The Board has decided to adopt the Quoted Companies Alliance (QCA) Corporate Governance Code for Small and Mid-sized Quoted Companies, issued in April 2018.
The Chairman has overall responsibility for corporate governance and the Board is committed to providing information on an open basis. The Board understands the role that good corporate governance plays, particularly around the wider areas of culture and accountability, and has overseen a number of changes over the recent past to drive improved performance and accountability throughout the Group, including:
- the appointment of Carolyn Rand as Non-Executive Director on 17th August 2023
- the resignation of Chris Lea as CFO on 22 August 2023
- the appointment of Jag Grewal as CEO on 18 January 2022;
- the appointment of Dr Simon Douglas as Non-Executive Chairman on 11 February 2021;
- the appointment of Jeremy Millard as a Non-Executive Director on 1 March 2019;
- the introduction of annual group-wide staff surveys; and
- the implementation of a set of new core values.
The Board believes that the QCA Code is the more appropriate framework under which to operate for a company of Cambridge Nutritional Sciences size.
Board and committee structure
The size and structure of the Board and its committees are kept under review to ensure an appropriate level of governance operates throughout the year. The Board currently comprises three Non-Executive Directors and one Executive Director who meet frequently during the year to discuss strategy and to review progress and outcomes against objectives. We have also taken steps recently to improve our engagement with shareholders and to try and communicate more effectively regarding our long-term growth drivers. We believe the Board has a good mix of skills and experience and a culture that easily enables the Non-Executive members of the Board to challenge and advise the Executive team as appropriate.
The QCA Code encompasses ten principles, against which, we are required to explain how we comply or explain why we feel it is appropriate to depart from those principles. We now report against these principles as follows.
Establish a strategy and business model which promote long-term value for shareholders
The Group is focused on selling a range of products into the consumer health and wellbeing space where we see significant growth opportunities.
In early 2022, we implemented a revised strategy to reduce operating costs, exit the Global Health business and to invest in our Health and Nutrition business in order to drive growth. We are now focused on creating value by increasing the footprint of our food sensitivity products, particularly in the US and China, where we see opportunities for growth in direct-to-consumer market channels and broadening the range of products available in our Health and Nutrition division.
Our strategy is to deliver longer-term growth by adopting and implementing the following principles:
- Revenue growth – growing the revenue for our Health and Nutrition business through geographical and product range expansion.
- One team ethos – to improve collaboration between departments and implement our cultural beliefs.
- Operational excellence – to develop processes for continuous improvement, consistent quality culture and growth in gross margin.
- Empowering our people – to provide a framework where all staff can contribute to achieving the Group’s aims.
The key challenges we face are:
- Increasing regulatory hurdles to achieve in-country product registration. More and more countries now require individual product registration and in-country evaluations to be performed before a product can be sold in a territory and we are investing in more people with the regulatory skills needed to handle this increased workload
- Development risk. There is no guarantee that products in development will lead to a future market launch. We have increased resource in project management skills that plans product development activities to minimise the risk of failure
- Technology risk. We closely monitor the market on a continual basis to see how we can maintain a competitive advantage against our peers
- Key employees. The Group undertakes a salary benchmarking exercise to ensure that we remain competitive and we have also increased resource into training more of our people throughout the Group so that they can more clearly see career development opportunities with the Group
Seek to understand and meet shareholder needs and expectations
The responsibility for investor relations lies with the Chief Executive Officer. The Group seeks to engage with shareholders on a number of occasions throughout the year to understand shareholders’ needs and expectations. The Company has expanded its communication strategy with shareholders, including hosting webinars on the Investor Meet Company platform and by providing video excerpts which can be accessed from the Company’s website.
The Group receives anonymised feedback through its broker and financial PR organisation, through direct e-mail correspondence and from attendees at all the above events and welcomes both positive feedback and constructive criticism. This feedback has proved very useful in tailoring the content of subsequent presentations.
Take into account wider stakeholder and social responsibilities and their implications for long-term success
The Group seeks to ensure it has good relations with employees and external stakeholders including customers, suppliers, regulatory bodies and the wider community with which it interacts.
- All employees are invited to participate in an annual survey on which they can give anonymised feedback on a range of issues. The results are collated and presented to all employees along with actions taken by management to address the issues raised.
- Senior management present business progress updates to all staff twice a year to keep them informed. Feedback from staff indicates that this is a popular exercise undertaken by management.
- All staff undergo performance and development reviews with their managers twice a year to ensure that everyone is prioritised and aligned with the Group’s main business objectives. These sessions also allow for additional staff training needs to be addressed.
- The Group surveys its customers on a regular basis by sending out an on-line survey for them to complete. The programme cycles through the Group’s customers so that each customer receives an invite to participate in the survey at least once every two years. A regular post market surveillance regime is in place that follows up on every customer complaint and technical enquiry received and is an integral part of the Quality Management System. Customer feedback is also sought through formal and informal meetings during customer visits and exhibition meetings. These feedback interactions are documented and reviewed, with any actions recorded.
