Regulator gave the Vegan Society advice earlier this year over governance concerns

22 Jul 2021 News

The Charity Commission provided advice to the Vegan Society over governance issues, before half the trustee board resigned due to their concerns about the charity. 

The remaining trustees said that they “do not agree with the allegations of bullying, abuse and institutional racism within the society”.

Last month the charity shared an independent report with the Commission, which had looked into allegations against its former chair and vice-chair.

None of the complaints against the chair, Robb Masters, were upheld. The investigation also looked at a number of social media posts from vice-chair, Eshe Kiama Zuri, and the majority of complaints were not upheld.

Several members of the board and council at The Vegan Society quit last week and published their resignation letters, which made allegations about racism and bullying. Eshe Kiama Zuri's letter describes a hostile environment where they felt “dehumanised”. 

A Commission spokesperson said: “We are aware of the recent trustee resignations at the Vegan Society. We recently engaged with the charity in relation to ongoing governance concerns at the charity, issuing advice and guidance for the trustees to act on. We expect the trustees to update us soon on the steps they are taking to address concerns.”

Robb Masters, former chair at the charity, told Civil Society News that he had been in contact with the regulator since February of this year about his concerns.

These concerns include “information being withheld from the Commission”, and “trustees' conflicts of interest and loyalty”, as well as the “cost, timescale, and opacity” of the independent investigation, and “institutional racism”.

Masters said he told the Commission that “one of the complainants was a very close relative of a trustee who still refused to recuse themselves from discussions and decisions regarding the investigation into such complaints”.

He also told Civil Society News that he voiced concerns that there were personal and professional relationships between trustees and complainants, and that he and the former vice-chair were being excluded from matters outside the scope of complaints about them.

“I have updated them [the Commission] on the latest developments, but have not heard anything back as yet,” Masters said.

Remaining trustees ‘do not agree’ with some allegations 

The Vegan Society has said it has kept the Charity Commission informed and is seeking external advice about governance.

“Throughout the investigation process, the society has kept the Charity Commission informed, and has received advice, as appropriate. An update has also been provided to the Charity Commission following the recent resignation of trustees, including their publicly published resignation letters, and the society will ensure this sharing of information continues,” its statement said.

The charity added that the remaining trustees “do not agree with the allegations of bullying, abuse and institutional racism within the society” but “are reviewing these in detail along with advisers and recognise that there are governance issues that require improvement”. 

It said: “They are seeking to implement the general recommendations to council from the QC investigation into complaints against two of the trustees who have now resigned. They are also pursuing other options to improve governance and are taking appropriate external advice.”

Members leave the charity  

Following the public resignations some people said that they would cancel their membership.

The Vegan Society has said a “small number” of members have taken the decision to leave, but “the society is working hard to demonstrate positive progress through its actions, in order to achieve a diverse and inclusive environment for all”.

Some members cited the ongoing concerns over governance conflicts and allegations of institutional racism.

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