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Funding environmental issues, armed with research



Whatever your philanthropic passion is, the chances are it will not be immune to the environmental threats that affect us all, write Florence Miller and Jon Cracknell.

This article originally appeared in Blue & Green Tomorrow’s Guide to Sustainable Philanthropy 2014.  

Let’s start with the good news: according to recent research from the Environmental Funders Network (EFN), UK trusts and foundations are giving increasing amounts of money to environmental work after three years of declining funding.

In 2012, in fact, the combined value of UK philanthropic grants to environmental issues reached its highest point in the last 10 years. That figure, though (and yes, this is the alarming news) was £112m. That’s enough to buy just one of the two Van Gogh sunflower paintings currently exhibited at the National Gallery – should you wish to view that painting through your scuba mask after the sea levels rise.

We jest. EFN aims, through research and events, to make the case that environmental issues should be the concern of all donors. Whether your passion lies in the arts, education, human rights, health, or development, the issues you care most about will be affected by threats to the environment – be they air quality affecting children’s ability to learn, climate change putting developing communities at risk or soil erosion threatening food supplies. So-called environmental issues are, at their heart, human issues that affect us all.

To help donors to environmental causes better understand the landscape in which they are operating, EFN undertakes Where the Green Grants Went research biennially, tracking not just the total amounts of philanthropic funding going to environmental issues but identifying funding gaps in terms of issues and geographies. This year’s report, which analyses nearly 6,000 environmental grants from UK foundations and the National Lottery, also looks at the distribution of public sector grants for environmental initiatives.

Photo: leenapics via

In addition to this detailed analysis of the ‘supply side’ of the environmental grants market, EFN recently published Passionate Collaboration?, which examined the ‘demand side’ of the market by surveying the chief executives of leading UK environmental organisations about a range of issues, including how they allocate their resources, the approaches and skill-sets they feel need more attention, and the challenges and opportunities they see for the sector.

One hundred and forty chief executives of environmental organisations responded to that survey, and Passionate Collaboration? highlights in particular the significance and value of philanthropic grants for environmental organisations when compared with other forms of income.

These reports represent groundbreaking and, we believe, unique research that can arm donors with more information than has ever been available about the state of a particular sector. They provide new insights into the environmental movement, highlighting funding gaps, sector priorities and opportunities for both environmental organisations and their funders.

Findings included the fact that the share of philanthropic grants directed towards systemic drivers of environmental harm, such as over-consumption, or trade and finance policies, is vanishingly small, constituting just 2% of total funding across the two years studied in the report. International comparisons and previous EFN reports show that these issues consistently attract the least funding from foundations around the world, despite foundations being better placed than other grantmakers to support work of this kind.

Indeed, the lottery and public sector programmes within the UK are even less likely to fund work tackling the systemic drivers of environmental harm: across all lottery programmes that fund the environment, just 0.8% of funding was directed towards consumption and waste issues, and not a single grant was made on trade and finance issues.

There is a gulf between the scale of investment that is needed and the ability of grantmakers like the lottery and public sector to meet that need, creating a clear role for private philanthropists to lead the way on innovative solutions to these systemic issues.

Photo: Darren Deans via

Turning to climate change, across the last decade the share of UK environmental philanthropy grants directed towards that cross-cutting issue has steadily increased, reaching 25% in 2012, up from just 9% in 2007. Yet despite this growth, over the two years examined by Where the Green Grants Went 6, philanthropic funding for climate mitigation amounted to just £44.8m – enough to buy one leg of footballer Gareth Bale following his world record-breaking transfer to Real Madrid.

Passionate Collaboration? shows that systemic environmental problems are also a low priority for many environmental organisations. Only £5.7m or 0.6% of the total annual spend by the groups responding to the survey goes towards air, noise and water pollution, even though the evidence suggests these forms of pollution cost Britain more than £10 billion a year in healthcare costs and together generate more complaints than any other environmental issue.

The survey results also dispel the myth that environment groups are full of radicals. For better or for worse, only 1.2% of the surveyed organisations’ expenditure is spent on activism towards government or corporations, and less than 3% of their expenditure is directed towards getting people to behave differently.

Foundation grants accounted for just 10% of the total income of the 140 environmental organisations surveyed in Passionate Collaboration?, but those organisation’s leaders highlighted the irreplaceable roles that grants from trusts, foundations and individual donors play in supporting the field.

Chief executives told us that they really value the unrestricted funding (i.e. funding to cover their operational costs as well as their programmes) and ‘patient’ capital to their organisations that grants provide. In addition, they appreciate their smaller administrative burdens relative to other sources of funding and the freedom with which they provide organisations to challenge the status quo.

Experienced grantmakers interviewed for Where the Green Grants Went also highlighted the importance of philanthropic capital, arguing that donors like themselves are arguably much better placed than any other types of funders to take risks and to support new and unproven ideas, being answerable to no one but themselves.

Chief executives from environmental organisations echoed the need to break out of tried and tested approaches, but expressed the challenge of doing this when trapped on a ‘hamster wheel’ of day-to-day fundraising and management. Funders could help provide space for reflection and joint conversation to address this challenge.

We hope that donors will find both Where the Green Grants Went and Passionate Collaboration? useful resources as they develop grantmaking strategies. Whatever causes you care about most deeply, a healthy environment underpins them all.

Florence Miller is the co-ordinator of the Environmental Funders Network and Jon Cracknell is a director at Goldsmith Family Philanthropy.

Featured image: Timo Balk via

Further reading:

Ben Goldsmith on fixing the environmental crisis through philanthropy

Figures suggest UK environmental group membership at 4.5m

Sainsbury family’s £165m charity donations top Sunday Times Giving List

We need to put ethics at the core financial heart of charities

The Guide to Sustainable Philanthropy 2014


New Zealand to Switch to Fully Renewable Energy by 2035



renewable energy policy
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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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