19 Nov 2020
As we near the end of what has been a very challenging and uncertain year for us all, the Board would like to thank our local groups for their continued support and efforts during this difficult period. Whether you’ve been organising regular socials over Zoom or taking part in our week of action, whether you’ve been campaigning online or gaining new skills via our webinar series, we are incredibly grateful for all you do for Friends of the Earth, and our continued well wishes are with every member of the Friends of the Earth family.
The Board has also had to adapt to the health crisis. All of our meetings have been held virtually and we have needed to adopt a more flexible approach to governance, for example by arranging additional meetings to allow for faster decision making and by adjusting our priorities to oversee significant operational changes including homeworking and reduced working hours.
Chief Executive appointment
Throughout 2020 a key focus for the Board, along with the Trustees of Friends of the Earth Charitable Trust, has been the appointment of a new permanent CEO, following Craig Bennett's move to The Wildlife Trusts.
After a lengthy and thorough recruitment process (more details of which are provided below), the Board and Trustees are very pleased to announce that Miriam Turner and Hugh Knowles (pictured below) have been appointed as Co-CEOs of Friends of the Earth.
Acting as Interim Co-CEOs since February, Miriam and Hugh have very effectively led the organisation through a hugely challenging period and we are excited for the future of Friends of the Earth under their leadership. Read more about Miriam and Hugh.
The recruitment process
Following the consultation of key stakeholders and the appointment of the recruitment agency Perrett Laver, the Recruitment Working Group, consisting of Frances Butler, Jeana Malhi, Kay Polley, Matt Wright, (from the Board) and Gillian Fawcett (Trustee of Charitable Trust), developed the job advert and person specification, with the role advertised on Friday 19 June. A large number of high-quality applications were received from a diverse pool of candidates.
Two rounds of interviews were held and the final set of candidates also met with members of our youth and community group network via a Youth & Communities panel (made up of a range of activists including people from local groups we work with), our Senior Leadership Team, Board members and Trustees. On 27 October the Board and Trustees unanimously decided to appoint Miriam and Hugh.
Key areas of work
Since our last update, the Board has approved the organisation’s Business Plan for 2020-21. The key aim of this plan is to support communities in campaigning for a green and fair recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic. We aim to stand alongside people at the local level, build their power and enable the urgent action needed to fight the climate and ecological crises, as well as defending against environmental injustices. All this can only be achieved if we also work to build a more diverse and inclusive network, another key aim of the plan.
We are pleased to have approved our updated Safeguarding Policy following a review conducted by an external consultant; the recommendations from this review are currently being implemented and staff are aiming to roll out safeguarding guidance for our community groups this year.
The Board has also decided to undertake an external governance review in 2021 and has been completing preliminary work this side of Christmas in the form of governance training and an external review of our governance documents.
Engagement with local groups and activism
Although direct engagement with our community groups has been difficult given the pandemic, we have received regular updates from the Senior Leadership Team on the network’s activities and how staff have been supporting groups.
At our September meeting we received a detailed report from Haf Elgar, Head of Cymru, on our work in Wales, for example the launch of the Climate Action Plan for Wales. Following changes to the Board (more on this below), Board members were also encouraged to join their local group to ensure that the Board maintains close ties with our network at the local level.
Finances and fundraising
As part of the 2020-21 Business Plan, the Board approved the budget for this financial year. Due to the uncertainties created by Covid-19, the budget is phased throughout the year with provisional and potential budget earmarked for release further down the line, subject to the organisation’s finances at that point.
The 2019-20 audit took place in August with the Board aiming to approve the statutory accounts at our November meeting.
Changes to the Board
Anne Schiffer (above) and Chris Church (below) stepped down in July 2020 – the Board warmly thanks them for all their contributions to Friends of the Earth as Board members. Following Anne Schiffer’s departure, Kay Polley took over as Senior Independent Director and Eva Neitzert took over as the Board’s Safeguarding Lead.
We are currently recruiting for a Board member based in Northern Ireland, with interviews planned for the first week of December.
At its meeting in September, the Board reappointed Matt Wright as Vice Chair and Kay Polley as Healthy and Safety Lead, as well as renewing their Board terms for a further three years. It also appointed Frances Butler as Diversity Lead to ensure that our commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion is represented at the leadership level.
The Board currently has seven members: Frances Butler (Chair and Diversity Lead), John Collins, Jeana Malhi, Eva Neitzert (Safeguarding Lead), Kay Polley (Senior Independent Director and Health & Safety Lead), Afsheen Rashid, and Matt Wright (Vice Chair). Benedict Southworth, Chair of Charitable Trust, also attends Board meetings as an observer.
The Finance Committee 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.
The Board meets on a quarterly basis (in May 2020 and September 2020 since the last update).
Due to low attendance, we have taken the decision to discontinue the bi-yearly Board and Local Group teleconferences. However, local group members can continue to contact the Chair directly, either via our social media channels or via firstname.lastname@example.org.