A few years after the event which eventually triggered the setting up of this site in 2011, a group of co-operators concerned about the ‘corporatisation’ of the large societies, involving loss of members’ control, began to correspond. Several had been concerned about the Co-operative Group’s failings in management and governance.
After going through the usual channels to no effect they had no option but to express their concerns in the Co-operative News letters column.
The general message was that active members were being sidelined, ignored and even removed from committees and boards. Executives were being recruited from mainstream business with all the conditioning that entailed. Their brief induction at the Co-operative College failed to have the intended effect.
“The composition of the Co-operative Group Board, and the limited pool from which its members were drawn, made a serious governance failure almost inevitable.
“The current approach to the election of non-executive directors has conclusively shown itself incapable of producing a Group Board with the necessary governance competences or the business and technical skills required for successful stewardship of the Group’s assets.
“It promotes activists with concerns about issues important to those who elect them, not individuals with skill sets relevant to overseeing the business.
“Nor is it realistic to expect these shortcomings to be rectified by training, even if the training is more effectively delivered than appears to have been the case here.
“The Regional Representatives may be well-qualified to represent the views of members and customers or to be guardians of co-operative principles. But Boards of major organisations have responsibilities which go much wider.
“Many of the individuals put much time and commitment into their role as Board members; but without appropriate skills and experience they are unlikely to be able to exercise appropriate oversight of a £13 billion conglomerate comprising such a disparate set of businesses”.
The general message from activists was that active members were being sidelined, ignored and even removed from committees and boards and that executives were being recruited from mainstream business with all the conditioning that entailed. But Sir Christopher Kelly, on the other hand, asserted that activists with concerns about issues important to those who elect them were being selected, not individuals with skill sets relevant to overseeing the business.
As Graham Bober asked in the comments section following another post: “Was it our commitment to our ideals that led to the bankrupting of our model, or the exploitation of our values by executives who had, and have little perception of our great cause?”