- Suppliers are evaluated as to the criticality and dependency of the materials or services they provide to the Group. Suitability to supply is determined either by completion of a supplier questionnaire or by supplier audit undertaken by one of the Group’s Quality team. Supplier performance is regularly measured, monitored and reviewed and any concerns are escalated through a well-defined process as part of the Quality management System
- The Group is regularly audited by several bodies including Lloyd’s Register for both ISO 9001:2015 and ISO 13485:2016 and under the Medical Devices Single Audit Program. The Group is also regularly visited by regulatory bodies of overseas jurisdictions and these have included the regulatory agencies from Brazil, Korea and more recently the World Health Organization.
Embed effective risk management, considering both opportunities and threats, throughout the organisation
The business has its own senior management team (SMT), which comprise Executive Directors, plus a number of senior managers. The SMT meet on a monthly basis to review key management objectives. The SMT are responsible for preparing a risk register which is also reviewed at these monthly meetings and analysed for changes using a scoring system of impact and probability, as well as the identification of new risks.
This annual report includes an analysis of key risks along with mitigating actions.
The independent auditor’s report has now been expanded to cover key risks from an audit perspective, the auditor’s response to those risks and the auditor’s observations as reported to the Audit Committee.
Maintain the Board as a well-functioning, balanced team led by the Chairman
The Board members have a collective responsibility and legal obligation to promote the interests of the Group and are collectively responsible for defining corporate governance arrangements. Ultimate responsibility for the quality of, and approach to, corporate governance lies with the chair of the Board.
The Board currently comprises the Non-Executive Chairman, two Non-Executive Director, and one Executive Director who is the Chief Executive Officer.
Simon Douglas, Jeremy Millard and Carolyn Rand are considered by the Board to be independent. However, it is noted that Simon Douglas and Jeremy Millard have been granted a relatively small quantity of share options as disclosed.
Simon Douglas, Jeremy Millard and Carolyn Rand act in the interests of the Group at all times and are not influenced by the factors pointed out above. The Board has a good mix of skills and experience and a culture that easily enables the Non-Executive members of the Board to challenge and advise the Executive team as appropriate.
The Board meets at regular intervals and has a schedule of matters reserved for the Board including setting corporate strategy, approving the annual budget, reviewing financial performance, agreeing the renewal of and any new banking/treasury facilities, approving major items of capital expenditure and reviewing and approving acquisitions. The Board is provided with appropriate information in advance of board meetings to enable it to discharge its duties effectively and this includes a report from the Executive members of the Board, along with summary reports from senior managers providing updates on key issues.
The Company has procured appropriate Directors and Officers liability insurance. Each of the Directors benefit from deeds of indemnity provided by the Company.
The Non-Executive Chairman is committed to providing not less than 30 days annually to the Group and the Non-Executive Directors are committed to providing not less than 18 days annually to the Group. In reality, the Non-Executive Directors consistently provide more than this minimum time requirement. The Executive Directors are full-time positions.
The Group also has an Audit Committee and a Remuneration Committee. The Remuneration Committee is chaired by Simon Douglas and the Audit Committee is chaired by Jeremy Millard. The Board does not have a separate nominations committee due to its small size and the Board itself adopts a consensus-based approach in making changes to its composition.
For the year ended 31 March 2023, the number of meetings held, and attendance by each Board member at those meetings for which they are entitled to attend, is as follows:
* Resigned 22 August 2023
Ensure that between them, the Directors have the necessary up-to-date experience, skills and capabilities
Collectively, the Board has many years’ of experience in the in vitro diagnostics industry with a number of public and private companies. This experience includes areas of immunoassay development, operational supply and logistics, commercial and finance activities. Currently most members of the Board are male and two of them are chartered accountants. There is one female director. The Board remains confident that the opportunities in the Group are not excluded or limited by any diversity issues (including gender) and that the Board nevertheless contains the necessary mix of experience, skills and other personal qualities and capabilities necessary to deliver its strategy. The Chairman fosters a culture during Board meetings that encourages debate and enables any Director to feel comfortable in communicating and explaining alternative viewpoints..
The Board is of the view that it has a balance of experience and skills to enable it to deliver on its strategy. Directors ensure their skills and capabilities are kept up to date including:
- Attending continuing professional development courses as part of a professional qualification.
- Attending industry trade shows and exhibitions to remain up to date with competitor activities.
The Board seeks advice from external advisors where necessary. This includes its nominated advisor/broker in relation to compliance with the AIM Rules for Companies and advice regarding secondary fundraisings. The Board also regularly seeks legal advice in relation to commercial and property matters.
Evaluate board performance based on clear and relevant objectives, seeking continuous improvement
The Board has not undertaken any formal external review of its members’ performance to date. Beneath Board level, members of the senior management team are included in the twice-yearly review process which is carried out across the entire Group.
In reviewing its own performance, the Board is aware of its perception amongst shareholders, both through formal face-to-face meetings and subsequent feedback from these, along with informal discussions which take place from time to time. As Chairman, Simon Douglas invites all Board members to suggest any candidates who they feel may be capable of adding value to the Board as a whole.
