Climate Change and Non-Profits
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Why Should Every Organisation Care about Climate Change?
Addressing climate change can bring benefits to all organisations, including charities. Benefits include:
- Savings costs: Energy efficiency measures and renewable energy investments are great ways for organisations to reduce their energy bills, and address future energy uncertainty. The cost of renewable energy is continuously decreasing, making it an increasingly interesting investment for all organisations, including charities. For the latter, if they cannot invest in renewable energy right away, they can start by implementing energy efficiency measures. This will allow charities to reduce their energy bills. The costs saved through these measures can be put aside for future renewable energy investments.
- Increased staff well-being and productivity: Promoting sustainability in an office environment can do wonders for staff’s health and well-being. Indeed, natural lighting, plants, fresh and clean air, as well as promoting walking and cycling, all contribute to improved health and well-being. Studies have demonstrated that staff in such environments are less likely to take sick days, benefit from better mental health, and take pride in the place where they work. This in turn increases staff productivity. It also positions an organisation to be the employer of choice for potential employees seeking the right fit.
- Brand image and corporate social responsibility: Studies are increasingly showing that consumers want to support sustainable organisations. Climate change is intrinsically linked with various societal issues such as climate justice, social justice, gender inequality, poor education, poverty, and biodiversity loss, enabling charities to link climate actions with their mission. Charities can use climate action to re-brand their image, attract new donors, launch new marketing initiatives using creative storytelling, and align their values with those of their potential donors.
- Future requirements: It is likely that government bodies will enforce more aggressive climate policies, on a local regional national or international scale between 2020 and 2040. For example, the UK has already enshrined carbon neutrality by 2050 in its law, and the Prime Minister announced new bans on diesel vehicles by 2035. These new policies will require organisations, including charities, to change their practices, often at a cost. Instead of waiting for these new regulations, organisations can use forward-planning and future-proofing to ‘green’ their operations, and reduce future implementation costs.
The first steps to address climate change as an organization are:
- Measure your carbon footprint: The first step for any organisation, including a charity, is to measure its carbon footprint and get an understanding of how much carbon emissions it emits annually. At a minimum, charities should focus on emissions stemming from the heating of their buildings, business travels, and any company vehicle fleet. If possible, charities should also consider the carbon impact of their supply chains. For some organisations, it will be important to conduct a third party audit in order to maintain credibility. This is particularly true for larger charities, and/or charities who already focus on environmental and climate issues.
- Develop a climate action plan: Once an organisation knows its baseline of carbon emissions, it can develop a plan to reduce them. That said, organisations must understand what is in their control and influence. Organisations should set realistic targets informed by what they can effectively control and effect. This is particularly important for charities where resources are often tighter than a corporate setting. Charities should not set unrealistic targets that cannot be achieved, which could hinder the public’s trust in the organisation. In general key focus areas for a climate action plan are energy use, transportation, food and supply chain emissions.
- Monitor and report on progress: Monitoring progress is key to accountability. It is also important for organisations to recognise successes and reward staff members for their efforts. Larger charities can consider hiring a third-party monitoring company, to ensure accountability and transparency. Choosing a dedicated climate change officer is also in the interest of all charities. This officer can champion climate action and build momentum.
- Engage in climate change advocacy: Charities are ideally placed to engage in climate change advocacy. Government policy is a strong lever that will be necessary to achieve a low-carbon sustainable future. It is essential that charities support policies and politicians that are actively working to reduce emissions. Charities are also in a unique position as they represent citizens’ voice and other species with which we share this planet. Charities might also participate in advocacy and movement building if their mission and regulations permit it.
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