This is the text of my response to NCVO about the draft Code of Ethics.
Charity Code of Ethics
Thank you for inviting comments on the draft Code of Ethics.
This is a personal response to that consultation.
As you’ll be aware the Charity Governance Code is a voluntary Code for charities and not-for-profits, to help them to develop high standards of governance. The Code is overseen by a cross-sector collaboration with an independent chair (a role I currently hold). The group’s purpose is to review, develop, promote and maintain the Code for the sector. The steering group’s members are ACEVO: Charity Leaders Network; Association of Chairs; ICSA: The Governance Institute; NCVO: National Council for Voluntary Organisations; Small Charities Coalition and WCVA: Wales Council for Voluntary Action. The Charity Commission is an observer on the group.
While this response has been informed by my role as the chair of the Charity Governance Code Steering Group and an informal discussion that I have had with that Group about the relationship between the two Codes I should stress that this is a personal response and, as such, it does not represent the views of the Group overall nor, necessarily, those of its individual members.
I welcome NCVO’s leadership role in exploring what new mechanisms might be put in place to strengthen safeguarding, workplace practices and culture, and prevent incidents wherever possible. This work is to be commended.
The sentiment behind the proposed Code of Ethics is a good one. I wonder though whether there is a missed opportunity in not using the existing Charity Governance Code. In particular, I note that there is a considerable degree of overlap with the Charity Governance Code. I believe the Charity Governance Code is an important tool in enabling the sector to be stronger, it is getting traction in the sector and is increasingly recognised as the source of governance best practice. The Charity Governance Code explicitly addresses integrity, values and the need for organisations to always act in the best interests of beneficiaries. I wonder if the creation of another Code will attract the same attention or, instead, whether its purpose might be confusing for organisations and so hinder or undermine its important messages.
Also, as an aside, I have described the new Codes in full through-out this response. I have done this to try and avoid confusion between the ‘Codes’ as I am mindful that the use of the word ‘Code’ potentially increases the potential confusion between the respective Codes, and, of course, the potential third, Charity Digital, Code.
I do appreciate that the Charity Governance Code came into being as some of the safeguarding concerns were surfacing and before they had been properly assessed and articulated. I know that it will be essential for the next iteration of the Charity Governance Code to reflect the proper treatment of safeguarding issues.
I wonder therefore whether there might be scope to either develop the Charity Governance Code to reflect any key elements within the draft Code of Ethics that are not already covered by the Charity Governance Code and/or to develop supporting guidance in this area to support the existing version of the Charity Governance Code. I note that the draft Code of Ethics is formulated for an organisational context and I do not think that should present a problem for such a discussion, as the Charity Governance Code also has an organisational context, albeit highlighting the role of trustees.
I would be happy to discuss with you the possible options for how best to reflect this to reflect the key areas within the draft Code of Ethics and to ensure maximum understanding and take-up by the sector.
Chair, Charity Governance Code Steering Group, writing in a personal capacity
rcadmin September 17th, 2018