Research reveals climate change concerns for charity leaders

11 March 2024

Research from Ecclesiastical has found that three quarters (75%) of charity leaders are concerned about the impact of climate change on their charity.

The findings from the specialist insurer’s third Charity Risk Barometer reveal, climate change and its impact on the sector is a major concern for charity leaders.
Ecclesiastical’s Charity Risk Barometer is an in-depth study exploring the immediate and emerging risks facing the charity sector. Over 250 charities were surveyed and asked about the issues affecting their charity they were most concerned about. 
With a backdrop of the cost-of-living crisis and spiralling costs caused by inflation, the main challenges facing charities related to financial pressures. However, concerns over the impact of climate change ranked not far behind.

Climate Impact

When asked how concerned they were about the impact of climate change on their charity, three in four (75%) said they were concerned with nearly one in five (19%) of those very concerned.
The greatest concerns cited by charity leaders were the financial impact (56%), the impact on service users (51%), storm damage to property (33%) and closures as a result of extreme weather (30%).
Almost a quarter (24%) said they were worried about the potential impact on staff safety with one in five (21%) were concerned about flooding – an issue that has reared its head during a stormy winter season where around 2,000 properties were flooded across the UK during Storm Henk.

Proactive Steps

Charities are taking proactive steps to help tackle climate change themselves, in particular reducing their carbon footprints.
More than two in five (44%) of charities said they had made energy efficiency changes, with a third (34%) reducing their use of single use plastic in the workplace. 
Using more energy efficient office spaces (27%), switching to renewable energy suppliers (21%) and only using suppliers with good green credentials (16%) were some of the other steps being taken.
Only one in five (19%) charities reported that they were not taking any steps to reduce their carbon footprint, however this increased to almost half (46%) when asked about their plans to be Net Zero.
When asked why they had no plans in place to hit Net Zero two in five (40%) said they had no time or resource to devote to it, while over a third (35%) cited a lack of knowledge and a quarter (25%) were concerned about the costs associated with making the move.

Support for charities

Laura Carter, Customer Segment Director at Ecclesiastical Insurance, said: “These are challenging times for charities and it’s absolutely understandable that sustainability and Net Zero are not at the top of priority lists. But acting on climate change is a responsibility we all share and there’s a great deal charities of any size can do to reduce their carbon footprint, with either a small investment or no financial outlay at all. In many cases, sustainable measures take little more than a good plan and an organisation-wide commitment to seeing it through.
“We want to support charities through all of the challenges cited in our Charity Risk Barometer. As a leading insurer of charities in the UK our ambition is to be a strategic partner to the charity sector. Our research and the resources we have available can not only help customers identify and manage their risks but also deliver solutions for the longer term. Our message to charities is that we are here to help them navigate this new normal, they don’t have to face these challenges alone.”
Ecclesiastical Insurance offers support and risk management guidance to charities concerned about the impact of climate change on their organisations – including flooding and storm damage.
Ecclesiastical’s parent company, Benefact Group, also offers funding to charities through its annual Movement for Good Awards – including £5,000 grants to charities working to protect the environment.
One suggested starter point for charities is to begin measuring their carbon footprint. Almost three in five (59%) said that they don’t measure their carbon footprint, putting them on a back foot when looking to make positive changes.
To get started on their carbon footprint reduction plans charities are encouraged to use online services to measure the current footprint to build a baseline and help to set targets.
Among the charities already taking positive steps is Greener and Cleaner – a sustainable living charity based in Bromley. 
Clare Searle, Chief Strategy Officer at Greener and Cleaner, said: “Our advice for charities when it comes to the environment is to just do something; don't try to do everything. First, find out where you are now, so you can measure improvement over time.
“There are online services that help you roughly measure the footprint of your organisation. The result doesn't have to be completely accurate - it’s a starting point. Make it visible to stakeholders and service users: this is where we are, this is where we aim to be. Visibility and honesty are key.”