Our ethical principles

The Charity Governance Code expects trustees of large charities to agree ‘the values, consistent with the charity’s purpose, that it wishes to promote and make sure that these values underpin all its decisions and the charity’s activities’.

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The RSPB’s ethical principles promote high standards of conduct to guide our decision-making and the development of policies and procedures. They operate at a level above legal and regulatory minimums.

The RSPB abides by five ethical principles. These are based on the National Council for Voluntary Organisations’ ethical principles for the charity sector. They also incorporate the principles of the United Nations Global Compact, a voluntary initiative that encourages organisations and businesses to adopt sustainable and socially responsible policies. 

Our five ethical principles

Beneficiaries first

The interests of our beneficiaries and the cause we work for is at the heart of everything we do. Our Charter gives us the responsibility to promote the conservation of biological diversity and the natural environment for the public benefit; and to advance the education of the public in conservation of the natural environment. 

Nature matters because it keeps all of us alive and makes our lives worth living. It isn’t optional or a ‘nice to have’: we must save it. It provides the fresh air, clean, life-giving water, fertile soils and abundance of species that sustain life on earth. Nature is the green engine that drives our economy, while providing the natural riches that keep us and future generations healthy and happy. If that isn’t enough, it is also capable of moving and inspiring us with moments of quiet fascination, pure joy and breathless wonder. This is what we believe, this is our cause. 

To ensure we have the greatest impact for nature, we

  • Carry out our work to provide the greatest impact for people and nature with integrity, regardless of whether this might initially be deemed to have a negative impact on the RSPB’s reputation, leadership or operation. 

  • Encourage trust in the RSPB by considering scientific evidence as part of how we operate, and by listening and responding to our beneficiaries. This facilitates engagement and communication. 

  • Ensure that all relevant policies and procedures are drawn up with our beneficiaries in mind. 

  • Work with organisations and individuals whose goals and values are consistent with our work, while exercising due diligence in understanding the ethical standards of partners and individuals. 


Nature needs us now more than ever. This means we continually need to adapt and change the way we work to achieve our vision of a world richer in nature. 

Our conservation work has a huge impact for nature. We preserve and restore natural habitats for people and wildlife. To ensure we have the greatest positive impact, we’re working to reduce the footprint of all our operations, through our systems and policies. Ways we do this include:  

  • Responding to the climate emergency by reducing our own carbon emissions. 

  • Making responsible use of our resources and minimising pollution and waste. 

  • Putting environmental considerations at the heart of our decision-making. 

  • Undertaking initiatives to promote environmental action to others through education and advocacy, having a concern for people’s health and the environment.

For environmental management we

  • Take a precautionary approach to environmental challenges (UN Compact principle 7). 
  • Promote greater environmental responsibility (principle 8). 

  • Encourage the development of environmentally friendly technologies (principle 9). 


To uphold the highest level of institutional integrity and personal conduct, we: 

  • Ensure the appropriate systems are in place to ensure decisions are well-considered and free from any conflict of interest. This includes our decision-making, assurance and project management frameworks. 

  • Ensure our resources are managed in a responsible way, and our funds are properly protected, applied and accounted for. This includes policies and procedures to combat bribery, fraud, corruption and extortion. We also ensure the systems and processes are in place to enable our expenditure to be audited, meaning that money, funding and grants can be tracked from receipt to expenditure. 

  • We work against corruption in all its forms, including extortion and bribery (UN Compact principle 10). 

Anti-bribery and anti-money laundering policies are built into our procurement policies. 

Openness and accountability

We try to create a culture where RSPB supporters, staff, volunteers, institutional partners and the public can see and understand how we work, how we deal with issues, and how we spend our funds. 

Through the RSPB Magazine, our website and wider communications, we strive to keep you informed and involved about our projects and activities. This means we operate in an open and transparent way within our legal and regulatory requirements. We want to share information about how we work, and ensure it can be accessed easily. This includes publishing: 

  • our annual reports: this includes a section explaining how our purpose, mission and values are being fulfilled 

  • reports, briefings and position statements relating to the delivery of our purpose 

  • our approach to safeguarding, bullying and harassment 

  • our complaints procedure 

  • our ‘Speak up’ policy 

  • information on any gender pay gap 

  • our approach to equality, diversity and inclusion 

  • our policies on remuneration and conflicts of interest. 

Right to be safe

Every person who volunteers, works or is in contact with us should be treated with dignity and respect and feel that they are in a safe and supportive environment (UN Compact principles 1 and 2). This means we: 

  • Stand against and have a clear approach to prevent abuse of trust and power, including bullying, intimidation, harassment, discrimination or victimisation in all our activities. 

  • Create a culture that supports the reporting and resolution of concerns about abuse or any kind of inappropriate behaviour. 

  • Ensure that anyone working or volunteering for us understands their expectations, and provide the relevant training to support them in meeting their responsibilities. 

  • Ensure that anyone who works or volunteers for us has access to proper support and advice if they experience or witness unacceptable behaviour, raise a concern or make an allegation about the actions of others, or don’t feel safe. 

  • Stand against all forms of forced and compulsory labour and for the effective abolition of child labour (UN Compact principle 5). 

Find out more about the RSPB

Our vision is to achieve a shared world where wildlife, wild places and all people thrive. To find out more about our work and governance, please take a look at the RSPB Annual Report.  

  1. RSPB Annual Report
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