Paul Chandler was elected as a Member Nominated Director (MND) at our AGM in 2015. His relationship with the Co-op goes back many years, so he feels right at home and is enjoying getting stuck in to his role.

Here’s what I found out in ten minutes with Paul:

What’s your background?

It’s been quite varied. In my early career I worked for Barclays, and then became Chief Exec of an Anglican mission agency, which ran a publishing business, a chain of bookshops and an international grants programme. I was then Chief Executive of Traidcraft, the UK-based Fairtrade organisation from 2001-2013.

What do you do outside of the Co-op?

I’m closely involved in my community in Durham and the North East. I’m Chair of the Council at Durham Cathedral, and for the William Leech Foundation, which administers a £100 million investment portfolio for the benefit of five charities.  I’m a director of Shared Interest, a Newcastle-based co-operative lender, which gives loans to Fairtrade producers around the world. I’m a trustee of the local Community Foundation, which gives out several million pounds a year in small grants to voluntary groups and supports apprenticeships. I’m also a Fellow of St Chad’s College at the University of Durham, where I mentor undergraduates.

I’ve also recently become a granddad, and as my daughter and grandson live with us, I’m really enjoying spending time with the baby as a doting grandparent.  When I get time to myself I enjoy walking the dog – it’s a good excuse to get some exercise and get out in the fresh air, usually listening to podcasts at the same time.

How did you get involved with the Co-op?

The relationship goes back many years, as I worked closely with the Co-op in my role at Traidcraft. Together we launched fairly traded products like wine, even before the official Fairtrade mark was introduced. This was pioneering stuff at the time and paved the way for the amazing range of Fairtrade products that are on sale today.

What do you bring as an Member Nominated Director?

My background means I combine financial and commercial experience with an understanding of how to make ethical business practices work, and a commitment to social justice. I’m used to balancing business goals with ethics, and making sure that neither one is forgotten.

What do you think the role of MND should be?

Like any Non-Executive Director you need to participate fully during our Board debates; raising questions, challenging the Executive team and making sure we are putting Co-operative Values and Principles into practice whilst delivering our strategic goals.  MNDs also have a responsibility to engage with the Council, get to know all parts of the business and make sure that the views and interests of members and colleagues are taken into account.  It’s a fascinating, stimulating role, and I feel privileged to play a part in the Rebuild of the Co-op.

What have you been doing as an MND, and what next?

I’ve been going round stores and other parts of the business to chat to colleagues and find out how the Co-op really works, and attending Council meetings and meeting Co-op members. I also serve on the Board’s Risk and Audit Committee, which looks after our financial and regulatory reporting and risk management, and I’m also on the Stakeholder Working Group which is a key point of liaison between the Board and Council.

Outside of these formal roles, I’ve really enjoyed working with the Food Policy team and the Co-op Way Policy Committee, which are setting our Group-wide ethical policies, as my background at Traidcraft is very relevant to their work. I suspect helping to implement the Co-op Way principles and improving our sustainability reporting will be key areas of focus for me in the next year.

What’s your favourite Co-op product?

Given my involvement in getting the first Fairtrade wine into the UK, and into the Co-op, it has to be Fairtrade wine – particularly Chilean Carmenere (red) or Chenin Blanc (white).

If you could have dinner with anyone alive or dead, who would it be?

I’d choose Robert Owen. He was an entrepreneur and social reformer in the early 19th century who showed you could be successful in business and also treat your workers well. He was the forerunner and inspiration of many co-operative values and lots of his correspondence is preserved in the Co-operative College archives. I think he’d be really excited by the potential of the co-op movement, and would keep challenging us to make business work for the benefit of people.

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