As a signatory to the Funder Commitment on Climate Change, we recognise that the growing climate emergency is a serious risk to the pursuit of our charitable aims and have made six key commitments. Below, we share an update on our work towards their implementation during 2021.
- Educate and Learn
- We provided initial funding for GFI Hive, an open resource for finance professionals and other stakeholders working to increase private investment in nature restoration, nature-based solutions and nature-positive outcomes.
- Together with the Environmental Funders Network, we launched the Environmental Finance and Learning Fund (more information about the Fund is under ‘Commit resources’), a collaborative fund, which we hope will help contributing funders to learn more about environmental investing, as well as support them to make informed decisions about investing themselves directly.
- We have a system in place for capturing key learning from our work and those of others which we disseminate internally. We also share what we've learned from our funding - along with research or evaluation reports we've commissioned, and key publications from work we fund as part of our insights and learning. For instance, we shared a report we commissioned Cardiff University Water Research Institute to undertake a review of organisations working to restore the freshwater environment across the UK.
- We also regularly highlight the work of our staff and some of the organisations we fund. Recent examples include pieces highlighting:
- The North Sea Project, a partnership of North Sea Wildlife Trusts, working together to champion greater protection of our marine environment and its wildlife.
- Woodland Trust’s work at the Smithills Estate in Bolton to restore nature for both people and the planet, as well as support the local economy.
- The role that peat bogs can play as one of the solutions to the nature and climate crises, and how the UK has a disproportionately high ratio of the global peatland resource.
- The challenges and opportunities of innovative finance models for restoring nature from a series of pilot projects with Devon Wildlife Trust, Moors for the Future, National Farmers Union, The Rivers Trust and Triodos.
- We use our social media channels to highlight key pieces of work by our grantees. A recent example is the work the Food, Farming & Countryside Commission are doing to help the farming community implement flood management solutions.
- We circulate invitations we receive to external presentations and events to our staff and trustees. We do the same with key pieces of research on climate change - GMO’s Race of our Lives Revisited paper has been influential, as has the work of CarbonTracker, CDP and ShareAction.
- We have an annual budget for staff development for those who wish to attend more specific courses and hold lunches for staff with invited speakers, often with a connection to our environmental funding work.
- Commit resources
- We are a longstanding environmental funder, and this has been re-affirmed through our impact focus on Our Natural World as part of our 2020-2025 strategy. The work we do under Our Natural World is focused on contributing to key impact goals in the areas of: preserving and improving species health and habitats, sustainable and ethical food, and clean and healthy freshwater. The proportion of our work which focuses on the environment will increase slightly in the coming years and we have been investing staff resources ahead of implementation. Going forward, where we do give grants and social investments, they are likely to be over longer time periods.
- In 2021, our funding towards our goals in Our Natural World as well as work to address climate change totalled £18.8m. In addition to funding in our priorities for Our Natural World, this includes work that also contributes to our work in A Fairer Future and Creative, Confident Communities – for example: engaging local people in the climate movement, and to diversifying the environment sector. It also includes additional support we provided through Funding Plus, and research we commissioned.
- We are also looking at how we can adapt and use all our tools and working practices as a funder to innovate. For example, we have had a Land Purchase Facility within our social investment allocation for a number of years now and are looking at whether it is possible to scale this offering and allow external capital to participate. We are also committed to supporting unusual and cross sector alliances to tackle environmental issues – through our funding as well as our ability to convene, connect, and commissioning research so that we can better understand the issues. Another recent example is the Environmental Finance and Learning Fund, managed by our social investment team. It was created in response to the need for ‘pathfinder funding’ – early stage, high risk repayable finance – to support and scale a new wave of environmental initiatives. As well as managing the Fund, we will also be providing match funding.
As part of our current Strategic Plan (2020-2025), we made the following commitment: “In everything we do, we are motivated by the need to address the causes and impacts of climate change and to recognise our role in addressing diversity, equity, and inclusion.”
We are currently thinking about what this means across our funding portfolio – including our work towards our other strategic aims: Creative, Confident Communities and A Fairer Future – and are continuing to look for opportunities to support a just transition.
To help us make progress on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) – particularly in terms of addressing the lack of diversity in the environment sector, we are focusing on a range of activities. For instance, we:
- Are proactively seeking out environment organisations led by, and for, communities experiencing racial inequity – especially those whose work links both environmental and sustainability issues with those from marginalised communities. Examples include Black2Nature, CEMVO Scotland, Sheffield Environmental Movement, and Voyage Youth.
- Funded a Wildlife and Countryside Link review of DEI in England and will use it to establish priorities going forward. We also worked with our existing partners SOSuk around developing a DEI disclosure and reporting framework for the sector. This is built on a successful US initiative called Green 2.0.
- Supported our Involving Young People Collective to host a ‘hackathon’ on addressing the lack of diversity in the environment sector.
- Supported work by She Changes Climate towards securing fair gender representation in climate and biodiversity decision-making.
- Steward our investments for a post-carbon future
At the end of 2021, we made a commitment that our investment portfolio will be net zero in terms of carbon emissions by 2040 at the latest. But we believe that the actions we have already taken, and the further steps that we take over the next decade in particular, will be the ones that make the most difference.
Learn more about our commitments and strategy to reaching net zero.
- Decarbonise our operations
We identified a clear need for some baseline information on our operations and completed our first carbon audit of our operations in 2020. The first estimate for the total footprint of our offices in 2019 was 280 tonnes CO2e. In that year, we awarded approximately £40 million of funding to projects and so the footprint equated to approximately 7 grams CO2e per pound of grant funding.
We have been working on ways to improve this measure and are considering our office premises, the activities of our staff and trustees and the supply chain that we have to support both of these.
In terms of short-term actions, travel by staff and trustees naturally fell as a result of the pandemic but we do not intend to return to pre-pandemic levels as restrictions come to an end. We have re-formatted our office, and invested in technology, so that the option for attendees to join meetings remotely will be standard going forward. All our internal meetings are now conducted using electronic papers and file notes and we have reduced significantly the volume of any outgoing post from our premises.
We intend to do more analysis of our office premises, including the consequences of remote working, and also look further at smarter purchasing.
- Report of progress
We are fortunate to have significant resources in comparison to a number of other UK charities and therefore the ability to devote time to sharing our learning with others. We produce periodic reports on our website on lessons learned in different areas of our operations and share all our funding data with 360 Giving.
We take the view that sharing our learning with others so they can respond to the challenges of climate change can be impactful work in itself and our staff are encouraged to do this with peers and industry groups such as ACF (The Association of Charitable Foundations).