This interim review is designed to keep our members fully up to date with Which?’s activities and performance since our last annual report.
The digital world in which we make our everyday decisions as consumers is moving faster as each month passes, and we have to deal with organisations of ever-increasing scale and influence – but limited accountability. Which?’s role in championing consumer interests and helping people make informed choices through our charitable and commercial activities is more important than ever. In an era of increasing mistrust of information, Which? must hold on to its reputation for independence and provide the evidence-based analysis that makes life fairer for consumers.
At the same time as addressing our new challenges, we have also focused on a vital consumer interest that remains as urgent today as it was when we were founded 60 years ago: improving product safety.
To take one recent example – when we found growing evidence that the backing material of fridges can greatly increase the risk of a fire spreading, we successfully applied pressure for change across manufacturers, government and regulators, ultimately influencing the standard on refrigeration safety. This integrated campaign across our charity and its commercial businesses, combining our expertise in research, policy and consumer advocacy to maximise our combined impact, is a successful example of our One Which? approach in action.
We also recognise that, in this digital world, the information and services we offer have to take account of the many different ways in which our members and subscribers want to use them. We have invested in our digital platforms, improving and developing the ways that people access our advice and information. Our live chat functions have become an increasingly popular channel, and we are reaching new audiences digitally, with 55% of those downloading our newly relaunched reviews app being between 25 and 45 years old.
Which? is also reforming. Over recent years we have heard concerns from our Ordinary Members about how we are governed, including the need for greater engagement and transparency. We have listened and taken action, most notably in the proposals we put to the AGM in November, with which members agreed and which are now being implemented. We have answered all the pre-submitted AGM questions, created an audio recording of the AGM and launched a special area of Which? Conversation for members to discuss our governance. In addition, we have launched the Member Governance Committee, which will allow ordinary members to submit governance issues for Council to consider outside of the AGM. I hope many of you will make use of these new ways of engaging with us.
If our membership is to grow and participation increase, we must also look at ways to modernise our charity and our commercial model to ensure that we can sustain it into future generations. We will look at more flexible ways for people to access and participate in everything that Which? can provide, at the same time as we fulfil our commitment to further the interests of all consumers. Our wider governance review and analysis of what it means to be a Which? member that began last year aim to address all these issues.
I believe our ability to achieve our mission depends not only on building trust with consumers, but also on our strength as a membership organisation. As Chair, I am committed to reinvigorating our membership and ensuring that we represent the breadth and diversity of British society, in order to be a truly representative consumer champion.