Members' Council Column: "Is everything going satisfactorily?"03 June 2021
The cooperative was alive and kicking for a while. We could talk to each other again, like in ‘the good old days’. Admittedly from behind the screen, but everyone is getting better at that. Practice makes perfect. And the same applies to the Members' Council.
Is everything going satisfactorily after two years of the Members' Council? No, of course not. I am not afraid to say that out loud. And that also proved to be the case on May 20. During the additional Members' Council meeting, members expressed their concerns. Whether we, as Members' Council, properly represent the entire membership. Whether we are not the playthings of the Management Board and Supervisory Board. Whether we as members still have a say.
To start with the latter: with the advent of the Members' Council, the influence of members has increased. I am convinced of that. When I think back to my Advisory Council days and the GMM and look at how much influence members had then and what they have now, the answer is clear to me.
During the meeting, however, you could see a phenomenon that also often occurred during the GMM. A small number of people spoke, and then it's easy to think that this represents the opinion of all members. Isn't it easier to jump on the barricades when you disagree with something than when you agree with it? Nowadays, this happens more and more through the press and social media, and while adopting a harsh tone.
Because we're only human too, this also happens, of course, in the Members' Council. However, by investing time in each other, getting to know one other and actively collecting all the opinions, you get a different discussion, where more sides of the issue are highlighted. This shows the strength of our diversity.
Arnoud's personal response to the question of why he had signed the petition as a member of the Members' Council showed that the work of a member of the Members' Council is difficult. We sometimes have to weigh up our personal opinions against the common interest. In our discussions, these personal opinions are certainly put on the table and, as a result, things can get pretty heated during meetings. Yet, ultimately, we as the Members' Council have been given the task by the members to provide the Management Board with solicited and unsolicited advice. We try to do this critically, but also constructively.
Do we still have a say as members? Absolutely. The corporate governance of the Members' Council lies in the formal tasks that we have taken over from the GMM, such as the adoption of the annual accounts and the appointment of SB members. With these formal tasks, the Members' Council can 'bite' if necessary. Nevertheless, the added value and real influence of the Members' Council lies in advising and signalling. In this way, the Members' Council can 'bark'.
And are we doing this to the full satisfaction of the members? Well, many members have certainly had something to say about this. And fair's fair: there is room for improvement, which we are aware of and working on. An important point here is: 'choose your battles'. As a Members' Council, we cannot and should not want to say something about everything. If all Members' Council members put forward their own hobby-horses, we will get nowhere. We have to make choices in order to best serve the interests of our members: what do we concern ourselves with and what not, as the case may be? What do we want to achieve at a high level? This is what the discussion should be about.
And what do we want to achieve at a high level? I see keeping the cooperative together as our greatest task. Because what binds us together despite all our differences is the strength of the cooperative. Even the biggest grower is relatively small compared to the parties he deals with, such as the trade, banks, the government, supermarkets: all big players. We desperately need each other and the cooperative. Let us talk to each other, instead of about each other. Let us stand next to each other, instead of opposite each other.
Jan Mantel, co-owner Mantel VOF and member of the Members' Council