John Griffith-Jones, 57, is senior partner and chairman at KPMG UK. He is chairman of the Every Child a Chance Trust, which focuses on helping children with numeracy and literacy. KPMG has chosen Barnardo’s as its current corporate charity, and 49 KPMG staff are spending this week on a Sahara trek, with the aim of raising £150,000.
What was the first major personal donation you made?
My mother suffered from Alzheimer’s and KPMG staff voted Alzheimer’s as the staff charity of the year, without any public intervention from me. I suddenly realised the firm was going to be giving Alzheimer’s over £1m, and on the back of that I made a personal donation. I thought: “Wow, it’s really unbelievable how you get from not a lot to a huge stride by the power of collective giving.”
What’s the cause closest to you now?
I’ve got to know Barnardo’s because that’s become the staff charity. I’m impressed. It’s not so easy running these big organisations and they need to raise lots of money each year.
Do you think business leaders should focus on corporate charity work or private giving?
At KPMG the idea of a staff charity really caught on when we first did it seven or eight years ago – but we’ve got 10,000 people here, all of whom have their own personal charity, so they do both. There’s no doubt that when you rattle the tin for the staff charity in the building you get a collective response that you wouldn’t get if everyone went around rattling their own tin. Genuinely, I think that the leaders’ responsibility is to harness something on behalf of the charitable world.
Do you give employees days off for charity work?
I think we’ve got the balance entirely right. They can take half a day’s paid time a month, so that’s six days a year. I think it’s important that you have the statement that it’s not only allowed but “paid for”, so you’re not being asked to sacrifice your own time.
You support a lot of charities that help young people. Is there a reason why you focus on those?
The majority of [KPMG] people are youngish and well- educated. I think we all realise the power of education and having a good chance in life – and the privilege of having got a reasonable job already. So naturally it appeals to us to help people either with their education or with getting a job.
Have you ever regretted supporting a charity?
Interestingly, we have something called the KPMG Foundation, which is separate from the staff charity and which has supported slightly riskier, more experimental things. When you support experimental things, you’re absolutely not looking for publicity – sometimes the experiments aren’t quite as successful as you’d hoped. Do I regret that? Not in the slightest.