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Charities keeping quiet about sustainability is pretty dumb in the long-term



To hell with the planet, we’ve got to protect its people!” This isn’t the exact sentence that was recently said to me, but a similar perspective that seems common in many charities and organisations.

Speaking with a staff member of one of the UK’s most well-known charities with a social focus, this theme was dominant. The single-minded aim of the organisation was to assist its core target group. This it apparently does very well and has huge revenues (over £100m annually) yet has a massive hole in its strategic strategy.

By ignoring its own contribution and responsibility to become sustainable in the future (and to encourage others to do the same) the social outcomes it seeks to achieve will be completely undermined by the impacts to the natural environment. These will decimate the economic systems which it depends upon for its income and also the natural systems upon which its target social group rely for their continued existence.

This seems crazy, yet charity after charity suffers the same problem: sustainability blindness. Why?

Their committed staff are extremely focused at tackling the challenges those they represent face. Their donors may not care for sustainability issues and may want all income to be devoted to its core goals. The management and board may be charged with just meeting the needs of their beneficiaries without any awareness of the potential damage they are doing through their operations in the medium and long-term.

Also, it may highlight the other challenge that by highlighting wider sustainability issues they open up their donors to other charity ‘competitors’ eager for donations to support their own goals. Keeping quiet about wider sustainability may from a competitive point of view be a great idea, but from a long-term one it’s pretty dumb.

Such sustainability blindness has to be highlighted and charities called out for this. If you are a donor to any socially-focused charities, then ask them, “Do you have a strategy for achieving sustainability in the future?” If they don’t, then they don’t have their own beneficiaries at heart, let alone yours.

Use your influence and state that unless they illustrate clear change, then you will give your money to a charity that wants to contribute to society and the planet in the future, rather than help slowly damage them.

Charities are just one example; many social enterprises operate similarly. These sectors have to recognise the inconsistency and use their significant leverage to help change the system.

According to the Charity Commission, the charity sector alone has an annual turnover of over £60 billion a year. If that was used to deliver the social goals in a sustainable way, then there would be a massive and even game changing movement.

This would support the organisations providing the goods and services they need and delivering them in sustainable ways. Such a movement may increase costs by a few per cent of turnover, yet if this was considered an investment to enable a future to be one avoiding the massive threats of environmental impacts and social upheavals that would otherwise occur, then it would be money very well spent.

It’s time for the charity sector to begin working together, using its common knowledge and committing to helping become leaders in the wider campaign to ensure the planet can be protected to meet our future needs.

Together it can create a voice and a loud voice, one that becomes heard through the resources it has, including its income, staff, lobbying powers and volunteers. It also has its members and donors, millions of them, each with a trusting relationship ready to listen to the charity as a respected peer.

By channelling the voice of the charities to these people, we have the potential for behaviour change on a massive scale – as well as supporting the mechanisms to enable those people to also reconsider with whom they spend their money, as consumers and investors.

When we get to this stage, we can achieve the transformation of not just the economy, but increasingly society, so that it is switched on to understanding and contributing to a shared sustainable future.

Simon Goldsmith has worked in the sustainability arena for the past 20 years, working in many sectors from campaigning for environmental NGOs, to reducing the impacts of multinational oil and gas companies. He has master’s degrees in both in sustainability leadership and environmental policy and works to help create innovative local solutions and lever ideas for transformational sustainability change. He is currently head of sustainability at the University of Greenwich, helping co-create and deliver their sustainability ambitions and visions throughout the organisation and beyond.

Further reading:

Success means seeing ourselves as part of the bigger system

Sustainability isn’t about being fluffy; it’s about being strategic

We need more people with complete sustainability literacy

The Guide to Philanthropy & Giving 2013

Simon Goldsmith has worked in the sustainability arena for the past 20 years, working in many sectors from campaigning for environmental NGOs, to reducing the impacts of multinational oil and gas companies. He has master’s degrees in both in sustainability leadership and environmental policy and works to help create innovative local solutions and lever ideas for transformational sustainability change. He also explores ways to engage people to connect authentically and passionately to become the sustainability leaders and heroes the future needs.


New Zealand to Switch to Fully Renewable Energy by 2035



renewable energy policy
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Eviart /

New Zealand’s prime minister-elect Jacinda Ardern is already taking steps towards reducing the country’s carbon footprint. She signed a coalition deal with NZ First in October, aiming to generate 100% of the country’s energy from renewable sources by 2035.

New Zealand is already one of the greenest countries in the world, sourcing over 80% of its energy for its 4.7 million people from renewable resources like hydroelectric, geothermal and wind. The majority of its electricity comes from hydro-power, which generated 60% of the country’s energy in 2016. Last winter, renewable generation peaked at 93%.

Now, Ardern is taking on the challenge of eliminating New Zealand’s remaining use of fossil fuels. One of the biggest obstacles will be filling in the gap left by hydropower sources during dry conditions. When lake levels drop, the country relies on gas and coal to provide energy. Eliminating fossil fuels will require finding an alternative source to avoid spikes in energy costs during droughts.

Business NZ’s executive director John Carnegie told Bloomberg he believes Ardern needs to balance her goals with affordability, stating, “It’s completely appropriate to have a focus on reducing carbon emissions, but there needs to be an open and transparent public conversation about the policies and how they are delivered.”

