Margaret Casely-Hayford (Elected)


Chair ActionAid UK


As former Legal Director of John Lewis Partnership, I know that ethics and commercial success are complementary; the Board should be accountable to members; and that it’s achievable through information and transparency.

The Board’s intellectual firepower isn’t enough to build Co-op future strategy. Good boards listen; and collaborate with members.

I’d promote:

An active democracy A formula linking top Executive’s pay with that of the lowest paid employee; and Transparency wherever practicable.

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I believe in what the Co-operative stands for and with my background in ethical retail would be a constructive part of its rebuilding and re-establishment as a growing thriving business with sound governance and commercial robustness that is deservedly trusted and loved by the public.

I was Director of Legal Services for the John Lewis Partnership for nine years, so have knowledge of strengthening a democracy within and running the governance structure of a highly principled successful £10bn retail operation (John Lewis, Waitrose and financial services). So I know that commercial success doesn’t need to compromise the constitutional ethic of a co-owned democratic business. These elements should be complementary.

I believe the Co-op of the future will have to build on openness, transparency and collaborative values established by the Rochdale pioneers.

To me a vibrant democracy is vital and accountability of the Board within that context is critical and should not be lost but should be balanced with the importance of running a commercially successful enterprise. This means giving the Members enough information not just to allow them to be able to hold the CEO and Board to account for delivery of agreed strategy; but importantly, enabling them properly to influence strategic thinking.

The biggest mistake would be to consider that the intellectual firepower of senior executives and the Board alone as the strategic thinkers will be enough to build the Co-op of the future. The Board has to listen to and to collaborate with Members.

On the Board of NHS England since 2012, I was a non-executive director and proudly shared responsibility for commissioning health services for arguably the largest ‘member’ organisation in Europe with the largest budget (£105bn pa.). Citizens contribute to the NHS and consequently benefit from its being free at the point of access.

I was one of the Non-Executive directors who promoted and pioneered ‘NHS Citizen’, the new listening structure for the NHS that enables proper consultation and collaboration.

I’m currently Chair of the Charity ActionAid UK which is part of a similar federal structure to the Co-operative. (We operate in 45 countries, each with their own board and assembly to hold the boards to account). I believe that its the shared ethic, principles, collaborative spirit and willingness to listen to other members that underpin a member organisation.

Whilst at John Lewis I persuaded the Chairman to promote alternative business models such as employee-owned and member-owned businesses. So we lobbied Government and the main opposition parties to recognise the importance of alternative models of doing business: as a better way of doing business. Political parties suddenly recognised ‘the John Lewis model’ as an example of important alternative business structures. I persuaded the organisation to lobby for change to tax structure so lower paid employees in all co-owned businesses could benefit from tax relief on their annual bonus, which had previously been taxed as income.

I would devote similar passion, innovation and drive to promotion of interests of the Co-op.

Please vote for me!