MEC — a large Canadian retail co-operative that specializes in outdoor activity equipment — implemented a number of controversial changes three years ago to strengthen the knowledge and skill sets at its board table and to ensure its governance structure could continue to guide the growing company.
Formerly known as Mountain Equipment Co-op, MEC was started by a small group of friends from the University of British Colombia who found they couldn’t buy good quality climbing gear in Canada. Since its inception in 1971, it has grown to twenty stores across the country, with 4.5 million members and $366 million in annual sales. With this growth and the expectation of further growth, the co-op felt it needed a more experienced board to navigate not only its scope, but also the increasingly competitive market for the goods it sells. Continue reading →
Across Canada and the United States, major banks are facing public scrutiny after media reports that employees feel intense pressure to mislead customers in order to meet unrealistic sales targets and avoid losing their jobs. Is this an opportunity for credit unions to show that they treat their members — their customers — differently? Continue reading →
As noted in the first post on this topic, Top Co-op Issues 2017 surveyed CEOs, board members, managers, and academics across Canada to obtain a snapshot of the most pressing concerns facing co-operative organizations today. This entry will discuss some of the many action items suggested by respondents. Although they provided clear advice on all twenty themes, the focus in this post is on the actions associated with the top six.
In our second annual survey of Top Co-op Issues, we asked co-operative leaders across Canada to identify the most pressing concerns facing co-operative organizations today. According to CEOs, board members, managers, and academics in virtually every region and sector, the number one issue for co-op leaders is public awareness of the co-operative model — the lack of it, that is. As one person commented, “Raising the profile of co-ops in a noisy marketplace is difficult.”
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We conducted the survey as part of our mission to understand the world of co-ops and make that knowledge accessible. The results published here hold a mirror to the co-op sector, not only identifying important issues but also providing clear areas for collaboration for both advocacy and research. We selected our informants based on their specialized knowledge about co-ops. The 2017 survey included a sample similar to last year’s — CEOs, board members, managers, and academics balanced by region, sector, and role within the co-op. Their knowledge is invaluable because it is extensive, detailed, and privileged. Continue reading →
In our Two-Hats post, we argue that directors of a second-tier co-operative must put the interests of that organization first when they are actively engaged with the board. This, in turn, means they cannot act as a “representative” of their first-tier organization while sitting on a second-tier board. But, if this is the case, where does representation occur?
The following question was recently posed to us regarding governance models for second-tier co-operative organizations such as federated wholesalers and financial centrals: Is there an expectation that board members must think about the interests of the second-tier organization or should they represent their home organization?
This question nicely encapsulates what Glen Tully, chair of the Centre’s Management Advisory Board, calls the Two-Hat Problem. When board members have two hats they can wear, which one should they put on? Continue reading →
The question posed above is the entirely appropriate title of an October 2016 report by Central 1 on possible futures for the centrals in the Canadian credit union system (read the report here). As the report indicates, low margins, increasing competition, rapid technological change, increasingly diverse expectations for member services, and new and often unfavourable regulatory environments make it clear that the status quo is unsustainable and change is required at the second-tier level. Continue reading →
Hanisch’s presentation — “Changing Governance in European Co-operatives: Simply Shifting or Losing Control?” — outlined a series of innovations occurring in European co-operative governance and the impact of these changes on co-operative performance. Based on data from 571 farmer co-operatives in the European Union, Hanisch concluded that co-operatives that have implemented certain governance innovations — professionalising and allowing outsiders to join their boards of directors, recruiting larger boards, and creating a governance model in which the co-op acts as a holding structure — have improved their performance. The research also notes, however, that these shifts towards corporate governance structures may affect member control. Continue reading →