How can co-operatives get governance right?

By Anthony Murray for Co-operative News

Lord Myners, the architect behind the Co-operative Group’s governance reform, presented his views on the organisation’s crisis to a group of academics.

A conference, Is mutuality the answer to the ownerless corporation?, organised by the London Business School, looked at the role of governance and ownership in business. Paul Coombes, chair of LBS’s Centre for Corporate Governance, said: “This is about what is the purpose of the corporation and the merits of different ownership forms.”

In what he described as a public debate on ownership, sparked by the financial crisis and the growth of the Occupy movement, he commented: “There is considerable concern about the drawbacks and excesses of investor-owned corporations and unacceptable management, plus the concerns of consequences of that for important societal values.”

Lord Myners discussed his Co-operative Group findings, but stressed: “Failures in governance are far from being the exclusive preserve of the Co-op Group. Plcs and state-owned enterprises also fail in terms of governance.”

A root problem is that “nobody owns enough to care enough” of a co-operative to be invested in its future, said Lord Myners. “At the Co-op, the board had difficulty understanding large and complex organisations and was slow in decision making. Read more here.

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