Climate change

While there is debate over the causes of climate change, there is growing consensus that Earth’s environmental condition has worsened in recent years and that the damage is close to irrevocable. The pace of damage to Earth’s environmental infrastructure has previously been largely under-estimated. The consequences of unmitigated damage include global resource constraints, reductions to global economic output and the inevitable social and political upheaval that would accompany such changes. Sustainability is at the heart of combating climate change.

What are the implications?

  • New weather conditions causing more natural disasters and inhospitable living conditions, as well as increasing insurance premiums.
  • Increased global population movement as large numbers of the world are permanently or temporarily displaced, becoming environmental refugees (see immigration).
  • A growing sustainable energy sector.
  • Global food production affected by changing rain patterns, the effects of which are seen in the financial markets. This could increase food prices.
  • Greater emphasis on environmental responsibility with pressure on the VCS to re-examine practices and policies and demonstrate it is behaving in an environmentally responsible way.
  • Government legislation that imposes regulation on consumer behaviour and the operating context of all sectors or green taxation.
  • Changes in procurement practice at both local and central government level.
  • Increasing ethical consumerism and collaborative consumption and growing disdain for non-sustainable products.
  • Increase in behaviour change campaigns from local and national government to encourage people to follow more sustainable lifestyles.
  • Long term developments in the structure of society as it moves towards a lower carbon future; bringing different ways of living and different needs.
  • Opportunities to help create a better society, with greater wellbeing (see focus on wellbeing) for individuals and communities. 

Moving forward

Much emphasis has been put on individual action to improve people's environmental footprint.

  • Has your organisation considered the impact climate change could have on your beneficiaries? How might your ability to deliver services be affected?
  • How can your organisation capitalise on this enthusiasm to encourage collective action?

Climate change and environmental responsibility is a cross-sector issue. The public is increasingly aware of and vocal about organisations which fail to adhere to the environmental standards they are expected to subscribe to.

  • Do you know what your donors’ environmental expectations of your organisation are?
  • Are you meeting your donors’ environmental expectations of your organisation?
  • Does your organisation understand the impact its services and practices may have on the environment?
  • Has your organisation got the reporting systems in place to demonstrate and communicate this?

Given the likelihood of natural disasters, climates which make areas inhospitable and the associated migration, organisations ought to be planning what impact this may have.

  • How can you shift people’s attitudes to be more receptive to immigrants?

Collaborative consumption is part of the solution to climate change.

  • What can your organisation do to encourage sharing, lending and trading between your staff?
  • What can your organisation do to encourage sharing, lending and trading between your volunteers?
  • What can your organisation do to encourage sharing, lending and trading between your beneficiaries?

Ethical consumerism is a growth area.

  • How can your organisation capitalise on people’s willingness to spend on ethical products and services?
  • Are there ethical suppliers of consumer products and services which your organisation can partner with to promote to your donors? Your organisation would earn a commission on sales generated.

Want to know more?

New times, New connections

Published by: Green Alliance

Date: 2009

Format: Web

What is it? A report exploring the landscape of civil society action on climate change.

How useful is this? It gives an overview of the types of activities underway engaged in combating climate change.

Other comments:

Acting now for a positive 2018

Published by: Forum for the Future

Date: 2008

Format: PDF

What is it? Report depicting four scenarios for 2018 based on the corporate world’s response to climate change.

How useful is this? Useful thought starter for how organisations can prepare for the four scenarios.

Shaping our future: The joint ministerial and third sector Task Force on climate change, the environment and sustainable development

Published by: Defra, Cabinet Office, Communities and Local Government, Department of Energy and Climate Change

Date: 2010

Format: PDF (2.57MB)

What is it? A report by Green Alliance director Stephen Hale examining the failures (and reasons for these failures) in government to act sufficiently on climate change. It also suggests a radical and persuasive new approach to securing this progress revolving around mobilising all arms of the third sector.

How useful is this? This report looks at how the recession has impacted upon government strategy toward mitigating climate change and how in order for us to influence policy change on an issue of this scale we must maximise opportunities for political mobilisation.  It looks at reasons for the failure in government to adequately address and respond to the issue, focusing then on prospects for future change.  Third sector organisations hold the key, the author suggests, to mobilising public support in combating climate change; easily accessible tables and graphs present an overview of how third sector activity on climate change exists today, and how it may look in the future.  The report suggests ways for leadership to raise awareness and engagement and sets out a potential framework for third sector collaboration on all levels.  Overall it provides a good overview of how the politics of climate change may alter in the future, especially in regards to voluntary sector organisations.

