Our Achievements

Over the years, the Good Funeral Guide has had many achievements, influencing and bringing about change, as well as bringing like-minded people together.

It’s only occasionally that we look back and realise how far we have come, so we thought we should try and capture some of the highlights for posterity.

In the beginning

The first tentative steps of the Good Funeral Guide were taken when Charles Cowling, GFG creator and founder, wrote his first blog post on July 7th 2008. He soon got into his stride, writing and publishing thousands of posts about all aspects of what he called funeralworld, before stepping back and handing over to Fran in 2016.

Among his many achievements, Charles was responsible for setting up the unique Good Funeral Guide Accreditation Scheme, which has evolved over the years to become the gold standard for assessing excellent funeral directors and natural burial grounds.

Charles’s incisive, intelligent and outspoken voice echoes down through the years, challenging poor practice, going into battle with individuals and organisations alike without fear, often edging perilously close to legal battles but always somehow staying just on the right side of the law as he called out charlatans and liars, avaricious companies and shady organisations.

Charles was –  and remains – a hero who is responsible for changing the landscape of British funerals as we know them. 

The Awards

Charles (along with friend Brian Jenner) was responsible for creating The Good Funeral Awards, the innovative awards celebrating the best in the funeral sector, which first took place in Bournemouth in 2012 as part of the Joy Of Death Festival.

The Good Funeral Guide ran the awards for six years, before deciding in 2018 that it was time for collaboration rather than competition, stating at the time:

We feel that the role of the GFG is done when it comes to awards within the funeral industry. We want to concentrate on what we think essential. Reaching out from inside the funeral bubble of talking to each other about each other and actually talking to the people who matter most. The public.’

The Good Funeral Guide withdrew completely from anything to do with the awards in 2018, and have no association with them under their new ownership.


After Charles stepped back, Fran and the directors were determined to follow his pioneering footsteps and continue to hold the powerful to account.

It was in this spirit that, in 2017, we took a strong stand against a development of a funeral franchise business by a hospice (in conjunction with a crematoria company).

We were vocal and vociferous about the folly of this plan. We published our severe misgivings in a number of blog posts, and we also wrote individual letters to trustees of every single hospice in the UK, warning them against following the lead of St. Margaret’s Hospice in Somerset.

Thankfully, it seems, our warnings were heeded. No further hospices took up the invitation to open a funeral franchise, and St. Margaret’s Hospice Funerals operated at a loss for several years before finally closing in 2023.

Speaking and sharing

We have attended numerous industry events over the years, speaking and presenting at many of them, including the International Work Group on Dying, Death and Bereavement, the National Celebrants Convention, The Institute of Cemetery and Crematorium Management’s Learning Convention and The National Funeral Exhibition, among others.

We have also organised events ourselves, starting with ‘Going Green’ at Brookwood Cemetery in 2018, where we celebrated 25 years since the first natural burial ground in the UK was opened.

Ken West, pioneering champion of natural burial who opened the first site in Carlisle in 1993, planted a tree and gave an inspirational talk, and attendees were able to learn about natural burial as the best sustainable funeral choice..

Influencing policy

We have had a seat at the table at the Ministry of Justice ‘Burial and Cremation Advisory Group’ for many years, and continue to attend these meetings where government policy is discussed with representatives from all parts of the funeral and bereavement sector.

In 2019, having contributed significantly to the Competition and Markets Authority’s (CMA) Market Study into the funeral sector, we organised and hosted a meeting with  progressive funeral directors for the CMA Funerals team as they undertook the subsequent Market Investigation. This enabled the CMA to hear directly from inspiring practitioners and to understand many of the concerns we share.

The CMA’s comprehensive final Market Report was published the following year, with the Funerals Market Investigation Order published in 2021.

Inspiring the inspirers

The same year, we ran Be Better, a pioneering gathering of the clan, where funeral practitioners of all kinds from around the UK gathered in a theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon to listen to a series of inspirational speakers. 

A screening of Dead Good Film finished the day, which was widely acknowledged as one of the best work related events any had attended.

