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Charities concerned about climate change but just half say it’s a priority for their organisation


Most charities (88%) say they are concerned about the impacts of climate change, according to a report from Charity Digital, but just half say it’s currently a priority for their organisation, with a quarter saying other pressing priorities are taking precedence over more climate action.

The report, Climate Change in the UK Charity Sector, is based on survey responses from across the charity sector, and looks at how charities feel about climate change, whether it is on their agenda, and the action they have taken to tackle it.  

Overall, 94% of respondents to the survey said that the charity sector has an obligation to address climate change.

A concern but not always a priority

Charity Digital found that 88% of charities are concerned about the impacts of climate change with 86% of charity professionals considering environmental sustainability to be a priority for them personally. More than 71% of respondents say the impact of climate change has affected their charity in the past or will do so in the future, while 60% say that climate change is relevant to their charitable purpose.

However, despite this, only 51% said it was a priority for their organisation, with three in ten (29%) saying it was not. Just 52% of charities currently include it within their strategies.

56% of all respondents said that environmental sustainability was a priority for leadership at their charity, with 66% of those in leadership roles saying the same. A fifth of respondents overall however were not sure if it was a priority for their organisation’s leadership and 23% said it was not, with this echoed by 26% of those in leadership roles.

More than a quarter (26%) of charities say they have more pressing priorities which are preventing them from taking more climate action, while 17% blame lack of knowledge and 13% cost.

More findings

28% of charities rated the sector’s efforts at enacting sustainability in their organisations at six out of ten.

65% rated internal sustainability efforts at between four and six out of ten with just 3% giving them full marks.

39% said they have someone responsible for sustainability.

20% offer training on climate change.

Responses varied according to cause. More than nine in ten (93%) environmental charities said they had taken serious action, while among health charities, almost half (47%) of respondents said climate change was not relevant to their charitable purpose. Charities working in the ‘local and community’, ‘family and children’, and ‘health’ fields were the least likely to say they had taken serious action. Domestic aid charities were the least likely to say they had been affected by the impacts of climate change or would be in the future, with no respondents working in the field saying yes to this question.

Key themes

Overall, the report revealed three key themes: 

Charities are concerned about climate change but have yet to take action

There is no universal understanding of environmental sustainability in the UK charity sector

Charities are unclear about the importance of environmental sustainability in their organisation 

Common to these, Charity Digital found, was a “lack of clear communication both within organisations themselves and among the wider charity network about what environmental sustainability means and the concrete actions they can take. While many charities praised the work of environmental organisations, for example, other respondents were not sure what they could do to make their workplace more environmentally sustainable.”

The full report can be downloaded from Charity Digital’s site.

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