Jo Whitfield, Chief Executive, Co-op Food has been announced as the winner of the 2019 Veuve Clicquot Business Woman Award. By receiving the longest-standing award for women in business globally, Jo follows in the footsteps of some of the most exceptional female business leaders, from Anita Roddick, Founder of the Body Shop to architect Dame Zaha Hadid CBE, and youngest female FTSE 100 CEO, Liv Garfield of Severn Trent.
Since 1972, the awards have recognised women pioneering different aspects of business today and celebrate those who share the same qualities as Madame Clicquot, an original trailblazer: her enterprising spirit, as well as her courage and the determination necessary to accomplish her business goals.
As the first female CEO of a British food retailer, Jo oversees the day-to-day operations of Co-op’s food business, part of the Co-operative Group.
The judging panel outlined Jo’s role in boosting profits and sales for the Co-op’s retail arm and achieving over four years of like-for-like growth. Additionally, she has led on innovative trials to take Co-op food online – trialling delivery methods with Deliveroo and AI robots, boosting sales in test stores – as well as her work in making stores more sustainable.
Jo has established a new not-for-profit women’s network, Grocery Girls. It aims to nurture talent, widen people’s networks and develop new business partnerships to aid this. It has over 500 senior members and aims to attract female leaders and those who aspire to a more senior role from all grocery businesses, including supermarkets, manufacturers and their suppliers. It offers business women a forum to network and meet like-minded individuals and share best practice. The organisation aims to help change attitudes, represent women as visible role models wanting to talk about their experiences, as well as grow and retain talented women within the grocery industry.
Jo Whitfield commented: “This is such a prestigious award and I am genuinely thrilled to have won. It is an amazing way to champion the success of business women worldwide. There are still opportunities needed in many workplaces to match the diversity of modern society. That is why I felt it important to launch a new network, Grocery Girls, to develop and foster female talent in the Grocery sector.”
“I’m so pleased to have been awarded this honour, which is also great recognition for my colleagues at the Co-op. Our convenience business is growing ahead of the market and we’ve shown that you can be successful by doing good business and go on to do good things in community with the money you make.”
The Co-op gives back £39m to local causes, has the lowest plastic footprint of any retailer and is innovating for customers with pay-in-aisle technology and home deliveries on eco-bikes.