Changing the look of funerals

The advent of the pandemic in 2020 meant that, like everyone, we paused normal activity. The shock of the death of Fran’s long term  partner (and husband of just three weeks) from Covid-19 later that year meant that 2020 was a quiet one for the Good Funeral Guide.

By 2021 though, there was momentum again, and in the autumn, with the help and support of members of The Good Funeral Guild, we organised and funded an extraordinary photoshoot, with seven staged funerals performed on a Sunday at Mortlake Crematorium in  London. 

Our goal was to change the way funerals are depicted in the media, and we made the professional images available free to use by anyone, anywhere on Unsplash as well as on our own website.

Within months, our photos had been viewed millions of times, and downloaded thousands of times. We are always delighted to be notified of one of our images illustrating another article or publication – we wanted to offer the public a different visual cue of what a funeral looks like, and we are really proud to have been successful in achieving our aim.

Drama and discussion

In 2022, we hired space at Alexandra Palace in London and put on a performance of performer, author, celebrant and natural burial ground owner Liz Rothschild’s one-woman show ‘Outside the Box’.

The thought provoking and deeply moving performance was followed by Liz reading some excerpts from her most recent book and then by a Q&A session interacting with the audience.

Focusing on self care

In the summer of 2023, we were delighted to welcome Zenith Virago, patron of the Good Funeral Guide and internationally renowned educator in a holistic approach to dying, death and bereavement, on one of her rare visits to the UK.

Zenith led a one-day GFG workshop in London in June entitled ‘Exploring, Embracing and Working with Death in a more holistic and sustainable way’’ which attracted attendees  from all over the country.

The following day, we hosted a second event, with Zenith and author and undertaker Rupert Callender in conversation with GFG director Isabel Russo, at Conway Hall in London. This rare opportunity to hear from these two radical leaders in funeralworld was appreciated by  all who attended and who watched online.

Focusing on celebrants

As one of the founding organisations that formed the Funeral Celebrancy Council, we were very much involved in the collaborative work that created the ground-breaking Funeral Celebrant Accord.

The Good Funeral Guide has continued to fund and maintain the Funeral Celebrancy Council website, and we are reviewing the Funeral Celebrant Accord and the Checklists to ensure they are up to date.

We are in discussions regarding the future retention of The Accord under the umbrella of the Good Funeral Guide now that the Council’s work has  been completed.

Spreading the word internationally

In November 2023, Isabel and Fran were invited to take part in the K Smrti Dobry Festival in The Czech Republic.

This unique, four day festival attracts around 400 delegates from all over Europe, and it was a wonderful opportunity to spread the word about the progressive funeral movement in the UK.

Working with translators, Fran and Isabel delivered a talk and discussion  to  a large audience in the auditorium, and led a half day seminar and a two day workshop. The reaction from participants was overwhelmingly positive.

Creating lasting change

In the Spring of 2024, inspired by one of our Recommended funeral directors (whose idea this was), we convened a working group of funeral directors from the Good Funeral Guild to draft a completely new Code  of Practice for the funeral sector, one which has been written entirely in the public interest.

This document is currently with the Ministry of Justice Burials, Cremation and Funeral Sector Policy team, as they prepare for a public consultation on regulating the funeral sector expected in the summer of 2024.

Recommending the best

With all our achievements, our extensive experience and our years of immersion in observing the world of funerals, we are perfectly placed to recommend the best practitioners.

We continually review and extend our accreditation criteria to ensure we are looking at every element involved in best practice, and we are delighted to now be accrediting natural burial grounds that apply for recommendation by the Good Funeral Guide, following the same rigorous process as we use to accredit funeral directors.

We only recommend companies that we would have no hesitation choosing for ourselves or for someone we love.

We’d love your support

As a Community Interest Company, the Good Funeral Guide exists to benefit the community and to fulfil a social purpose. We rely on donations and goodwill to continue to do our work.

If you find our website helpful, please consider making a donation to help keep us going. 

 And if you’d like to support us while joining a community of like-minded people, why not consider joining the Good Funeral Guild?