Our Ethical Framework

High ethical standards throughout our work

The Mental Health Foundation aims to ensure that high ethical standards are maintained throughout its work as a charity. Our supporters and the public expect charities to operate ethically, which is integral to developing high levels of trust and demonstrating our integrity. Our actions and behaviour affect both the organisation and the people we support. 

The NCVO sets out four principles in their paper on Charity Ethical Principles, which the Foundation seeks to follow. 

  1. Beneficiaries first 
  2. Integrity 
  3. Openness 
  4. Right to be safe 

We have chosen not to have a lengthy Ethical Policy which details everything we do but to have a high-level framework which sets the expectation of meeting ethical standards in all we do across partnerships, investments, procurement, funding and all other relevant activities. By linking all our policies and approaches, we can make sure that our ethical approach is as consistent as possible across all of our operations. 

This policy applies to all that we do as an organisation:

  • service delivery 
  • procurement decisions 
  • any form of partnership 
  • acceptance of funding (grants, donations, legacies, in-kind support)
  • investments
  • any contractual relationship.

In addition, it covers how we act internally. 

Policies and principles

The following policies and principles are integral to how we operate ethically in our everyday activities: 

Ensuring our activities are aligned with our vision, mission and strategic aims, MHF Strategy 2020-2025: Making Prevention Happen

Our actions are embedded in the four core organisational values which we are and aim to be (Making a Difference, Side by Side, Determined Pioneers, Walking our Talk). 

We expect those we work with, as a minimum, to comply with their responsibilities under the Equality Act fully. However, realistically we expect them to go beyond this and to share our commitment to drive diversity and inclusion across the work they do

We recognise the climate crisis that is facing the world. Through our Environmental Policy, we seek to establish our commitment to becoming a greener organisation and protecting the environment with our actions and, where possible, those we interact with. 

  • Our procurement policy looks at the environmental costs of all services and goods we buy
  • Our pension scheme is Net Zero
  • Our head office runs on 100% renewable power and energy saving devices (where possible).
  • An external audit found that the Environmental team are highly motivated to take the charity to the next level of being a greener organisation and are committed to the environment.

Provision of a safe and supportive acceptable working environment is detailed in our Health and Safety Policy which highlights our commitment to safeguarding our people fully in respect of their health, safety and welfare at work, and our responsibilities to members of the public and contractors. 

Our Ethical Fundraising Policy sets out a clear ethical framework for partnerships, as well as the donations that we will accept. It ensures that we work following charity law and regulatory requirements.  

Our Procurement Policy sets out the framework for procurement decisions, informed by the overarching ethical framework here. It embeds the principle that all employees think about the impact of their purchasing decisions (e.g. achieving the best value for money whilst ensuring equality, diversity and inclusion, good environmental standards and sustainability in our supply chain is taken into account) and not just assume that the cheapest and/or most convenient is best when that might run counter to the values of the Foundation. This covers ensuring our suppliers pay the minimum wage and comply with the Modern Slavery Act. 

In addition to making sure that our supply chain pays the national minimum wage/London Living Wage as applicable, we ensure that all our employees are paid at or above the London Living Wage regardless of where they live. We have signed up to the Living Wage Foundation to demonstrate and be held accountable for this.

We ensure that any funds the Foundation invests are done with an environmental, social and governance lens over them and that they are not contrary to our Vision and Mission. 

We are guided by our mission to prevent mental health problems and drive change towards a mentally healthy society for all. 

To help us achieve this mission, we conduct a range of mental health-focused research projects. When we talk about “research” at the Foundation, we mean any project which uses data about a person or group of people to draw conclusions about a topic.  

We are committed to upholding the best ethical practices in all our research. Ethical research is that which: 

  • Respects the dignity, rights, safety, and wellbeing of the people who take part 
  • Maximises benefits for individuals and society and minimizes risk and harm 
  • It is conducted with integrity and transparency 

In practice, this means:  

  • Ensuring our research projects align with the mission, vision, and values of the Foundation 
  • Ensuring all staff involved in research are subject to DBS checks 
  • Completion of safeguarding and information governance training by all research staff 
  • Well-documented research processes, with risk assessments conducted where appropriate 
  • Transparent information shared with all who take part in our research that outlines their rights, what taking part involves, and how their data will be collected and processed 
  • Adherence to GDPR principles in all collection and processing of research data 
  • Where appropriate, submit projects for review and approval by an internal or external research ethics committee. 

Policy development and advocacy work at the Foundation is guided by MHF’s organisational values, is rooted in a rights and equalities framework, and is focused on social justice.    

This means that: 

  • Our work aims to make a difference in people’s lives by developing relevant, well-researched policy recommendations and using various ethical mechanisms to disseminate these.

In our partnership work, we undertake a due diligence assessment of opportunities to collaborate with actors in all sectors.  We are mindful not only of the benefits of collaboration but also of the potential for others’ values, practices, public comments and positioning to undermine or compromise the integrity of our recommendations and policy positions by association with us.  This is one of the ways in which we seek to walk our talk.   

  • We develop recommendations that are informed by working side by side with others: consulting and engaging with other organisations working in the same space, including, where possible, people with lived experience of the issues in question.  This is an important element of our evidence-based approach to policy-making. We share the policy recommendations we have developed and involve these constituencies in their dissemination. 
  • We aim to be determined pioneers in constructively articulating well-evidenced challenges to the status quo where this is necessary for realising the rights of our beneficiaries to good mental health.  

In line with the charity's ethical principles, our beneficiaries and partner organisations must come first, and their safety, psychologically and physically, is paramount. We will ensure that all programme design (including bids and proposals), partner organisations (including agreements), delivery and evaluation are transparent, honouring and integral with adequate explanations and appropriate consent. If a beneficiary or partner representative is unsafe at any time, the appropriate safeguarding process will be followed. 

We complete due diligence research to ensure any potential partner relationship follows our ethical framework. 

We work to ensure that we use data following the Data Protection Act 2018 (UK GDPR) and that all staff are adequately trained and aware of their responsibilities. 

Our Employee Code of Conduct highlights the standards expected of our staff, including Honesty, Integrity and the Avoidance of Conflicts of Interest. 

The Foundation’s Anti-Bribery policy clearly states the zero-tolerance attitude to bribery and our compliance with the Bribery Act 2010.

We are committed to providing a high standard of service. Unfortunately despite all best intentions things can go wrong, and when it does, we need to be informed so that every effort can be made to put matters right and prevent such incidents in the future. This External Complaints procedure sets out how we deal with general complaints about the organisation and its staff.

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