Governing CIBSE in a fair and inclusive way

Last year, the CIBSE Inclusivity Panel published a set of Inclusivity Guidelines for members and staff. The guidance covers a range of areas from events and communications, to governance. In this blog post, we hear from Atif Rashid on the importance of inclusive practice in governance and what CIBSE is doing to ensure that the institution is governed in a fair and inclusive way.  


By Atif Rashid, CIBSE Inclusivity Panel 

Governance is a bit like building services engineering. It’s all around us, hidden in plain sight, but many are unaware. When it works well, few take notice of its complex and nuanced machinations. But if it goes wrong – if it breaks down or fails to adapt to changing requirements – the complaints are many, and loud.

It’s also a key component in moving the diversity & inclusion (D&I) conversation forward.  This is because, at its heart, good governance is about achieving the trust and buy-in of everyone involved in an organisation. Governance is as much about showing as it is about doing – when we can demonstrate that decisions are taken in a balanced manner, against clearly defined criteria, by a representative group of people – it builds trust.

CIBSE is a unique organisation, a collection of a wide range of interests relating to the built environment. It exists only through the trust and buy-in (both literal and figurative) of its members. As a charity, it is accountable to all of us – we all want to see that the organisation is run in a transparent, fair and ethical manner. In the modern context, moving the needle on diversity and inclusion is central to this. The organisation must be actively striving to be welcoming to all – a passive stance to D&I issues is no longer enough.

Like most in the CIBSE family, I’m an engineer by training. I once spent most of my time thinking about how engineering systems are put together, and how they work. We consider the laws of physics, apply engineering precedents and standards, and innovate to advance the state of the art.

As we progress in our careers, we begin to spend more time thinking about how systems of people are put together, and how they can work best to deliver our clients’ projects or our business’ objectives. And, as with applying technology, we know that our approach must evolve and adapt to suit the context and task at hand.

The past twelve months have shown us how quickly that context can shift. From Extinction Rebellion to Black Lives Matter, societal change and upheaval are taking place at an unprecedented pace. Organisations can no longer remain silent on key issues of the time and must develop positions on potentially divisive issues whilst maintaining the buy-in of all their members.

Strong governance procedures, together with high levels of diversity and inclusion, are critical to ensuring that organisations are well-placed to respond at speed. When all voices have a say in decision-making, and the decision-making process is clear and transparent, organisations can navigate difficult issues with confidence and clarity.

Participation is another key aspect that cuts across both governance and D&I. It touches on many aspects, including having clear criteria for selecting and evaluating key post-holders, ensuring regular changeover of personnel in key posts, succession planning, and reaching out to underrepresented groups. By actively monitoring and managing these aspects, space is created for new voices to get involved, and all members can see how and where they can get involved with the activities and running of the organisation. It’s a win-win.

CIBSE is constantly reviewing its governance procedures – striving to make them clearer, more transparent, and keeping them relevant to the current context. This effort is supported by its efforts around D&I, enabling it to better face the modern context and, ultimately, to better represent us – its members.

If this piece has piqued your interest, I encourage you to look at our top tips on governance from a D&I perspective, published in the CIBSE Inclusivity Guidelines. This document is freely available at, and provides useful guidance across several key D&I themes.


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