Chairperson’s Letter

2020 was The Co-operators 75th anniversary, a year that reinforced our purpose and the values that guide us. Amidst the great challenges of 2020, we emerged strong and resolute in our commitment to co-operative principles and a co-operative movement that exists to support communities in times of need.

photo of John Harvie

Along with our members and clients we navigated some of the greatest social, financial, and emotional challenges in our history. Yet the pandemic also highlighted the closeness, interconnection and interdependence of people, businesses, and communities, underscoring the importance of collective determination to overcome great difficulty.

Our relationships with members build collective strength.

Ensuring we can meet the needs of our members and stay connected remotely was a top priority of our directors and management in 2020. We have learned from one another, and worked to understand our members’ needs. Going forward, we will embrace what has worked, and find new ways to leverage our collective strength. Throughout the year, the participation and engagement of our members has been superb.

Our co-operative governance is crucial, especially in challenging times.

Our governance helped us adapt and remain strong despite the limitations and constraints presented by the pandemic. In the early stages of the crisis, we quickly implemented a variety of new approaches to ensure The Co-operators was effectively governed in the COVID-19 environment.

Conversations of diversity and inclusion rightfully rose to the surface in 2020. We have further to go in our own co-operative to ensure diversity is well-represented in our governance. To this end, the Board participated in a workshop with the Canadian Centre for Diversity and Inclusion, further acknowledging we have significant and important work ahead of us. We continue to make progress towards our long-term target of gender parity on the Board by 2025. In 2020, we achieved 32 per cent women on the Board.

We completed our Democratic Structure Review in 2020, a process undertaken at least once every ten years to ensure our governance structure remains representative of the co-operative sector in Canada, and that we remain relevant in terms of continuing to meet our members’ needs.

Our communities are supported by the co-operative movement.

75 years ago, we were founded in a time of financial hardship, when the spirit of co-operation brought our founders together. Today, Canadian communities and our economy are more robust, resilient and diverse thanks, in large part, to the thousands of co-operatives across the country. With this in mind, we focused on supporting co-operatives and communities through a range of pandemic relief programs, funding and initiatives, which are highlighted in this report.

While our co-operative ended the year on a strong financial note, many Canadians and Canadian businesses did not. It was difficult, and the road to recovery is not yet well-defined. These hardships have reinforced our commitment to continue to make decisions through the lens of our co-operative values while strengthening our business. Our definition of success will be marked by our lasting ability to meet the evolving needs of our members, our clients and our communities for the next 75 years and beyond.

John Harvie
Chairperson, Board of Directors, The Co‑operators Group Limited