To me the most significant cause of the failure was the acceptance of a management culture that did not respect and support what the membership of SWP wanted. This did not occur over night as it took years for this to occur and the Board ultimately is accountable in the sense that they did not direct management away from this cultural disconnect. Ultimately, this was a Board responsibility and they bear the accountability for this disconnect in that they did not take the new CEO to task over some basic cultural and performance issues. Like most disconnects, the problems started out as small but they ballooned as Management became increasingly dominant in the decision making process. This ultimately led to the financial issues.
In terms of the membership, it is difficult to hold them accountable as they are the customers. The Board and management should have been seeking their business and understanding why they were not getting it. But many farmers saw the cultural disconnect identified above and acted accordingly and there were not feedback mechanisms to get this issues back to the Board table and ultimately management.
I think this was avoidable but it had to be addressed in the first year with Don Loewen as the new CEO. The lesson for us as cooperatives is the importance of managing a change in CEO particularly as it relates to the culture and values we want our organizations to reflect. If we get this wrong it becomes a major uphill battle.
For our coop, I think we do have good diversity. That said, we have used independent advice from time to time and this has been useful to our decision making process.