Co-op members vote at AGM to tackle modern slavery and packaging waste

20 May 2017

Co-op members voted overwhelmingly to champion a better way of doing business by tackling modern slavery and packaging waste at today’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) at Exchange Hall, Manchester Central.

Members will seek to raise awareness and campaign for greater support for victims of modern slavery in the UK, with the Co-op extending its ‘Bright Future’ partnership with City Hearts to other organisations which support victims.

Members also backed a motion to make 80% of the Co-op’s packaging easy to recycle by 2020 – working towards an ultimate target of 100% easy to recycle packaging.

The Co-op has a proud history of leading the promotion of Fairtrade, and members voted to re-commit to Fairtrade values, suppliers and producers. This vote means it will aim to extend its ingredients policy beyond cocoa, so wherever it uses bananas, tea and coffee in its cakes, desserts and confectionery, it will be sourced on Fairtrade terms – no other retailer does this.

The Co-op also extended its commitment to British produce, announcing that it would source £2.5bn worth of UK farm products over the next three years. It will also become the only retailer to sell 100% British own-brand frozen meat, extending its pledge on fresh meat to freezer food.

In a further commitment, the Co-op will extend its buying season for British fruit and vegetables, add new British flower varieties, and give growers long-term contracts.

Additionally the Co-op revealed that its fundraising to tackle loneliness and isolation in partnership with the Red Cross has topped £6m, significantly ahead of the £3.5m target set just under two years ago. The money raised by the Co-op will help the Red Cross provide vital care and support for thousands of people across the UK.

In further developments, Steve Murrells, Group CEO, was elected as an Executive Director. Allan Leighton and Chris Kelly were re-elected as Independent Non-Executive Directors and Paul Chandler was re-elected as a Member Nominated Director (MND). Gareth Thomas was elected as an MND for the first time.

Ruth Spellman has decided to step down as an MND and the Co-op would like to thank her for her service.

In its Members’ Council elections Nick Crofts, the Council’s President, was re-elected to his seat in the North West constituency and there were 11 new members elected to the 100 strong Council, four of whom are colleagues.

Today’s meeting highlighted the growing engagement of Co-op members with the business, in a year when the Group has seen membership increase by more than 840,000, driven by the launch of the new 5 + 1 membership scheme. The unique scheme offers members 5% back on Co-op branded products and 1% to their local communities. Last month the Co-op made its first payout under the scheme, with over £9m going to over 4,000 good causes.

Allan Leighton, Chair of the Co-op, said:

"The commitments we’ve made today to help fight modern slavery, cut packaging waste and back British suppliers are what the Co-op is all about. Working closely with our members, colleagues and communities I am confident that we can continue to champion a better way of doing business."

The full results of the Co-op AGM voting are as follows:

(1) To receive the Annual Report and Accounts for the 52 weeks ended 31 December 2016

Carried
For – 98.07%
Against – 1.93%

(2) To approve the Directors’ Remuneration Report for the 52 weeks 31 December 2016

Carried
For – 93.3%
Against – 6.7%

(3) To agree changes to the Executive Remuneration Policy

Carried
For – 94.11%
Against – 5.89%

(4) To elect Steve Murrells as an Executive Director

Elected
For – 96.37%
Against – 3.63%

(5) To re-elect Allan Leighton as an Independent Non-Executive Director

Elected
For – 95.52%
Against – 4.48%

(6) To re-elect Chris Kelly as an Independent Non-Executive Director

Elected
For – 96.06%
Against – 3.94%

(7) To re-appoint Ernst & Young LLP as the Society’s auditors

Carried
For – 95.6%
Against – 4.4%

(8) Joint motion from Board and Council - Political Donations

Carried
For – 78.52%
Against – 21.48%

(9) Motion from Members – Pay Gap

Carried
For – 97.45%
Against – 2.55%

(10) Motion from Members – Fairtrade

Carried
For – 98.24%
Against – 1.76%

(11) Joint motion from Board and Council – Modern Slavery

Carried
For – 96.77%
Against – 3.23%

(12) Joint motion from Board and Council – Recycling

Carried
For – 99.05%
Against – 0.95%

Results for the election of Member Nominated Directors

Paul Chandler - elected

Gareth Thomas - elected

Pernilla Bonde - Not elected

Enquiries:

