was recognised for her contribution to the rural supplies retail co-operative.

Ms Henry says: “After only six years at Farmlands, Katie has proven herself to be indispensable and she has been given major responsibility as the first ever head of sustainability and land use. Farmlands is committed to putting their responsibility to support farmers to reduce their environmental impact and optimise value from the land as front and centre and Katie has been tasked with leading this important outcome.”

Outstanding Co-operative Contribution

The Outstanding Co-operative Contribution Award recognises individuals who have contributed significantly to the success of a co-operative business or the wider co-operative sector in New Zealand over the long-term.

This year three finalists, with more than 70 years’ combined service and commitment to the co-operative community, were honoured with the award.

1. Outstanding Co-operative Contribution: Lachie Johnstone, former chairman, Farmlands

Lachie Johnstone was recognised for his service to the rural sector and to Farmlands. He was chair of the North Island-based Farmlands Trading Society when it merged with the South Island-based CRT Co-operative in 2013. He then became the inaugural chair of the newly created Farmlands Co-operative, with its national footprint.

Ms Henry said: “Lachie has been a champion for the co-operative model. He is someone who has upheld the co-operative principles and this was particularly evident during the formation of Farmlands, when he was truly focused on ensuring the new co-operative was based on the core values of the model and that the structure would provide a livelihood for members. He has also been a key advocator in ensuring the development of governance skills and capability across the sector.”

2. Outstanding Co-operative Contribution: Professor Nicola Shadbolt, Massey University

Professor Nicola Shadbolt was recognised for her history of service to the New Zealand agribusiness and co-operative sectors.

In addition to being a professor in agribusiness and farm management at Massey University, she has held a significant number of director, chair and leadership positions.

Ms Henry said:: “Nicola is a staunch advocate for the co-operative model and she is a trailblazer who has worked incredibly hard to achieve long-term, sustainable change.

“For Cooperative Business New Zealand, she played a key role in enabling the first piece of research to be undertaken by Massey University to gain clarity around the value of the Co-operative Economy to New Zealand. This work was incredibly important to the sector and has been a cornerstone in enabling discussions with the Government and regulators.”

3. Outstanding Co-operative Contribution: John Monaghan, former Chairman, Fonterra

John Monaghan was recognised for his service to Fonterra and the dairy industry.

He was an inaugural Fonterra shareholders’ councillor and became chair in 2004. Retiring from the council in 2007, John was then elected to the Fonterra board in 2008 and became chair in 2018.

Ms Henry said: “It is a huge credit to John that he was nominated for this award by a group of shareholders without his knowledge.

“John is to be admired for his determination and commitment to lead Fonterra through a significant period of transition. It was a hefty responsibility and seeing the co-operative return to a position of profitability is a fantastic way to complete his tenure.”

Enduring Service Award: EA Networks celebrates 25 years

Co-operative electricity network company EA Networks was presented with the Enduring Service Award to celebrate 25 years in business.

Ms Henry said: “The co-operative business model is highly enduring, so celebrating and recognising their success and longevity is important.

“EA Networks is unique in that is it the only co-operative among New Zealand’s 27 electricity distribution businesses.

“As well as developing a modern electricity network, EA Networks has provided multiple further benefits to its community over the years including supplying fibre optic connections, undergrounding power lines on state highways, and cornerstone investment in an industry transforming start-up irrigation scheme.”