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Environment funding: progress through partnership

Growing Together Levenshulme watering pumpkins

Back in April this year, we shared the news that we were one of 55 signatories to the Funders’ Commitment on Climate Change. We embarked on a review of our processes, policies and practices as a Trust to maximise our impact on environmental issues – including but not limited to, climate change.

Now in the midst of COP26, we are inspired to return to our goals and assess the progress that has been made, as well as reflect on how our thinking has developed and continues to do so.

The group of 55 funders is now represented as a member of the international #PhilanthropyforClimate movement, including 350 foundations. The appetite amongst funding organisations to act has grown exponentially, and seemingly, in line with a realisation that the potential for change is also elevated when we join together as a movement.

Progress against the Pledge

Here at the OCT, the last six months have seen us progress the following elements of the original Pledge: 

  • Educating ourselves about the causes and solutions of climate change through webinars, think pieces, podcasts and conversations with specialists in the field, generous with their knowledge and time to help inform decision making and direction.
  • Committing resources to accelerate work that addresses the causes and impacts of climate change, such as our support of the Big Give’s inaugural Green Match Fund campaign. This resulted in us joining other funders to raise £1.8m in grants to 112 environmental organisations during the week-long campaign. Individually we made first time gifts to eight environmental organisations. 
  • Beginning to relocate our investments towards ESG-only funds and social impact investment opportunities. ‘Purpose-led investing’ signifies an important shift – helping to sustain and develop social projects, as well as the Trust’s future giving. 
Environment action by non-environment charities

As a small, agile Trust team, our own operations are fairly low-carbon although there is always more we can and will do. We have shared an expectation with our grantholders that we expect them also to be conscious of their contribution to climate change, and engaged in tackling it within their sphere of influence. We also hope that these conversations with diverse grantholders will help us better understand what a fair and lasting transition to a post carbon society looks like, and what our role is in this.

Funding in partnership

Regarding our environmental funding budget, we believe it is important that we focus where there is greatest or under-recognised need, where we have experience as a Trust team, and where we believe we can demonstrate change. For us this has concluded in a renewed focus on soil health, biodiversity, equitable access to quality food, and connecting people to nature.  We continue to keep these priorities under review, but for the time being we believe they reflect current concerns in a way that is appropriate to us.

During the last 12 months, we have been looking at our grant activity more than ever through the lens of ‘adding value’. We continue to develop the Funding Plus programme in partnership with Bruntwood, focusing much of this work on environmental projects. Bruntwood’s own sustainability agenda is being well developed and we are keen to share this expertise with our grantholders. 

Some new collaborative projects have begun to emerge from this, such as a comprehensive energy review of a cultural organisation; a solar PV project with a local school; and a strategic, commercial review of an environmental organisation to establish it as a sustainable, going concern. Updates on these will follow, and we hope will demonstrate that sharing expertise ensures our funds work as hard as possible and result in the most impactful grantmaking.

Louise Magill