The Co-operative Group
Jon Church
Tel: 07545 210812
Chris Sonne
Tel: 07770 544 721

Tulchan Communications
Susanna Voyle
Tel: 07980 894557
Jonathan Sibun
Tel: 07779 999683

Notes to Editors:

About the Co-op Group:

The Co-op is one of the world’s largest consumer co-operatives, with interests spanning food, funerals, insurance, electrical and legal services. It has a clear purpose of championing a better way of doing business for you and your communities. Owned by over 4 million members, the Co-op has 3,800 outlets in communities across the UK. It employs around 69,000 people and has an annual turnover of over £9.5 billion.

About the Bright Future programme

In March 2017 the Co-op announced a ground breaking new scheme to help integrate victims of the disturbing UK modern slave trade back into communities, working with City Hearts to develop the Bright Future programme.

The initiative will see the group develop new partnerships with charities who are experienced in supporting survivors of modern slavery, and create 30 new work placement opportunities across its businesses.

Newly elected and re-elected directors’ biographies

Executive Directors

Steve Murrells

Steve became Co-op Group CEO in March 2017 having previously led the Co-op’s Food business since 2012. Steve now has overall responsibility for Co-op Food, Co-op Funeralcare, Co-op Insurance and Co-op Legal Services.

As a senior executive at the Co-op Steve has been a key part of the team which has rebuilt the Co-op, relaunched its membership proposition and returned its iconic blue clover-leaf logo to the high street.

As CEO of Co-op Food, Steve was responsible for the Co-op’s £7bn-turnover food retail arm with its 2,800 strong network of stores and logistics operations which span the whole of the UK. He introduced the Co-op’s new retail strategy which focuses on convenience and turned around the business to grow its market share.

Prior to joining the Co-op Steve has held senior leadership roles in European and UK based food retail businesses, including at One Stop, Sainsbury’s and Tesco. Steve spent three years as CEO of Danish meat company, Tulip, before joining the Co-op.

Independent Non-Executive Directors

Allan Leighton - Chair

Allan has held a series of high profile roles, including Chief Executive of Asda from 1996 to 2000, Non-Executive Chairman of Royal Mail from 2002 to 2009. Allan is currently the Chairman of Matalan Ltd, Entertainment One Ltd, Wagamama and Canal & River Trust and is also Deputy Chairman of Pandora AS.

Chris Kelly

Chris chaired the Group’s independent review which considered the events leading up to the re-capitalisation plan for The Co-operative Bank plc in 2013. He currently chairs the Kings Fund (the health and social care think tank) and the Responsible Gambling Strategy Board. Previous roles include chairing the Committee on Standards in Public Life, the Financial Ombudsman Service and the NSPCC. For many years he was a senior public servant, mostly in HM Treasury but latterly as Permanent Secretary of the Department of Health.

Member Nominated Directors

Paul Chandler

Paul was chief executive of Traidcraft from 2001 to 2013, and President of the European Fair Trade Association from 2005 to 2012. Drawing on his fair trade experience and early career in Barclays Bank, he is now focusing on promoting responsible practices in business and financial services, alongside a portfolio of charity and community focused roles. Paul is also Chair of the William Leech Foundation and Durham Cathedral Council, a director of Shared Interest, a Fellow of St Chad’s College in Durham University and a trustee of the County Durham Community Foundation, a Trustee of the Bible Society and a Trustee of Interhealth.

Gareth Thomas

As Retail Director for John Lewis for 10 years, Gareth led the business through huge cultural change. After completing a 30 year career at John Lewis, he worked for no financial reward for several years as a Trustee in the not for profit sector, including as Deputy Chairman of Save the Children. He now serves on a number of boards including as a Trustee at TATE; Chairman of Tate Enterprises Ltd; Trustee of the American Museum in Britain; Chairman of Countrywide Farmers plc; Non Executive Director of Share plc Group, and Independent Director of Shoppers Stop, India.