Promote a corporate culture that is based on ethical values and behaviours
The Group has adopted the following core values:
- Ask what more I can do
- Take ownership
- Actively support your colleagues
- Be clear in communication
- Celebrate success and have fun together
- Treat others as we would wish to be treated
- Respect the environment we work and live in
- Aspire to be open and transparent
- Take pride in building trust between ourselves and others
- Customer satisfaction is not a department; everyone is responsible
- Listening to customers drives improvement
The Executive members of the Board are very aware of the importance in living up to these core values and in setting examples for all staff to follow.
The core values are highly visible throughout the organisation and are branded on the walls of the buildings as well as being used on company notebooks and pens.
The core values that the organisation promotes are included within recruitment processes as well as within the personal development reviews which all staff undergo twice a year.
Maintain governance structures and processes that are fit for purpose and support good decision-making by the Board
The Board is collectively responsible for defining and implementing a strategy to deliver long-term value to shareholders, but which operates within a framework of good corporate governance and in line with the Board's assessment of risk.
The roles and responsibilities of the various Board positions are as follows:
Chairman – has responsibility for leading an orderly and effective Board and providing overall guidance to other members of the Board to ensure it delivers on its stated strategy. The chair also attends some results presentations demonstrating a level of commitment which is visible to shareholders. The chair is also responsible for overseeing the Group's corporate governance practices to ensure they remain relevant for an organisation of our size.
Non-Executive Director – has responsibility to be independent in judgement and thought and for scrutinising and, if necessary, challenging the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Chief Financial Officer (CFO) to ensure the Group delivers its strategy whilst maintaining acceptable levels of risk. The Non-Executive Directors also provide a sounding block for the Chairman as and when necessary.
Chief Executive Officer – has responsibility for leading the organisation and implementing the Group's objectives in line with its agreed strategy, assessing risks to ensure they are managed and mitigated, safeguarding the Group's assets with appropriate policies and controls, leading an investor relations programme to ensure effective communication with shareholders and to ensure effective communication and reporting between the Executive members of the Board to the Non-Executive members.
The Board has a schedule of matters which it reserves for its review including:
- setting corporate strategy
- approving the annual budget
- reviewing financial performance
- agreeing the renewal of and any new banking/treasury facilities
- approving major items of capital expenditure
- reviewing and approving acquisitions
The Board delegates authority to two committees which operate under terms of reference and include:
The Audit Committee
The Audit Committee is comprised of Jeremy Millard as Chairman and Simon Douglas, and has primary responsibility for monitoring the quality of internal controls, ensuring that the financial performance of the Group is properly measured and reported on, and for reviewing reports from the Group’s auditors relating to the Group’s accounting and financial reporting, in all cases having due regard to the interests of shareholders. The Committee shall also review preliminary results announcements, summary financial statements, significant financial returns to regulators and any financial information contained in certain other documents, such as announcements of a price-sensitive nature.
The Committee considers and makes recommendations to the Board, to be put to shareholders for approval at the annual general meeting, in relation to the appointment, re-appointment and removal of the Group’s external auditors. The Committee also oversees the relationship with the external auditors including approval of remuneration levels, approval of terms of engagement and assessment of their independence and objectivity. In so doing, they take into account relevant UK professional and regulatory requirements and the relationship with the auditors as a whole, including the provision of any non-audit services. RSM UK Audit LLP were appointed in March 2023 to replace Ernst & Young LLP and will be proposed for re-appointment at the forthcoming Annual General Meeting.
The Committee has reviewed the effectiveness of the Group’s system of internal controls and has considered the need for an internal audit function. At this stage of the Group’s size and development, the Committee has decided that an internal audit function is not required, as the Group’s internal controls system in place is appropriate for its size. The Committee will review this position on an annual basis.
The Committee also reviews the Group’s arrangements for its employees’ raising concerns, in confidence, about possible wrongdoing in financial reporting or other matters. The Committee ensures that such arrangements allow for independent investigation and follow-up action.
The Remuneration Committee
The Remuneration Committee is comprised of Simon Douglas as Chairman and Jeremy Millard, and has primary responsibility for determining and agreeing with the Board the remuneration of the Group’s Chief Executive, Chairman, Executive Directors, Company Secretary and such other members of the Executive management as it is designated to consider. The remuneration of the Non-Executive Directors shall be a matter for the Chairman and the Executive Directors of the Board. No Director or manager shall be involved in any decisions regarding their own remuneration.
Communicate how the Company is governed and is performing by maintaining a dialogue with shareholders and other relevant stakeholders
The Company has not previously issued an Audit Committee report but does include a Directors' Remuneration Report for the financial year in this Annual Report.
The Group publishes an annual report in hard copy which is sent to all shareholders on the register as well as publishing current and historical annual reports on its website.
In addition, the Group publishes current and previous shareholder presentations on its website.
By order of the Board
2 August 2023