Other comments: A think piece on the NCVO website by the author can be found here and provides a well structured overview of some of the topics focused upon in the report.

The Big Response project report

Published by: Global Action Plan, Green Alliance and NCVO

Date: 2010

Format: PDF 325KB

What is it? A report by the three organisations involved in delivering the Big Response project. This project was funded by the Baring Foundation as part of its special intitiative to explore the link between climate change and non-environmental organisations' primary charitable purposes. How does climate change relate to organisations who aren't primarily environmental ones?

How useful is this? The report comes out with three key messages: that climate change will affect beneficiaries across the charity sector; organisations can be galvanised to address the issue in a strategic way and that organisations will need external support for this engagement. The project findings are particularly of interest for environmental organisations that would like to widen organisations' engagement with climate change issues.

The report covers in detail the procedure of the project, which can be invaluable if you are thinking of embarking on something similar.

Other comments: There are four case studies at the end, of the four organisations this project was based around. This is gives an interesting insight into how the system worked and could give you an insight into how useful such a process might be for your organisation.

They also have information drawing from this project to help organisations prepare for climate change. Have a look.

Last updated at 16:59 Fri 25/Mar/11.

Recent comments

Kathryn's picture


Third Sector Foresight

The definite impact of climate change on global population movements (see our driver) has been re-emphasised by Lord Stern in a speech last week. To my mind, this raises the impact global population movements will have on your organisation and those you support. If you're not already thinking about its implications and how you could respond, it's probably worth putting some time in it!

Kathryn's picture


Third Sector Foresight

Threat of climate change highlighted by Director of Oxford University's James Martin 21st Century School

At an Intelligence Squared event recently, (which yours truly was prevented from attending by the winter lurgy) one of the key speakers, Director Ian Goldin, stated his belief

risks will continue to come from nature... The biggest threat is climate change

Find out more about the event 'The World in 2050'.

I'm new to this forum, so apologies if this is not the right way to raise this - but does anyone know of any research on the carbon footprint of the third sector (eg nationally, regionally, sub-regionally), or the ways in which the sector is reponding to the challenges of climate change. (I have found reports etc on all sorts of initiatives - eg declarations, policy statements, campaigns - but can't find any actual reseach on the sector.)

Natalie's picture


Third Sector Foresight

Hi Quentin, this is definitely the right way and place to raise this sort of question! Others on the network will probably be able to help more but for now, here are a few pieces of research on the carbon footprint of the sector and how it is responding to climate change:

  • This blog post on the NCVO website has a rough go at estimating the sector's carbon footprint by looking at emissions per employee using research done by Chris Goodall at on carbon emissions for office based companies.
  • You can also read or download this piece of research commissioned by the Charity Commission into the ways in which charities are trying to be more environmentally responsible.

    Has anyone else come across any other research?

S 's picture


NCVO Web Team

David Kane, from NCVO research team posted something on the subject on his blog:

What's the carbon footprint of the voluntary sector? 19th October 2009

Let's look at this with some quick and easy calculations. I'm not going to claim that this is authoritative robust research, but it might give us an indication of the scale of the sector's contribution to climate change.

The sector needs to think about the skills in has and that it will need in order to ensure that all organisations are able to reduce their impact on the environment as well as take their place in the 'green economy'. Already there are many organisations within the sector who operate in a sustainable way as well as providing a useful service [][1] is one of my local examples. At the same time many organisations in the sector are doing their bit to be more sustainable by developing recycling policies and encouraging cycle schemes etc.

The questions I have include

Do we have the skills to ensure that all organisations are able to assess their environmental impact and find ways of reducing it?

Do trustees know how to ensure that green issues are included in their strategic thinking?

How do we ensure that staff and volunteers have the knowledge to build green issues into projects to ensure a real difference?

Along with this we need to think about the skills needed to enable the sector to take its place in the low carbon industries that are being promoted by the government. We need to promote and develop the work of the sector in these areas and look at the specific skills that are needed and ensure that the sector has access to the learning it needs.

Join the discussion!

How will this affect your organisation? Have you considered it during your strategic planning? Can you share any interesting relevant links?

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