Open sea

Collaboration and funding are the key to action on the social impacts of the environmental crises

By Liz Gadd 8 November 2023 5 minute read

Most charities want to act on the social impacts of the climate and nature crises. To accelerate action, more collaboration and funding is needed says Liz Gadd, co-lead of the Everyone’s Environment programme.  

In the first year of the Everyone’s Environment programme, NPC and over 50 partners have increased understanding across the sector of the social impacts of the environmental crises. Along the way, we have also identified some common barriers to action.

Here we share some tips on how to address them: 

1. A nominated lead can support charities to find the headspace  

For many charities, finding the headspace to think about the impacts of the environmental crises is a major challenge. That’s why our Everyone’s Environment resources are designed to make it easier for charities and funders to see what the environmental crises means for those you work with and for. Those feeling less able to engage with thinking about the social impacts of the environmental crises include those who struggle to see the links to their cause. For example, some children’s charities are brilliant at protecting children from immediate risk but struggle to create the space to visualise the medium to longer-term risks.  However, a choice between focusing on ‘end of the month’ versus the ‘end of the world’ issues is not inevitable, we can find the win-win solutions for people and the planet.  

Identifying a person or group who will lead your work to integrate environmental action has been a game changer for organisations already on this journey. Your lead can facilitate a conversation about the social impacts of the environmental crises with the people you support, your teams, senior leaders, and trusteesto consider what it means for your mission, strategy, and advocacy. 

‘Young people [and other social groups] are currently telling us they are frustrated by the lack of government action, we don’t want to get to the point where they are frustrated by the lack of charity action.’ 

Graham Duxbury, CEO, Groundwork and lead youth partner on the Everyone’s Environment programme 

2. Collaboration increases impact 

As more and more charities consider their role in addressing the climate and nature crises, there are initiatives (and even new organisations) popping up all over the place. This is a mixed blessing. Whilst accelerated action is urgent, rapidly increasing uncoordinated action comes with risks. At best we risk stalling action as everyone shuffles to find their space in the charity ecosystem and/or we miss opportunities to increase our impact. And at worst we risk charities duplicating effort or undermining each other in policy advocacy. The solution is increasing collaboration. Many organisations feel that they have to ‘get their own house in order’ before reaching out to others, which is not truewe can learn together. Being vulnerable as organisations, particularly in a competitive funding environment, can be anxiety inducing. However, it’s the quickest, easiest, most efficient way to accelerate action as a sector. We particularly need social and environmental charities to collaborate more.  

Crucially, we need to collaborate to raise the voices of the UK’s different social groups. During the first year of the Everyone’s Environment programme, we have been privileged and humbled to learn from the experience and insights of some of the groups most affected by the climate and nature crises in the UK, including: young people, older people, Disabled people, and people from ethnic minority communities. Collaborating with those affected helps to prioritise and shape solutions that work for all, and ensures that policy makers hear the priorities of those most affected. 

This is where collaborations like Everyone’s Environment, and others such as ACEVO’s climate working group, Warm This WinterEating Better, and the Pesticide Collaboration, are critical to our collective impact on interlinked social and environmental issues. Collaborations can share resources and learning, increasing efficiency and effectiveness. Collaborations can make it easier to see the bigger picture and identify gaps. Collaborations are essential for the wide-scale systems change that is required in transition to a healthy, fair and sustainable world. 

‘Environmental degradation is a growing social injustice, driving growing divides between the lives and livelihoods of different communities and different generations. Solving the ecological crisis in a way that heals these social rifts will need everyone to be involved in the solutions.’ 

Richard Benwell, CEO of Wildlife and Countryside Links and environmental co-chair of the Everyone’s Environment programme’s Shared Learning Group  

3. More funding is needed 

Our engagement with people affected demonstrated clearly that people want charities to run programmes that support them to respond to the environmental crises – either by addressing direct environmental impacts or advocating for policy change. To make this happen, charities need funding, especially unrestricted, long-term funding. 

However, environmental philanthropy is insufficient to meet the challenges ahead, accounting for only 6% of funding from UK Trusts and Foundations. And whilst figures are not available, the funding for the social impacts of the environmental crises is even smaller. One indication of this is that a significant amount of funding for the Everyone’s Environment programme itself comes from ‘discretionary pots’ of funding, rather than mainstream, multi-year, long-term funding programmes. Funding needs to focus on addressing the impact of the environmental crises on our strategies, programmes, and advocacy, which is how most charities can make the greatest difference. 

As we move into year two of the Everyone’s Environment programme, we’re calling on organisations to: 

  1. Join usif you’re interested in becoming a partner of the Everyone’s Environment programme get in touch. 
  2. Talk about the social impacts of the environmental crises with your teams, senior leaders, and trusteesconsider what it means for the people you support, your strategy, and your advocacy. Our publications and events can help you. 
  3. Increase funding for charities to act on the social impacts of the environmental crisesif you’re a funder, we can help you to explore where you might be able to support the cause. Please join us at our webinar looking at how funders should respond to the social impacts of the environmental crises. And if you’re a charity, talk to your funders, ask what they are doing and how they can help you. 

‘Join us because together we can pull our experiences, resources, expertise to make change’  

Debs Mccahon, CEO Woodcraft Folk and Youth Strand Partner


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