25 Mar 2020
This Board update is being written at a moment when we are all having to adjust to these unsettling times of uncertainty and anxiety for our families and communities.
We send all our thoughts and best wishes to everyone in our local groups, all campaigners and activists and every member of the Friends of the Earth family during this difficult time.
Led by our joint interim CEOs, Miriam Turner and Hugh Knowles, and the Senior Leadership Team, Friends of the Earth initiated a rapid response involving staff working from home and working groups considering the impacts over the immediate and longer-term time frames.
Our Communities & Networks team led the response for our wider movement. We have published guidance on campaigning during the COVID-19 outbreak here, and staff are continually reviewing public health and government advice and the measures we have in place to ensure everyone can stay safe.
As Friends of the Earth’s governing body, the Board is responsible for providing strategic direction and reviewing and evaluating our campaign strategy.
The Board very much welcomed the moratorium on fracking announced in November, and our win against the Heathrow third runway at the Court of Appeal in February.
As Friends of the Earth begins to plan for the next year in the context of current circumstances, the Board will be working closely with SLT on how best to meet our objectives over coming months and the next year.
Engagement with local groups
In November, the Board met with members of Birmingham Friends of the Earth and other Local Group/Climate Action Group members to learn more about activism in that area. This event was held at The Warehouse, home to our Birmingham office, which is owned by Birmingham FOE.
At our two most recent meetings (the November one was held in Birmingham), the Board received detailed reports from Victoria Marsom, Head of England, and James Orr, Head of Northern Ireland. They updated the Board on the campaigning being undertaken by local group members and activists in conjunction with staff and volunteers.
Chief executive changes
As you all know, Craig is moving on to become the CEO of The Wildlife Trusts from 1 April. He stepped down officially as our CEO at the Board meeting on 7 February. The Board warmly thanks Craig for everything he has done for Friends of the Earth over the past 18 years and we wish him all the very best for the future. As he takes up his new role, we are confident that we will all continue to work with Craig in our shared mission to protect our environment.
The recruitment of Craig’s successor is the responsibility of the Board and Trustees of Friends of the Earth Charitable Trust. At its meeting on 8 November, the Board, in collaboration with the Trustees, established a Recruitment Working Group to lead on the process of recruiting interim and permanent CEOs. The members of the RWG are Jeana Malhi, Kay Polley, Matt Wright, Frances Butler (from the FOEL Board) and Gillian Fawcett (Trustee of Charitable Trust)
Following an internal open advertisement during November, on 18 December, the Board and Trustees were delighted to appoint Miriam Turner and Hugh Knowles as Interim CEO as a job-share with effect from 8 February. We particularly welcome that for the first time in our history Friends of the Earth is both jointly led and co-led by a woman.
During December and January, the Recruitment Working Group conducted a thorough consultation of staff and volunteer views on what Friends of the Earth needs from its next CEO. The Board also arranged for a teleconference with our community groups on 7 January (many thanks to those of you who shared your views) and has consulted our youth movement. After an extensive tender process, the Recruitment Working Group appointed Perrett Laver to conduct the search on our behalf. We hope to start advertising the role in coming months.
Finances and fundraising
In November the Board approved revisions to the three-year financial strategy, which outlines key strategic investments and priorities that will help ensure the financial sustainability of Friends of the Earth.
The Board has also approved the 2018-2019 accounts for filing and these should be available online soon.
The Chair attended the open house event for major donors held at our London office in November. Guests also met some of our campaigners to hear about our recent activities.
Appointments to the Board
The Board has recently appointed two new Board members: John Collins, Finance Director of Pukka Herbs and Eva Neitzert, Director of Just Economics. John and Eva were appointed in particular because of their finance and governance experience and the Board looks forward to working with them.
The Board is still in the process of recruiting a Board member based in Northern Ireland which we hope to have completed within the next six months.
At its meeting in February, the Board renewed Afsheen Rashid’s tenure for a further three years.
The Board currently has seven full members: Frances Butler (Chair), Chris Church, Jeana Malhi, Kay Polley, Afsheen Rashid, Anne Schiffer (Senior Independent Director) and Matt Wright (Vice Chair) plus Benedict Southworth (Chair of Charitable Trust, ex officio).
The Finance Committee, a sub-committee of the Board, has three members: Afsheen Rashid (Chair), Frances Butler and Matt Wright.
Board members serve for a period of 3 years, with the possibility of extending their term for a further three years. Anne Schiffer and Chris Church are due to step down at the end of June 2020.
The Board meets on a quarterly basis (in November 2019 and February 2020 since the last update).
The next opportunity to chat to the Board and ask any questions about the latest activity is during the Board and Local Group Teleconference on 22 April 2020. Register to attend.
Local group members can contact the Chair directly, either via our social media channels or via email@example.com.
Please do keep an eye out for further updates on responses to the Coronavirus and take care.