‘Don’t wash your dirty laundry in public’ is an old and established piece of advice, and like old established advice, it contains much sense.
However not flouting one’s dirty washing is quite different from denying it exists. Recently and too often charities have been caught out seeking to protect their reputation by covering up a scandal, and in the end inadvertently creating a far worse reputational problem than before.
Reputation management is always high on a charity’s risk register but the mitigation should be consistent with the charity’s values. Reputation is an external attribute – it is what other people think. There will be times when what others think, and what a charity thinks, are different and in those situations the charity must be true to its own values and be prepared to explain its reasoning to those who disagree.
Sometimes the popular thing to do will not be the right thing to do. ‘Responsible investing’ means just that – decisions that are thoughtfully considered and the balance between harm and benefit carefully weighed. This is the story of the Sackler Trust gifts. That’s why it’s so hard to do well and so easy to become overwhelmed. Everyone starts with small steps.