“Refreshed” Charity Governance Code published with new EDI principle and updated Integrity principle

This week saw the publication of the “refreshed” Charity Governance Code, with the “Diversity” principle replaced by a new principle on Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI), and the Integrity principle updated to include a greater emphasis on ethics, and the right of everyone who comes into contact with a charity to be safe.

These changes follow a consultation earlier in the year that resulted in over 800 responses, and demonstrated that the Diversity and Integrity principles of the existing Code were those perceived as most needing an update.

Equality, diversity and inclusion

The new principle states:

The board has a clear, agreed and effective approach to supporting equality, diversity and inclusion throughout the organisation and in its own practice. This approach supports good governance and the delivery of the organisation’s charitable purposes.”

This new principle recognises that both prioritising equality, diversity and inclusion and taking steps to address power imbalances are essential for charities to be accountable to the communities that they serve, increasing a charity’s legitimacy and impact. It also helps charity trustee boards to make better and more balanced decisions.

The importance of the role of the trustees in committing to action to address inequalities and barriers in their own charities and governance approaches, creating the right environment to allow the cultural change needed to be wholeheartedly embraced by everyone within the charity, is highlighted by the principle as well.

As with other principles in the Code, the EDI principle sets out key outcomes to be expected where the principle is applied, and recommended practice for both larger charities and smaller charities, which include suggestions that:

  • the board analyses and can define how EDI is important for the charity;
  • the board assesses its own understanding of EDI, and identifies gaps in understanding that could be filled.
  • the board regularly assesses both:
    • the charity’s approach to EDI, using both available data and, where applicable, lived experience and
    • its own practice, including diversity of the board, the inclusion and centring of people the charity serves in decision making, how board resources could be made more accessible, and how to create a meeting environment in which behaving inclusively is standard.
  • the board sets a clear organisational approach to EDI supported by appropriate plans, policies, milestones, targets and timelines.
  • the board puts appropriate resources and arrangements in place to monitor and achieve the charity’s EDI targets and plans, and regularly publishes information on progress towards achieving those EDI targets and plans.

Integrity

Some of the amended Integrity principle will remain familiar to those in the process of adopting the Code. For example, the recommended practice in relation to conflicts of interest / loyalty remains unchanged.

There is, however, an increased emphasis that charities should reflect their ethics and culture in everything they do, and a new focus on ensuring the right to be safe for everyone who comes into contact with the charity.

Those already familiar with NCVO’s Charity Ethical Principles will now see these directly linked to the Charity Governance Code in the Integrity principle, alongside the “Nolan Principles”, as part of recommended practice to uphold the values of the charity by considering following these or other good practice initiatives that promote confidence in charities and create a supportive environment.

A work in progress

The sector’s approach to ethics, safeguarding and EDI are not the same in 2020 as they were in 2017, and, taking into account the shifts witnessed in these areas over the last few years, none of the changes to the integrity principle or, as it is now called, the EDI principle should be completely unexpected.

Some of the changes are not insignificant to put into practice, however. Many trustees may be at the very beginning of their journey on applying the EDI principle to their charity and its work, in particular.

It will be comforting to such charities that this is recognised by the steering committee of the Code, which is encouraging charities to view the Code as a tool “to help charities and charity boards along this path”.

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