‘Conflicts of interests’ arise when the best interests of a trustee are, or could be, at odds with the best interests of the institution itself. Conflicts of interest may be ongoing, when, for example, a trustee who is related to a service user or who is also a trustee for another local institution.
A ‘conflict of loyalty’ is a particular kind of conflict of interest where the duties the trustee owes to another body or organisation are, or could be, in conflict with the duties the trustee owes to the charity. In some cases, an ongoing conflict may affect a trustee’s ability to participate in decisions so often or so much, that it is impractical for the trustee to continue in post (or to accept the post of trustee in the first place).
Trustees have a duty to put the best interests of the charity first and to safeguard the assets and reputation of the charity.
When a trustee identifies that they have a potential conflict of interest they must:
- Declare it as soon as they become aware of it.
- Ensure it is entered in the conflict of interest register (ongoing conflicts), and/or minuted in the appropriate board papers (one-off conflicts).
- Not take part in any board discussions or any decision making related to the matter.
In the interests of open discussion, a trustee affected by a conflict of interests must leave the room while related discussion/decision making is taking place, unless there is good reason for them to stay. The minutes should state:
- The declared conflict.
- That the trustee left the room, or the reason they were asked to stay.
- That the trustee took no part in discussion or decision making on the matter.
- That the meeting was quorate (not counting the affected trustee).
- Any other actions taken to manage the conflict.