Roz Henry, Co-operative Business New Zealand chief executive

Words by: Elaine Fisher

Diversity around the board table is vital for modern businesses and that diversity is not only about gender, it’s also about skill sets, Co-operative Business New Zealand chief executive Roz Henry says.

“It is about diversity of thought and experience. If those at the board table all come from similar backgrounds, there can be a lack of challenge and forward thinking to ensure the future proofing of their businesses.”

Roz says there is an increased awareness of the need for different skills around the board table, and for succession planning, to help equip the next generation for governance roles.

That’s why Co-operative Business New Zealand has extended its governance education offerings and launched its first Co-operative Governance Development Programme partnering with Mayfield Group.

The programme, open to all members of Co-operative Business New Zealand and their shareholders, is designed specifically for aspiring directors and those that are new to boards. The 2020 programme is due to start in September, (for more information refer to the link at the end of this article).

“This comprehensive programme is designed to support developing future governors operating within co-operative governance environments,” Roz says.

“With the co-operative sector (member-owned businesses including mutuals and societies) making up a large part of the New Zealand economy, it is hugely important that we equip the next generation of leaders to make the right decisions.”

Primary industry co-operatives account for 65 to 75% of all co-ops in NZ and are among the best known, but Roz says others including Foodstuffs, ITM, Mitre 10 and NZ Plumbers Merchants are also co-ops.

“New Zealand is one of the most co-operative economies in the world with co-operatives generating around 19% of GDP, employing more than 50,000 New Zealanders with 1.5m members.”

However, Roz says there is a need for more training to prepare leaders for vital governance skills and give members confidence to take on the roles.

“Ensuring good governance is a significant issue for co-operatives, and while there are similarities to corporate boards, there are nuances that present challenges and opportunities. Access to capital and the complexities of shareholder versus stakeholder demands, remain important issues that these boards must address.”

Jo Guy of Mayfield Group says participants will undertake a six-month governance programme that includes two residential workshops, remote learning and coaching and mentoring throughout.

Facilitators Janine Smith, principal and chair of The Boardroom Practice and Associate Professor David Tweed will anchor the programme, working alongside a wide range of experienced speakers and subject matter experts, Jo says.

“Janine, who was awarded a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to corporate governance, has been a company director for more than 20 years. Her wide-ranging knowledge and expertise arise from her experience as a CEO, executive director and independent director with companies in the commercial, arts, and education sectors, both in New Zealand and overseas. Janine has also previously served on the board of AsureQuality and was the chair for nine years.”

David Tweed is an educator, director and strategist. He has designed, directed, and delivered many governance development programmes over the past decade. He works with many co-operatives to grow their governance capabilities and has designed and delivered governance master classes for the boards of many State-Owned Enterprises.

Jo says the timing is right for the programme, given the events of recent months, as good governance and leadership from boards will play a big part in long term business survival.

The world economy is rapidly changing, and all businesses need to be well prepared for what is ahead.

The executive programme is for Cooperative Business New Zealand members and associates, and the skills those taking part will gain will benefit not only their own farming businesses, but also the communities they serve.

Two, three-day workshops at the beginning and end of the programme will include the following themes; governance in the co-operative context; business sustainability; finance and performance; strategy; risk; mental health, wellbeing and safety; effective board practices; unconscious bias; diversity of thought; legal duties of directors; bullying and harassment; critical and strategic thinking; reputation and communication and technologies and the role of social media.

The programme includes case studies throughout and the opportunity to network with like-minded professionals and directors of co-operatives.