Climate change and charities – why we need to take action

11 December 2021

Why climate change matters

In November the UK hosted the twenty sixth Conference of Parties on Climate Change, or COP26. Across the media we are seeing an increasing and much needed focus on Climate Change and what it means for people, why it is important, and what will happen if we do not take action to address the impacts of Climate Change now.

All individuals, neighbourhoods, groups, businesses, organisations and countries have a responsibility to take action against Climate Change; and this includes charities. We all use energy and resources, we all have a carbon footprint and we should all be doing what we can in all aspects of life; home, work and social, to reduce our footprint wherever possible. Without everyone making changes and altering what they use and how, the challenges of Climate Change will not be met.

Charities and climate change

We do not work in this sector because we want to make lots of money. We do the work we do because we want to make a difference – doing what we can to create fair, healthy and happy communities for everyone.

However, in this sector it is hard (sometimes impossible) to do what is needed. We can never do enough, we never have enough time, money or resources. So deciding to remove some of our focus and energy away from our vital work, whether that be cancer research, food banks or loneliness prevention, is difficult. But what we do know and understand in this sector is that disadvantage, whether linked to health, finance, education, background or personal experience, has a long lasting and significant impact on people.

Climate change will impact harder and more quickly on those people who are already struggling, and the longer we leave it before taking action the worse it will be. So we all need to start doing whatever we can, now.

The business case

Taking action on Climate Change is not just morally the right thing to do, it is also sensible professionally and from a reputational point of view. Going forward charities can expect donors, supporters, beneficiaries and volunteers to demand more from us. We can expect funders, grant giving organisations and trusts to ask about the environmental impact of our work when applying for funding. Organisations across all sectors are also seeing increasing public backlash against unsustainable practices, such as the ongoing use of single-use plastic for promotional items and charities are not exempt from this.

What to do next

Thinking about climate change and its consequences can be overwhelming and it can be difficult to know where to start. What is important is that if everyone does what they can, even small changes can soon add up.

A good place to start is to find out what your carbon footprint is. You can then see where you are using the most carbon and put in place measures to lower your carbon footprint. You can use a carbon calculator to help you work out your footprint. There are carbon calculators for both individuals and organisations.

Ideas and suggestions for organisational change
  • Appoint a person or a group of people to form a sustainability team, and also get your board or trustees involved.
  • Consider every aspect of your organisation, from the supply chains to the projects you run. Are they all working towards the same goal of sustainability?
  • Draw up sustainability criteria for use when sourcing goods and services
  • Commit to becoming an environmentally responsible organisation, see our template environmental policy for more information
  • Think about adopting energy saving measures in your building; insulation, double/triple-glazed windows, switching to a zero-carbon energy providers, LED lighting or install motion-activated light switches
  • Consider the impact of your facilities; do you have water efficient toilets, how can you reduce wasting water, switch to eco-friendly cleaning products, provide re-usable cups, plates, etc., and recycling and compost bins?
  • Can old or out of date electronics be recycled?
  • Encourage eco-friendly travel alternatives – can you provide incentives for staff to take the train, bus, cycle or walk—rather than driving?
  • Do you allow remote or home working to cut down on travel?

These are just a few suggestions to start you off, depending on the circumstances of your organisation there may also be other changes you could consider.

One of the most powerful ways to support action on climate change is to talk to others about what you are doing and share your knowledge and experiences of making changes in your charity.

For further support and information take a look at our Climate Change Toolkit.

Share your stories

Let us know what you are doing to tackle climate change.