Eight in 10 charities do not have a net zero objective, according to a recent survey by Charity Finance Group. Only 14% currently report on their carbon emissions.
However, 37% of charities have had sustainability discussions with trustees.
Why is there a significant discrepancy between net zero talk and action in the non-profit sector?
Here are some of the commonly cited obstacles:
- Difficulty understanding practical changes to make
- Cost of changes, particularly related to property
- Linking net zero strategy to charitable objectives
- Communicating the need to stakeholders
- Accessibility of relevant case studies and best practice examples
While here are some of the biggest reasons to commit:
- Investors are divesting from carbon intensive sectors and seeking out net zero investments
- Policymakers and governments are becoming increasingly net zero focused
- Talent is increasingly demanding climate action
- Consumers are opting for more sustainable products and causes
- Activists are targeting emitting sectors
Net zero can be daunting for charities to tackle on top of other responsibilities. However, it should be considered as an integral part of a ‘levelling up’ agenda – providing an opportunity to rethink your business model with significant benefits.
Let’s look at how charities can act.
Reduce Direct Emissions
Direct Greenhouse Gas Emissions come from sources that are owned or controlled by your organisation. These most commonly include fuel combustion, company vehicles, and fugitive emissions. Measuring and reducing these in-house energy sources is the best place to start your net zero ambition.
When you start calculating you will need a base year. This is the year you decide reductions start and progress will be managed against. It should be no more than 2 years back in time. Set a target within 3 months of making your commitment and decide on your target net zero year.
Reduce Indirect & Value Chain Emissions
Value chain emissions include all emissions outside of direct organisation control. These usually account for the biggest share of a company’s footprint: there is most to lose and most to gain. According to environmental non-profit CDP, a company’s value chain emissions can represent 70-80% of total emissions.
Value chain emissions include both upstream and downstream activities. These include purchased goods, supplier materials, raw material extraction, shipping and logistics, and end-of-life disposal.
7 practical steps
Here are 7 practical steps to help you kick-start your net zero strategy:
- Appoint a Net Zero Manager – someone in the team to be accountable for emissions and reporting
- Map out all your emissions – highlight energy “hot spots” i.e., biggest emitters so that you can systematically reduce
- Chart your net zero pathway with interim targets – be accountable
- Start with “low-hanging fruit” – quick wins such as transitioning to renewable sources and retrofitting
- Set up procurement guidelines and a code of conduct for your suppliers – explore partnerships with net zero suppliers
- Disclose your charity’s net zero plans and progress in annual reporting – be transparent, evaluate, and course-correct
- Collaborate with other charities to strengthen and align objectives
There will undoubtedly be tough decisions to make. In some cases, you may have to spend more.
But charities who commit to net zero will benefit from long-term competitive advantage and enhanced organisational value. As well as the urgent moral imperative, net zero makes good business sense.
- Calculate your organisations’ carbon footprint:
- Discover a clearly defined path to reduce emissions:
- The Carbon Trust Route to Net Zero Standard is the only certification that guides and supports organisations towards net zero: