The co-operative difference of the Group’s member-nominated directors

Two of the Group’s four MND seats are up for election in 2024

Having directors elected by and from its membership is an important distinction for co-operative businesses – and this applies to co-ops of every size. The UK’s largest, the Co-op Group, is no exception. 

The Group has seats on its board for four member-nominated directors (MNDs) – people who have proven commercial backgrounds, but who, as members themselves, have the added task of bringing the voice of ordinary members to the boardroom.

Each year, one or more MNDs are elected for a three-year term by members who are eligible to vote. Current MNDs are Sarah McCarthy-Fry, Margaret Casely-Hayford, Kate Allum and Paul Chandler. 

There are two MND seats up for election in 2024; the closing date for nominations is midday on 19 December 2023. 

“The opportunity to elect member-owners to our board of directors is part of our co-op difference – it sets us apart from investor-owned businesses,” says Co-op Group secretary and general counsel, Dominic Kendal-Ward. “We are proud to have a diverse and talented board and our member-nominated directors each bring individual skills and commercial expertise to it. This is integral and critical.”

Kendal-Ward says the Group “is committed to ensuring it reflects our membership and the communities we serve and that includes across our board”, adding: “We look forward to welcoming candidates keen to help create the greatest value for our member-owners while striving for the highest standards of equality within our Co-op and the wider world.”

One of the directors stepping down next year is Paul Chandler, who will have served nine years on the board – the maximum allowed by the Group’s rules. 

“It has been a privilege to serve as an MND,” he says. 

“I joined the board in 2015, when new governance structures were being implemented – it has been hugely fulfilling to use my commercial experience and skills developed in the world of fair trade to contribute to the rebuilding of our Co-op businesses.

“Helping the board to strike the right balance when there are difficult decisions to make is one of the key roles of our MND team. It involves close liaison with our National Members’ Council, colleagues and the wider membership to ensure we understand their perspectives and the issues that matter most to them. I am proud of what we have achieved during the last eight years – particularly the leading positions we have taken and sustained on sustainability and ethical sourcing practices, which are close to my own heart.”

Paul Chandler

As directors, MNDs help set the organisation’s business strategy, oversee commercial and financial performance; ensure co-operative values and principles remain at the heart of the business; meet with members and the Co-op’s Members’ Council to hear their views; and “amplify our co-op difference alongside carrying out their fiduciary duties”.

Prospective candidates need to meet both the eligibility requirements (linked to skills, experience and empathy with co-operative values and principles) and membership criteria (having been a member for three years before submitting a nomination and accruing at least 1,000 trading points in the current financial year.

“As I reach the end of my maximum term and step down, I see that this is an exciting time for a successor to join the Co-op board,” says Chandler. 

“Under the leadership of our CEO Shirine [Khoury-Haq] we are developing ambitious plans to build on our strong financial and commercial base to achieve growth, deliver value to our members and make the fact that we are a member-owned organisation more central than ever, and a key differentiator from our competitors.

“MNDs will, therefore, have an important, exciting part to play both in the evolution of our business strategies and in the re-imagining of how we can bring co-operative principles to life. I wish whoever emerges from the election process every success, and hope they enjoy the role as much as I have.”

For more information on the role, and to apply, visit The deadline for nominations is midday on 19 December 2023