Andy Haldane used his first speech since taking up the job to criticise companies for failing to recognise the full value of charities, which he believes contribute as much to the economy as the entire energy sector.
He singled out in particular the dearth of boardroom members drawn from charities. The presence of only one non-executive director from a charity in the entire FTSE 100 ‘is not consistent with volunteering having entered the corporate bloodstream’. There was also no excuse for one-third of FTSE 100 members having no volunteering programme for their staff, he said.
The only FTSE 100 board member from a charity is Jasmine Whitbread, the international chief executive of Save the Children, who is a non-executive director at BT. However, she spent much of her career in the corporate world before joining the charity sector.
In the Pro Bono Economics lecture, Mr Haldane said that volunteering in the UK might amount to as much as 4.4 billion hours per year, not far off 10 per cent of the total hours put in by the paid workforce. In terms of value to the economy, it could be £50 billion per year, or about 3.5 per cent of GDP — similar to the size of the UK energy sector. However, too many companies failed to appreciate its value, he said.
He predicted that companies would wake up to the value of charities and have far closer relationships with them, largely to recruit and retain the best staff.
Younger people have shown that it is a pre-requisite that the company they work for does more than just make money, he said. ‘Generation Y, born from the 1980s onwards, place a much greater weight on a diverse career experience, with a strong social dimension, than their predecessors. And generation Z, the millennials, are unlikely to buck that trend. Where they lead, companies will surely need to follow.’
Mr Haldane was formerly the Bank’s head of financial stability, a position he held during the banking crisis. The lack of diversity on banks’ boards was said to be a factor in the crisis. Critics said that it led to ‘group think’, a culture where no one challenged anyone else’s view.
Most big British companies have corporate social responsibility (CSR) programmes, which make donations to charities and encourage staff to volunteer their skills. Many now have special days where staff can take time off to do voluntary work. But this is generally superficial and may even just be patronising to the people whom staff go to work with. It makes board directors feel good but it neither helps them really understand the sector nor care for its future. I have met too many of them who think running voluntary organisations is ‘just a bit of charity work’.