CCA Honours Leaders in Co-op Governance; Coast Capital, MEC

Winnipeg — Four Canadian co-ops were recognized for their innovations in co-operative governance today during the Annual General Meeting of the Canadian Co-operative Association (CCA), in Winnipeg.

“In 2007, a CCA Good Governance Committee was tasked with the dual objectives of overseeing the development of governance indicators that measure effective, distinctive, and innovative co-operative governance practices, as well as criteria for co-operative governance awards. The Innovations in Co-operative Governance Awards gives our co-operative movement an opportunity to showcase the best in terms of governance practices and innovations; learn from each other; and hopefully strive to be the best that we can be as co-operatives,” CCA President Dave Sitaram said during the ceremony.

Coast Capital Savings was recognized in the Large Co-op Category (more than 5,000 members) for its efforts to determine the “ideal skill set” for its board of directors, and its implementation of a competency-based approach to director selection and recruitment. Bob Garnett, Director of the Board of Coast Capital Savings, accepted the award.

“The CCA award recognizes our innovation and desire to engage in best practices, and shares our ideas with other organizations seeking to build a solid foundation of corporate governance,” says Mr. Garnett. “Coast Capital Savings’ Board is committed to strengthening its governance through processes that are purpose-driven, transparent, and align with our credit union’s democratic values. Our goal is to ensure our Board is comprised of skilled and effective directors to lead our vision to become a national financial services provider.”

The adjudicators also recommended that an honourable mention within the Large Co-op Category be given to Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) in recognition of its innovation in undertaking a “Futures Project.” This project was a board-led member outreach program to drive forward and support a long-term vision for the cooperative that was shared by the Board, staff and members alike. MEC Director Sara Golling accepted the award.

“The Futures Project was about looking ahead ten to 15 years to identify areas where MEC can make a difference within Canadian society and, at the same time, continue to thrive as a leading co-operative business. If the initiative serves as a model that helps other co-operatives navigate their own future, so much the better,” Ms. Golling says.

In the Medium-Sized Co-op Category (between 500 and 4,999 members), Gay Lea Foods Co-operative was given the award for its approach in addressing board and delegate engagement within complex operational and governance structures.

“The recognition of leadership, achievement and innovation in governance is an important element within the co-operative sector, says Michael Barrett, Gay Lea’s Chief Operating Officer, who accepted the award on behalf of the co-op. “It is imperative that governance is recognized as a pillar in the co-operative society. Since the beginnings of the co-operative movement, a pillar of our values—and strength—is our ability to be responsible to those who own the co-operative.”

The Nova Scotia Co-operative Council (NSCC) received the award in the Small Co-op Category (less than 500 members). The award adjudication committee recognized the commitment taken by the Council board to be the best in all aspects of governance. This entailed research on best practices, both in the co-operative and the private sector, hiring specialists to conduct board workshops on governance, ongoing discussions at board meetings about policies and procedures that they would like to see in place, and an agreement to have “governance” as a standing agenda item at every board meeting. Norma Tomiczek, Director of NSCC’s Board accepted the award.

“I have worked with many volunteer and private sector boards, and none compare to the Nova Scotia Cooperative Council, when it comes to how serious they take their governance mandate,” says Dianne Kelderman, NSCC CEO. “Two years ago they began an intensive and comprehensive governance development process that has resulted in a strong governance system and future foundation for the organization. They have shown that you can never be too small to have a serious focus on governance.”

“Over the years, CCA has built a reputation for providing content-rich materials relating to corporate and cooperative governance. It has consistently raised the bar in terms of the system’s understanding and knowledge of the latest thinking and activities relating to governance and the role of the board and directors. The range of entries we had in our first year was widespread in terms of innovations and governance practices,” CCA’s President Dave Sitaram said. “The adjudicators all commented on the high standard of entries and we hope to continue this in years to come.”