Published: 26 October 2015
Co-operative ethics are fundamental to genuine co-operative and the foundation for this lies in the co-operative values and principles developed by the International Co-operative Alliance.
The board of a co-operative is elected by its members and this is basis for co-operative democracy with each member having one vote. In electing the board, however, members have a right to expect that the directors wil be ethical in their decision-making and decisions.
members have a right to expect, therefore, that a board will be able to justify its decision-making and decisions. Decisions will be based on documentation provided to all directors and directors will insist on the provision of documentation and will not make decisions based on hearsay. Members also have a right to expect that decisions will clear and coherent and not vague. A decision to accept a proposal is incoherent when the details of what is being accepted are not minuted when the minutes are the official record of the decision anbd when there is no decision on who is responsible for implementation of a decision. No single director, even a Chairperson or Secretary, can assume this - unless there is a statutory obligation under Co-operatives National Law.
Members also have a right to expect that a board will ensure that the management of a co-operative will deal with any complaints about services and not hide these from the board. This is why Acting Managers Joy Haines and David Griffiths published an accessible complaints brochure.
It is not surprising, therefore, that the directors of Southeast are required to annually sign conflict of interest and code of conduct declarations. Underpinning these declarations is a commitment to avoid conflicts of interest.
A conflict of interest could voccur, for instance, if a relative of a director was beingb considered for membership. This would require that the director relative did not participate in the decision-making process and the decision. Another conflict of interest could occur if a director was in rental arrears and, therefore, potentially securing a pecuniary benefit. The solution for this would be for management to enforce the co-operative's rental arrears policy without fear or favor to all members.
The ability and willingness of a board to be ethical is fundamental to accountability and transparency to members.