The coalition deal outlined a few steps towards achieving this, including investing more in solar, which currently only provides 0.1% of the country’s energy. Ardern’s plans also include switching the electricity grid to renewable energy, investing more funds into rail transport, and switching all government vehicles to green fuel within a decade.

Zero net emissions by 2050

Beyond powering the country’s electricity grid with 100% green energy, Ardern also wants to reach zero net emissions by 2050. This ambitious goal is very much in line with her focus on climate change throughout the course of her campaign. Environmental issues were one of her top priorities from the start, which increased her appeal with young voters and helped her become one of the youngest world leaders at only 37.

Reaching zero net emissions would require overcoming challenging issues like eliminating fossil fuels in vehicles. Ardern hasn’t outlined a plan for reaching this goal, but has suggested creating an independent commission to aid in the transition to a lower carbon economy.

She also set a goal of doubling the number of trees the country plants per year to 100 million, a goal she says is “absolutely achievable” using land that is marginal for farming animals.

Greenpeace New Zealand climate and energy campaigner Amanda Larsson believes that phasing out fossil fuels should be a priority for the new prime minister. She says that in order to reach zero net emissions, Ardern “must prioritize closing down coal, putting a moratorium on new fossil fuel plants, building more wind infrastructure, and opening the playing field for household and community solar.”

A worldwide shift to renewable energy

Addressing climate change is becoming more of a priority around the world and many governments are assessing how they can reduce their reliance on fossil fuels and switch to environmentally-friendly energy sources. Sustainable energy is becoming an increasingly profitable industry, giving companies more of an incentive to invest.

Ardern isn’t alone in her climate concerns, as other prominent world leaders like Justin Trudeau and Emmanuel Macron have made renewable energy a focus of their campaigns. She isn’t the first to set ambitious goals, either. Sweden and Norway share New Zealand’s goal of net zero emissions by 2045 and 2030, respectively.

Scotland already sources more than half of its electricity from renewable sources and aims to fully transition by 2020, while France announced plans in September to stop fossil fuel production by 2040. This would make it the first country to do so, and the first to end the sale of gasoline and diesel vehicles.

Many parts of the world still rely heavily on coal, but if these countries are successful in phasing out fossil fuels and transitioning to renewable resources, it could serve as a turning point. As other world leaders see that switching to sustainable energy is possible – and profitable – it could be the start of a worldwide shift towards environmentally-friendly energy.


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How Going Green Can Save A Company Money



going green can save company money
Shutterstock Licensed Photot - By GOLFX

What is going green?

Going green means to live life in a way that is environmentally friendly for an entire population. It is the conservation of energy, water, and air. Going green means using products and resources that will not contaminate or pollute the air. It means being educated and well informed about the surroundings, and how to best protect them. It means recycling products that may not be biodegradable. Companies, as well as people, that adhere to going green can help to ensure a safer life for humanity.

The first step in going green

There are actually no step by step instructions for going green. The only requirement needed is making the decision to become environmentally conscious. It takes a caring attitude, and a willingness to make the change. It has been found that companies have improved their profit margins by going green. They have saved money on many of the frivolous things they they thought were a necessity. Besides saving money, companies are operating more efficiently than before going green. Companies have become aware of their ecological responsibility by pursuing the knowledge needed to make decisions that would change lifestyles and help sustain the earth’s natural resources for present and future generations.

Making needed changes within the company

After making the decision to go green, there are several things that can be changed in the workplace. A good place to start would be conserving energy used by electrical appliances. First, turning off the computer will save over the long run. Just letting it sleep still uses energy overnight. Turn off all other appliances like coffee maker, or anything that plugs in. Pull the socket from the outlet to stop unnecessary energy loss. Appliances continue to use electricity although they are switched off, and not unplugged. Get in the habit of turning off the lights whenever you leave a room. Change to fluorescent light bulbs, and lighting throughout the building. Have any leaks sealed on the premises to avoid the escape of heat or air.

Reducing the common paper waste

paper waste

Shutterstock Licensed Photo – By Yury Zap

Modern technologies and state of the art equipment, and tools have almost eliminated the use of paper in the office. Instead of sending out newsletters, brochures, written memos and reminders, you can now do all of these and more by technology while saving on the use of paper. Send out digital documents and emails to communicate with staff and other employees. By using this virtual bookkeeping technique, you will save a bundle on paper. When it is necessary to use paper for printing purposes or other services, choose the already recycled paper. It is smartly labeled and easy to find in any office supply store. It is called the Post Consumer Waste paper, or PCW paper. This will show that your company is dedicated to the preservation of natural resources. By using PCW paper, everyone helps to save the trees which provides and emits many important nutrients into the atmosphere.

Make money by spreading the word

Companies realize that consumers like to buy, or invest in whatever the latest trend may be. They also cater to companies that are doing great things for the quality of life of all people. People want to know that the companies that they cater to are doing their part for the environment and ecology. By going green, you can tell consumers of your experiences with helping them and communities be eco-friendly. This is a sound public relations technique to bring revenue to your brand. Boost the impact that your company makes on the environment. Go green, save and make money while essentially preserving what is normally taken for granted. The benefits of having a green company are enormous for consumers as well as the companies that engage in the process.

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