Accountability, Transparency and Diversity Rating System
As friends, grant-holders and wider stakeholders know, Friends Provident Foundation is committed to the principles of good governance, racial and gender equity, fairness and transparency in how we work and being accountable to the beneficiaries of our grants.
We are proud to have supported the Muslim Women’s Council that is working with Muslim women to create the Think + Do Tank’ that engages Muslim women on their lived experience of poverty, barriers to employment, enterprise and finance, will take them from the margins to the heart of designing better economic systems and policy that benefit them and others in similar situations to them. This includes identifying how and why the existing neoliberal capitalist system is perpetuating inequality towards Muslim women; and recommending alternative economic systems that would have a material impact on the lived experience of Muslim women
We also have funded The Equality Trust which will collate data on a public dashboard, in order to facilitate like-for-like comparisons, sector by sector, so that employees, consumers and potential employees can make informed choices about which businesses they consider. Trade unions can incorporate the findings into their pay negotiations and bargaining to reduce income inequality. The public can campaign to request pay ratios, thus increasing transparency. Their work with the media and with businesses will highlight the issue in the sector and among the public, enabling culture change and reducing pay inequalities. Ultimately the project aims to harness investors, consumers, trade unions and the public to lend their power to encourage businesses to reduce their pay gaps.
As a foundation, we are also aware that our part of the voluntary sector does not always embody in these values in terms of how we operate. We have assets of over £62 billion of philanthropic capital in the UK. As the response to Covid-19 has shown, it is used to great effect to swiftly support charities, communities, social enterprises and people in need. Others have maintained funding for important research and development projects to tackle long-term issues in medicine and society. The pandemic highlighted the strength of our independence from government and corporate influences which meant we were able to give more despite falls in income, respond quickly to crises and provide vital funding to unpopular causes. However, the downside of this is possibly a lack of accountability to any authority – e.g., to donors, the public, government policy, and sometimes the ultimate beneficiaries. We have no common code of conduct governing our activities other than not breaking Charity law. We are also not universally transparent about our work and – in general – our governance does not reflect the make-up of those we seek to serve.
So Friends Provident Foundation, in partnership with Barrow Cadbury Trust, The Blagrave Trust, Esmee Fairbairn Foundation, John Ellerman Foundation, Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust, Lankelly Chase Foundation and Paul Hamlyn Foundation is supporting an experiment – the creation of a published rating system of foundation diversity, transparency and accountability. This aims to bring the lens often applied to influence and improve corporate behaviour – to bear on us. It will be a published report using publicly available information on governance and reporting practices. Through this, we want to understand ourselves better and through that understanding, bring about informed change. We aim to create a way to review, assess and report on how independent trusts and foundations in the UK compare to each other in relation to good governance practice and transparency.
By publishing this data on an annual basis for 3 years, we and our partners Friends Provident Foundation, Blagrave Trust, Esmee Fairbairn Foundation, Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust, Lankelly Chase Foundation, Barrow Cadbury Trust, Paul Hamlyn Foundation, John Ellerman Foundation hope to shine a light on the trust and foundation world for the first time, to in terms of how publicly accountable we are, how our leaders reflect those we serve and how we disclose our activities. This new information can be the start of a new conversation with society about how we make decisions and not just how much and what we give.
Pharoah, C and Walker, C. (2019) Foundation Giving Trends 2019. London, Association of Charitable Foundations. Available from: https://www.acf.org.uk/policy-practice/research-publications/foundation-giving-trends-2019 [Accessed 28th April 2021]