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Mark Cox

Chief Executive Officer, The Channel Islands Co-operative Society Limited

For me 2020 was going to be an amazing year. Personally, I was looking forward to ticking off a major bucket list item, and I was leading the Cooperative Society as acting CEO.

In January I travelled to Africa to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. The trek wasn’t easy, actually it was brutal in parts, especially the final overnight trek to the summit, but what an awesome sense of achievement standing on the Uhuru Peak having the customary picture taken.

As I travelled home there was a real sense the world was changing. Talk of Covid-19 was mounting, global cases of coronavirus increasing, and face masks were the new travel accessory.

The pandemic impacted our diverse business in different ways and we became agile in our operations. We moved 150+ colleagues out of the support centres to homeworking. In our food stores, after a period of intense panic buying, we found ourselves contending with the new terminology ‘social distancing’. How do you tell customers they can’t come in when they want to? Or that they have to queue? What mechanics do you put in place to deal with this? There were some tough calls to make, not least having to stop double dividend days!

We worked around the clock to keep our shops fully stocked. Pharmacies were inundated with prescriptions, patients couldn’t visit their GP’s, funeral contingency plans were put in place but fortunately never enacted and our Travelmaker colleagues went into overdrive as travel became restricted.

I honestly couldn’t be prouder of our team, their energy and commitment to supporting our members, customers, suppliers, and each other has been nothing short of phenomenal. And it was right that they were rewarded with a bonus for all their efforts.

At the Co-op we aren’t just shopkeepers – we have a wider purpose and care passionately about the communities in which we operate. We strive to make a difference. We strengthened our support for those most vulnerable in the community. We improved payment terms for local suppliers, supported food banks and increased our community donations.

When shocks come, they tend to hit the most vulnerable the hardest, there has been hardship for many in our community, but we have also seen overwhelming acts of kindness, compassion, and solidarity.

For me, leading the Society during what has got to be one of the most challenging times in its 100-year history has been a privilege and a real learning curve. Brexit now seems easy!

2020 might not have gone quite to plan but on reflection I draw a real sense of pride and achievement from it. For everything we’ve been through, how we’ve dealt with it and how we’ve all come together.