Melting ice

Do you know what the climate and nature crises mean for your strategy?

By Liz Gadd 1 August 2023 5 minute read

Every person and every cause in the UK will be affected by the environmental crises – nowhere and nobody is immune. The climate and nature crises are not only a threat to be addressed, they’re also an opportunity to build a happier, healthier, and fairer society for all. How can social charities and funders start to explore the strategic implications of the environmental crises for the people they work with and for? 

Here are five key things to think about as you develop, refresh, or review progress of, your strategy: 

1. What are the direct impacts of the environmental crises on the people you support? 

It can be hard for social charities and funders to know what the environmental crises means for them, which is why NPC is working with over 50 partners through the Everyone’s Environment programme to explore how different social groups in the UK will be affected by the climate and nature crises. You can read about how young people, people from ethnic minority communities, and older and Disabled people will be impacted on our website and sign up to NPC’s newsletter for further briefings as they’re published.  

The direct impacts of the climate and nature crises are wider and deeper than many often realise, as links are not always obvious. For example, if you’re working to prevent knife crime or domestic violence, you’ll find that societal violence increases with temperature. The UK is particularly at risk from heatwaves, with predictions that summer temperatures and extreme hot days could rise up to 50% faster than the average rate of global warming. This will have direct implications for your charitable mission in the coming years. If you’re supporting families experiencing infertility, you’ll find that air pollution is affecting the development of babies in the womb from as early as the first trimester of pregnancy, as well as future fertility. And a child is born into dangerously polluted air every two minutes in the UK. Whatever cause you care about will be impacted by the climate and nature crises – how are the people you work with and for affected? 

 2. Are environmental policies benefiting the people you serve?

How people are impacted by the climate and nature crises relates to how society chooses to respond, as much as the direct impacts themselves. For example, if you’re working on issues of unemployment, education, training, or poverty, those you support will have a vested interest in the transition to more green jobs. Girls and young women are less likely to study STEM subjects that would prepare them for many green jobs, and it’s possible that we may see a ‘lost generation’ of young people who enter the workplace before the education and training system has evolved to take account of changes in the jobs market. For more information, see the Everyone’s Environment briefings listed above. How will the policy response to the climate and nature crises help or hinder the causes you support? 


Embedding the social impacts of the environmental crises into your strategy

Join Liz Gadd to explore how to embed the social impacts of the environmental crises into your strategy

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3. What skills, assets or networks do we need to utilise to address the environmental crises? 

On reflecting about the impact of the environmental crises, your programmes may not change considerably. However, you may have skills, assets or networks that could be repurposed to support environmental challenges. Perhaps you already work with social groups who will be greatly affected and could help to raise awareness through your programmes. For example, according to research by the British Read Cross, people aged 75+ tend to underestimate their risk level, with over half (57 per cent) saying they do not consider themselves to be “vulnerable” to the impact of heatwaves, despite being at significantly higher risk. Therefore, charities supporting older people have a particularly important role to play when it comes to raising awareness.  

If you’re a social funder, you might consider broadening your grant-making criteria to include supporting the social impacts of the environmental crises. Or offering ‘funder+’ support to your grantees, supporting them to access the information needed to consider how those they work with and for will be impacted.

4. What is your role in the ecosystem?

Whilst collaboration is not always easy, and often not easy for charities to fund, now more than ever we need to think systemically about our response, as a sector, to intertwined social and environmental issues. As a social charity, do you understand your place in the wider ecosystem in relation to the climate and nature crises? Where you might collaborate with other social charities to reduce duplication of effort, or with environmental charities to amplify each other’s messages? Please reach out to get involved in our Everyone’s Environment programme if you agree that we need to work together better to drive forwards progress, for people and planet, as a sector.  

5. You don’t have to ‘get your own house in order’ before you can make an impact 

Many social charities and funders feel that they need to ‘get their house in order’ before feeling they have legitimacy to speak on environmental issues. Often this is a focus on greening operations. This is, almost always, not the greatest impact you can make. Whilst every energy supplier decision and printing preferences set up counts, it’s small fry compared to the impact you can make through your mission and programmes. Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good. 

When you do consider your small contribution to the bigger transition of a post carbon economy, there are a wealth of resources and support available: Going Green Together, Growing Climate Confidence, Fit for the Future, and SME Climate Hub; DivestInvest, Share Action, and the Funder Commitment on Climate Change in the UK, and ACEVO’s climate and environmental leadership principles to name but a few. Funders new to environmental issues may wish to start with NPC’s ‘Environmental Philanthropy – Why social issue funders need to get involved’.  

Funding the time and resources for social charities to embed environmental action into their strategies is a critical way that social funders can support the sector, alongside increased knowledge sharing and collaboration between social and environmental charities. 

If you’re developing your strategy, NPC can help, please get in touch to explore your options. 

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