Curtins collaborates with ACE to launch People First Charter at UKREiiF

curtins author
Curtins on 19th May 2023


As an early adopter, we were invited to speak at the launch of the Association for Consultancy and Engineering (ACE) and the Environmental Industries Commission’s (EIC) People First Charter at UKREiiF on 18th May. 

Neil Parkinson, executive director, joined representatives from Atelier Ten, Ramboll, and BWB Consulting to speak on why we’ve become an early adopter of the charter, which aims to put the wellbeing of people at the heart of organisations involved in tackling some of the biggest challenges the world faces.

“We will get to where we want to be quicker as a consequence of being involved in this charter.”

That was Neil’s key message, as he took part in the launch. 

Neil outlined a number of areas of best practice Curtins are implementing when it comes to equity, diversity and inclusion and explained how we are also looking to learn more from other organisations developing different ideas and initiatives.

“The reason we are an early adopter of the People First Charter is because we believe in it and the Charter reflects the way we run our business,” he said.

“In 2021, we changed the way we operate our business to become an Employee-Owned Trust, so everyone has a stake in our business and people clearly are at the heart of our business.”

Neil adds he has worked at Curtins for 30 years, starting out as an apprentice and progressing to director level.

“We really do put people first,” he said.

“What we like about the Charter – what resonates with us even more – is that it’s about turning words into deeds, which reflects the journey we are on in terms of the issues around equity, diversity and inclusion.

“The last few years has been about raising awareness and now we are starting to implement initiatives and take actions – and we are starting to make things happen.”

He added the People First Charter involved sharing those experiences with other organisations so everyone can learn from each other’s examples of best practice.

“We are really keen to do that and be a part of that,” he said.

Neil highlighted some of the great work Curtins has been doing around improving equity, diversity and inclusion in the organisation.

As one example, for the last four years, we have been running a reverse mentoring programme, enabling new graduates to mentor senior leaders, which gives them greater visibility and exposure and enables them to be more involved with the running of our business. 

“Each year, we have got different perspectives from junior members of staff in the business from a different generation,” Neil said.

“Each year I’ve done it, I’ve got something personally and professionally from it.”

Collaborating with our peers, even our competitors, to ensure the industry is more appealing to a broader range of people is important.

We also expanded our board in 2021 and an outcome of this is that it is more diverse in terms of gender and ethnicity.

“It looks and feels a lot different than it did a few years ago and we are already seeing the benefits of this diversity.” 

“We think we can share what we have learned along the way with other organisations and, equally, learn from other organisations about their particular areas of good practice.” 

Expanding on Neil’s comments during the panel event, Rob Melling, our CEO, explains how organisations must work together to create lasting change.

“There is strength in numbers,” he says, encouraging more businesses to get involved and sign up to the People First Charter.

“Collaborating with our peers, even our competitors, to ensure the industry is more appealing to a broader range of people is important.

“We can share what we have learned on our journey and we are also keen to learn from other participants and signatories.

“In some areas, Curtins is ahead of the game, but in other areas, we need to catch up and that’s the benefit of being signed up to a charter.”

The People First Charter will provide member organisations with tailored support to implement an action plan putting people at the heart of their firms, offering guides and frameworks of best practice and templated policies.

The Charter will ensure organisations within the industry operate on the basis of four principles relating to their people and human resources; inclusivity for all, openness and respect, development and growth and recognition.  

Nathan Spencer, Director of UKREiiF, said the launch of the People First Charter at the event in Leeds on May 18th was a critical move and a step in the right direction for the industry.

“This is a critical move by the ACE, and a step in the right direction for the improvements we need to see – we hope others will follow suit by pushing their own agendas in the right direction,” he said.

ACE is working in partnership with Constructing Rainbows on the People First Charter.

Sharon Slinger, owner and director of Constructing Rainbows, said: "This Charter is focused on continuous improvement and by putting in place action plans with clear impact measures and accountability, companies will be able to focus on their key areas for improvement and track their ongoing progress.

For more information or to sign up to the People First Charter, visit:

Curtins collaborates with ACE to launch People First Charter at UKREiiF

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