Interview: Philippa Charles, Garfield Weston Foundation

‘A very unusual foundation,’ is how Guy Weston, chair of the UK’s Garfield Weston Foundation (GWF), describes his grandfather’s creation which celebrates its 60th anniversary this year. Few would disagree. Not only is the foundation’s structure uncharacteristic of British philanthropy but its approach is unusually straightforward with a focus on listening, supporting and empowering its partners. Although it is Britain’s second-largest foundation with over £12 billion in assets, few will have heard of Garfield Weston – apart from its hundreds of grantees. But, as its director Philippa Charles tells Charles Keidan, the real story has never been about the foundation….

'I think more foundations do core funding than maybe charities are aware. The more of us that do it, the better.' Phillipa Charles.

What’s the structure of GWF?

When Garfield Weston set up the foundation, he put 80 per cent of the family business into trust for the benefit of the nation, which is effectively in a holding company, Wittington Investments. Wittington holds the majority shareholding of Associated British Foods (ABF) which is the real business, if you like. It’s not just food but retail and a broad range of things including the Grand Hotel in Brighton and Fortnum & Mason in London. I love ABF. In fact I used to work for them before I moved to the foundation 10 years ago. I think there's something very straightforward about the company – it makes bread, milk, tea, sugar, socks, knickers.

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Charles Keidan