Debbie White

Co-op Group has hired former Sodexo boss Debbie White to become its new chair.

White will take over from Allan Leighton, who is due to step down in February 2024 at the end of his nine-year term.

White spent 13 years with Sodexo covering a range of executive roles at the French foodservice giant between 2004 and 2017. These included UK and Ireland CEO as well as global CEO, healthcare & government.

Her most recent executive role was as interim chief human resources officer at BT Group between 2021 and 2022. She has also recently held a number of non-executive roles, including senior independent director at Spire Healthcare Group, Howden Joinery Group and PAVmed.

“Debbie is the ideal person to take Co-op forward over the coming years,” said Leighton. “She has extensive business experience across a range of sectors and I’m personally delighted she will join us at this exciting time, as Co-op focuses on recruiting a million new members and providing top-class products and services for our members and customers.

“Over the past nine years Co-op has regained its financial strength but it has never lost sight of its wider social commitments and responsibilities by delivering value to our member-owners. Under Debbie’s leadership I have every confidence Co-op will continue to grow and deliver against these commitments.”

Co-op Group CEO Shirine Khoury-Haq added: “It is testament to the strength and future potential of Co-op that we can attract someone of Debbie’s calibre and I’m looking forward to working closely with her as we embark on another exciting chapter in Co-op’s 180-year history. She has a proven track record, a commitment to Co-op values and principles, and is a role model for championing diversity and inclusion. She is a perfect fit for Co-op.

“In welcoming Debbie I also want to thank Allan for the enormous support he’s provided to me personally and for the incredible turnaround he’s overseen for Co-op and our members over the past nine years.”

White said: “I am delighted and privileged to be taking up this role. The Co-op is an iconic business with an important role to play in supporting the needs of our members and wider society. I’m really looking forward to working with Shirine, our board, our National Members Council and our 57,000 colleagues, to grow our Co-op further and build upon the existing momentum already in place.

“The Co-op is the original business with purpose, with ambitious plans to grow further in the coming years and I’m excited by the prospect of being part of a business which exists to meet the needs of its members.”

White will initially join the Co-op board in August as a non-executive director before taking over as chair in February.