Public Trust Boards

The Trust Challenge

How businesses operate is changing.

The traditional focus on quality, delivery, economic and social impact is expanding into a desire to better connect with customers and stakeholders.

It is now recognised that how a business operates in terms of transparency, accountability and involvement matters when building public trust. This is further reinforced if spending relates to public services, or citizens perceive public money to be at risk.

Being open to scrutiny and giving others the tools to challenge your business ethics is an essential part of building this trust. Scrutiny adds and drives value in the form of:

  • Independent public scrutiny – Demonstrates transparency and acquires unfiltered public feedback on the actions and behaviours of the business.
  • Assurance – Directors, shareholders and stakeholders know that business activities are ethical and responsible.
  • Feedback – Insight to help shape executive boards policy, strategy and behaviours.
  • Reputation – Reputational and competitive advantage in showing world-class corporate governance and transparency.
  • Better relationships – Demonstrates commitment to the communities in which business operates and that it cares about what they think.

Effective scrutiny goes beyond systems and processes. It has the potential to create an environment of positive, mutual challenge from external stakeholders (public, experts, clients) and internal stakeholders (employees, board members) which provides insight, drives value and contributes to managing risk.

What is a Public Trust Board?

It is an arms-length board created and managed independently from the company. Forming part of the company’s governance structure, it is the place for objective enquiry and scrutiny. Setting up a Public Trust Board is a proactive and visible way for public-facing private sector companies to build public trust and confidence in their business activities, public commitments and responsibilities. It is essentially giving others the tools to test trustworthiness. For businesses preparing for the future, they are an innovative way to enhance impact and value through a focus on public assurance and business ethics.

What would be involved in setting up a Public Trust Board?

In summary, our approach would be:

  • How CfPS can support – CfPS has a strong reputation as a value-driven organisation, we are well placed to provide independent governance assurance and verification of the work of a scrutiny board. We have a wealth of experience in creating the right environment for effective scrutiny and equipping people with the tools and confidence to provide positive challenge.
  • What would be involved in the setting up a board – we would work with the organisation to agree the purpose, scope, draft terms of reference, performance measures and timeline. Also, to agree board member profiles in terms of sectors, interests, capability. This will inform our approach to recruitment.
  • What the governance would look like – CfPS will act as the liaison between organisation and the Public Trust Board, tasks will include agenda content preparation, providing secretariat support, facilitation at the meetings as required, supporting individual members with training and guidance. We would work with business colleagues to create an effective feedback loop and evidence of impact.
  • Measuring impact and bringing learning back into the organisation – This is important to make sure that knowledge is transferred and to capture feedback and learning. The board needs to work as part of the system-wide approach, this may require a shift in organisational culture to support people to be open to scrutiny. Actions to achieve this could include running sessions with particular groups (for example, with senior managers) to ensure understanding of approach and their behaviours.
  • Provide external assurance and profile – CfPS would provide external independent assurance and validation of the organisation’s approach. We would support communication activity to raise the profile of the independent scrutiny and outcomes.

The Centre for Public Scrutiny

The Centre for Public Scrutiny (CfPS), an independent UK charity, is the leading organisation dedicated to the principles and practise of excellent governance and scrutiny. We provide thought leadership and practical support in a range of sectors and our expertise can benefit organisations by helping to:

  • Identify risk (specific process points that trigger scrutiny)
  • Develop structures/processes (formal and informal operation of scrutiny)
  • Support people (culture and skills to help scrutiny flourish as part of the way people work)

Next steps

To discuss how a Public Trust Board may benefit your organisation or how the model could be developed to fit your organisational need please contact: Jacqui McKinlay on
Jacqui.mckinlay@cfps.org.uk or via 07716 409562.