Buck Bond Group
The long and winding road to better equality, diversity and inclusion on our trustee boards

The long and winding road to better equality, diversity and inclusion on our trustee boards

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The journey towards improved equality, diversity and inclusion (‘EDI’) on trustee boards continues, with recent guidance published by The Pensions Regulator.

Since February 2020, and the publication of the future of trusteeship and governance consultation response, trustees have been aware of the Regulator’s view that “better decisions and good governance relies on a mix of skills, knowledge and different perspectives.” In December 2021, the Regulator followed this up with “we want to see all schemes large and small truly embrace the value of diversity and take strident steps to bring about change which will lead to better governance.” Whilst I suspect most trustee boards agreed with this sentiment, I think many may have looked at their own circumstances and questioned how to go about achieving it in practice. The publication of this latest guidance, produced with the industry-led working group, addresses this concern and outlines principles for how to approach EDI, together with practical ideas about how to implement them.

So, where to start? As with most matters: by increasing your knowledge and understanding of the issues, through training and your own reading and research. It’s important that this training addresses not only the benefits of EDI (the why), but also the potential barriers which may need to be overcome as part of this journey (for example, a closed pool of potential candidates or restrictions in your scheme’s governing documentation). Once these issues have been identified and articulated, it will be easier to offer solutions (the how) and overcome them in the longer-term.

Next – consider what you want to achieve, and by when. This is where strategic thought and planning comes in, engagement with the employer and thinking about your wider EDI principles. Once these are agreed, it will be easier to formulate an EDI policy to document the aims and objectives of the trustee board and to track progress over time.

Once you have gone through this process, the next steps should then be clear, but will obviously vary depending on your own scheme and upcoming priorities. Are there any policies or documented processes which need to be revisited?  Now is a good time to consider this, with all the work going on in the background to prepare for the publication of the general code of practice, as well as the own risk assessment of your effective system of governance.  Do you have robust succession plans in place?  Have you got a member-nominated trustee recruitment exercise to plan for? Consider everything though an EDI lens, and this process of change suddenly seems less daunting.

For me, this is not about having EDI as a separate agenda item at your quarterly meetings (though this may help with maintaining momentum in the short-term).  It’s about weaving EDI through everything that you do and say as a board.  From how you run your meetings, how you communicate with each other and your members, collaboration and partnership with your advisers, and ultimately, how decisions are made – it’s about embedding a culture that allows everyone the opportunity to fully contribute, feel represented and reach their potential. It’s a long journey, but we will get there.