Shaping business for C21st – Riversimple Governance

Interview with Estelle Clark, Riversimple Governance. Written for Riversimple


Estelle Clark joined Riversimple to take a leading role shaping the business as it develops. She is Head of Profession at the Chartered Quality Institute, which is the chartered body for quality management professionals in Britain, and Chairman of the Technical & Advisory Board of Lloyds Register Quality Assurance. Her work has a particular focus on quality, safety, sustainability and innovation.


On Process

“This is about developing the fundamental principles for a new governance model and it could not be more timely.  As Steward, ensuring the balance of interests of the 6 Riversimple custodians, a key step is to agree a code for:

How the six custodians work together for the success of the business

How we clearly identify our different ‘constituents’ – in particular for the environment which doesn’t have “a voice” per se

How we consult with these constituents and bring the results back to the head table where decisions are made.

This process must be based upon sound principles– just like the engine of a good car. I think all of the custodians are fully aware of how challenging this is, we all have our feet firmly on the ground.”


On Multi Stake Holder Governance

“We don’t know of any other business that is articulating the kind of broad reaching structure for stakeholder engagement that Riversimple is working towards.

There are highly successful modern businesses, such as the Fairtrade Movement and the John Lewis Partnership that are governed by a principles-based constitution with a number of other stakeholders. What we are advocating now is a business model that thinks in advance, with everyone that has skin in the game – including the environment – involved.”


On the Financial Lens

“The investors are normally the focus of a business and their needs are considered paramount. This has led to bad behavior at the top of some companies – JB Sports, BHS.

But even leaving aside these big news stories, if the customer, the community, the environment etc. is only seen through the lens of the investor, then a poor decision may only be recognized further along the line when things start to go seriously wrong. By the time customers are complaining about a product or people are protesting about the way a business operates on social media, the damage has been done.

So there is a real opportunity here to do something better for everyone, including the investors. I would rather know where the pressure points are before a decision is made than act on problems retrospectively when they manifest.”


On the Bigger Picture

“The Brexit vote really rocked the foundations of business, exposing widely held public doubt about the role that business plays in society today. This is stark. Key public figures are already debating how to rebuild public trust. It begins with the businesses themselves. A cohesive society relies upon businesses that are well-run.

Largely because of the impact of social media, there is nowhere to hide when a business makes poor decisions. People can make their own purchasing decisions based on the experience and reviews of others. A huge percentage of consumers read online reviews before buying a product or service – or applying for a job. For the social media generations, everyone has a viewpoint and everyone gets a say.

There is growing opinion that a well structured and well tested multi stakeholder model could be the solution for getting business back on the front foot. So the Riversimple model is developing at a prescient moment in history.”


A Code for Better Business

“Meanwhile at Riversimple an exciting new model is evolving. How can you argue that staff or customers or any one of the constituent groups represented by our custodians should not have a say in what a business does?

Business with impact, business that earns trust, sustainable business that will stand the test of time – that is what this is about.”


Riversimple is an engineering company that designs and builds super efficient hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. Their first poduction prototype,  Riversimple Rasa, was released in February 2016

Screenshot 2016-07-07 07.38.41

The company is based in Wales, UK.




Riversimple Custodians #3


Peter’s  background is in business, working for the CBI, DTI and Business in the Community. He became the first Commissioner for Sustainable Futures in Wales in April 2011. Peter has taken a key role in the development of the Wellbeing of Future Generations (Wales) Act, leading a national conversation on “The Wales we Want” and using the findings to create a framework for long term goals.

Peter Davies RF Custodian

On What Makes Riversimple Unique

I am especially inspired by the depth and breadth of the Riversimple vision.  I believe the governance system could help to rebalance the relationship between local and global from a business context.

On ‘Community’

Community – simply put – is about being connected. Community contributes to our sense of who we are and what we care about.  

The “Wales we Want” conversation engaged 7,000 people across Wales. We found that feeling disconnected, in particular from decision making, is a significant issue for communities today. Many people don’t feel in control of what is happening to them. Many younger people don’t feel there is a future for them.  The Riversimple model represents an opportunity to shape business in a way that re-connects with community, creating new opportunities, engaging young people in particular – and enthusing them.

On the best and worst things that a business can bring to a (geographical) community

A business can bring investment and jobs to a community – it can help to develop a local skills base and local supply chains. It can bring prosperity, not just in the form of jobs, but the long term resilience of the community and that brings with it a sense of pride.

But all businesses should consider the wider impact they will have upon a community. Its not just about winning support in the short term.  Political and media rhetoric can tend to focus on job creation but whilst important, that is not the whole picture, quality of life for a community is dependent on the nature of those jobs.

Wales is a country that knows all about the adverse affect of heavy industry – the effect that it can have on air pollution and the long term health of the community. We’ve had that experience and hopefully we are much the wiser. So a company like Riversimple, at the leading edge of socially and environmentally responsible business, is exactly what Wales needs to fulfill the ambitions of the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act.

What are you looking forward to?

Its very exciting that this radical change is being led from a company based in the heart of rural mid Wales. I’m looking forward to the first pilot in Monmouthshire – our first community. I have great regard for the leadership in Monmouthshire and together we have a chance to test out the car and the business model – demonstrate its value.

There is a huge groundswell of local support. Local people really want Riversimple to succeed. We want to show that we can attract the very best engineers and new technology to a rural area. That we can bring young people back to rural communities because there will be a business growing there offering careers that appeal to them – without damaging rural ways of life or the environment. I am very excited about that.


Riversimple’s ‘place by place’ pilot, it is hoped, will begin with trials of the Rasa car in Monmouthshire.  Following both rural and urban-based trials, Riversimple could then expand via regional, small scale manufacturing units, producing 3,000 to 5,000 vehicles per year. Each unit could create high quality local jobs for c200 people.

This article was first published in the Chartered Quality Institute monthly newsletter “Knowledge.”