Portrait of Ursula Nold

Interview with Ursula Nold

Migros President discusses the clear «no alcohol» vote

Ursula Nold feels relieved about the unequivocal decision. In the interview the Migros President explains future plans in relation to M-Democracy.

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Kian Ramezani, Franz Ermel
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Ursula Nold, what was the first thing that went through your head when you found out about the results of the alcohol ballot?

I was relieved at how clear and homogeneous the results were. The members of all 10 cooperatives sent out a clear signal: many of them are satisfied with how Migros is doing things at the moment. I also had a sense of gratitude for the active debate in the run-up to the ballot as well as the high turnout. And last but not least, I was really satisfied about how carefully Migros prepared for and held this ballot.

Were you surprised by the high «no» vote of 75 per cent?

All of the surveys previously carried out had pointed to a clear preference in favour of «no». Against this backdrop, any other result would have come as a surprise. However, turnout for the ballot was higher than average. For me this is testament to the public’s strong bond with Migros. We had the opportunity not only to talk about the intentional ban on selling alcohol in branch stores, but also about the values of Migros overall and what makes it so unique. It is fantastic that this company and its values were able to trigger a social discussion in our country.

Many Migros bodies, and also you yourself, called for a «yes» vote, whilst nobody on the other hand advocated «no» Did Migros get it wrong about its members?

The initiative originated from the Assembly of Delegates. The aim was to discuss the issue thoroughly once again, as 70 years had passed since the last ballot. The most important thing for all bodies and also for me personally was that the members had input into this decision. We didn’t actually run a campaign in favour of «yes», and the message was always: «It’s your decision.» For sure, nobody is going to be penalised for having come out in favour of a «yes» vote. The members reached a clear decision, and everyone is respecting that.

Overview of the results of the alcohol vote

Cooperative

% yes

% no

Total valid votes

Migros Aare

20.1

79.9

164'556

Migros Basel

23.9

76.1

46'485

Migros Geneva

35.2

64.8

27'523

Migros Lucerne

25.3

74.7

69'683

Migros Neuchâtel-Fribourg

26.9

73.1

27'365

Migros Eastern Switzerland

23.7

76.3

124'198

Migros Ticino

44.7

55.3

22'284

Migros Vaud

31.0

69.0

39'975

Migros Valais

39.7

60.3

20'475

Migros Zurich

19.7

80.3

89'869

Total

-

-

632'413

Are there any plans to introduce a type of «majority of cantons rule» in order to avoid patchwork outcomes also in future?

I don’t like the word «patchwork» in this context. I’m naturally happy that we achieved an unequivocal result. However, even if the members had decided differently in different regions, the result would have had to have been implemented without any ifs or buts. This is the price of federalism, which is part of Migros’ DNA.

What are the future plans for M-Democracy? Are there set to be any other ballots soon that will allow the members to have their say?

Ballots have always been held. For example, last year this was the mechanism used in order to reduce the term in office of cooperative governing officers. We have regularly held consultative ballots in the past. At the moment, we are considering whether to use this instrument more frequently in future in order to take the pulse of our members directly.

Could electronic ballots also be a feasible option?

Absolutely. Alongside the question concerning the alcohol ban, members were also able to state their views on the issue of electronic voting. I am delighted that this proposal was accepted so clearly, as here too a two-thirds majority was required. This shows that changes and developments are possible and that Migros is in favour of progress. By enabling electronic voting we aim to instil Migros’ ideas into the younger generation and encourage them to get involved.

So one vote in favour of tradition, and the other in favour of renewal: Will it always be so easy for Migros to reconcile the two?

Innovation itself is also a tradition at Migros and is both expected and cherished by customers. We constantly surprise our customers with new, unique products and services, whether it’s the first vegan eggs or the ability to shop with a smartphone. We aim to be bold and to experiment, holding on to tried and tested solutions and developing others – no differently from how Gottlieb Duttweiler did things. We aim to continue pursuing his pioneering spirit, also today. There are also core values such as offering the best value for money, strong own brands and the Culture Percentage, which will always be dear to Migros.

Will electronic voting make it easier to hold ballots?

As I said, we hope that this will also enable us to reach a younger generation. It will still be possible to vote by post and in person at branch stores. Electronic voting provides an additional third option, which will hopefully allow us to take the pulse of members more closely, and perhaps also increase voter participation.

Will someone still get a thank-you chocolate bar for voting electronically?

Of course! We will most likely allow for this by issuing a Cumulus voucher. The chocolate bar is very much appreciated, and we saw this once again during the ballot.

«Ten times no» also means that, from 2023, Migros’ alcohol-free beer «No» will be available on the shelves throughout Switzerland. Are you going to try it out?

I’m looking forward to seeing this beer, and will definitely try it out. It will serve as a reminder of this unique ballot, as a symbol of our democracy in action.

About our President

Portrait of Ursula Nold

Ursula Nold (53) has been President of the Board of Directors of the Federation of Migros Cooperatives (FMC) since 2019. She was previously President of the FMC Assembly of Delegates. Ursula Nold is a member of various boards of directors and foundation boards, and was previously a lecturer at the Bern University of Teacher Education.