Sir Stuart calls for more charity leaders to sit on corporate boards

Sir Stuart Etherington, chief executive of NCVO

Sir Stuart calls for more charity leaders to sit on corporate boards6

Governance | Vibeka Mair | 23 Feb 2012

Sir Stuart Etherington, chief executive of NCVO, has said credit ratings agencies should be not-for-profits by law, and has called for more charity sector leaders to sit on PLC boards.

Sir Stuart made the comments last night at an event called ‘Making Capitalism Responsible’ organised by think tank Oasis Charities Parliament, which had speeches on capitalism from Business Secretary Vince Cable, Sir Stuart and Richard Paton, a member of Occupy LSX.

In his speech, Sir Stuart said credit rating agencies were part of the problem with the financial system, and said by law they should be not-for-profits: “They downgrade the credit of countries forcing them to borrow at higher rates,” he said. “And these same agencies rate complex financial institutions while making money from them.”

“They are part of the problem, not the solution.”

He said a not-for-profit credit agency should be created to compete with current players.

Sir Stuart also called on government to revitalise a civil economy, with mutuals and co-operatives, addressing this specifically to the Liberal Democrat part of the coalition.

And he made a strong call for greater diversity on PLC boards, saying that too often there was no way in for some groups. “The make-up of many boards in the financial sector is not representative of anyone in this room,” he told the audience. “There are only two people from civil society on PLC boards - Jasmine Whitbread from Save the Children and Dame Mary Marsh from NSPCC.”

He continued that he was “sick” of companies saying that charity leaders would not understand the issues of a private company. “Many of our leaders do deal with complex and global issues which large companies also face,” he said.

At the event, Business Secretary Vince Cable agreed that it was vital that company boards became more diverse.

NCVO is already acting on the issue. This week, it announced a series of seminars aiming to create links between talent in the voluntary sector and FTSE company boards.


26 Feb 2012

Considering the glass ceiling for women in the voluntary sector is it not a good idea for Sir Stuart to get his own house in order first? How diverse is NCVO's own senior team?

Mike Whitlam
Special Adviser
Russam GMS
24 Feb 2012

Delighted that Chris Zealley reminded folk about what Nick Hinto said 20 years ago. I recall this also being one of my suggestions at the time I set up ACEVO, 25 years ago. The Challenge now for both Stuart and Stephen Bubb is to try and turn this into a reality. Maybe this is something that those of us involved in TU could do given our links across all sectors.

Chris Zealley
Public Interest Research Centre
23 Feb 2012

This idea was mooted by Nicholas Hinton Stuart's predecessor at NCVO over 20 years ago, with no success. There is a big difference between entrepreneurship in a pro bono organisation and in commercial businesses of all sizes.

Social responsibility on company boards will not being achieved by having 'a statutory charity CEO' on them, any more than 'a statutory woman' did anything for equal treatment of women.

Carl Allen
23 Feb 2012

There are not that many charity leaders who can sit on such boards in the first instance.

Peter Cleasby
Plunkett Foundation
23 Feb 2012

The underlying idea is worthy, but I wonder how many charity CEOs have time to do their own jobs and sit on plc boards as well?

23 Feb 2012

Thumbs up for the idea and I want to go first. Nice, fat, wealthy company paying me nice money for directorship - if I only could be there I already would! And then I could do all the volunteering you ask me to.

Mutuals, co-operatives and the likes are natural part of conservative view of things (in its liberal form at least) because it takes strain from the state that goes back to its right place which is complementing people's efforts, not taking responsibility for their whole lives.

I sign with both hands for more self-help and mutualism and less state intervention. This is where truly responsible, mature civil society starts.


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