How do you consider climate change in your work? – City Bridge Trust

As politicians and policy-makers struggle to tackle the devastation threatened by global warming, how central is climate change in the work of both environmental funders and those whose objects may not include the natural world, but who nonetheless see it as a top priority? We spoke to members about how they consider climate change in their work.

The sixth article in this series comes from Jenny Field, Deputy Director, City Bridge Trust

This series was first published in Trust & Foundation News.

Our Bridging Divides strategy 2018-2023 aims to turn us from a mission-led organisation to being values-led. Care for the environment is one of our five core values, so is an absolutely key concern in everything we do, but it is not in our objects nor a specific focus of our grant-making.

We have always funded environmental projects, and some of our social investment grants are focused on renewable energy. We also ask applicants across all of our funding programmes what steps they are taking to reduce their carbon footprint. And since 2008 we have been offering free eco audits to charities, whether grantees or not. An independent eco auditor looks not just at a charity’s building, but at behaviours, procurement, travel arrangements and so on. They draw up a report with recommendations, and then return a year later to see what differences have been made.

It is important that charities see the relevance of eco audits to their work, which requires a change of mindset. For example, a homeless charity might say they are concerned solely with resettling their homeless clients, and concern about their carbon footprint could lead to mission drift, for example. The audit helps them realise that improvement of environmental practice, such as reduced energy consumption, is not only of benefit to them but also to their clients. For example, a hostel for homeless people introduced energy efficiency as part of the induction, which in turn would help clients with budgeting once they are resettled.

Another included training in recycling as part of its lifeskills training. The response from organisations has been positive. Relatively small things like reducing room temperature by one degree can help to reduce bills by an average of 10%. The take-up is not massive – 164 since the initiative began in 2009-10 – but it is steady.

The trust is also keen that organisations that receive an eco audit cascade the learning to others. For example, we funded an initiative through MADE in Europe – a Muslim-led movement of young people committed to fighting global poverty and injustice – to support London’s Mosques in becoming greener and more environmentally sustainable, including applying to CBT for an eco audit. Mosques have the potential to act as ambassadors for an environmentally friendly lifestyle. As one of them put it: “If greener policies and initiatives are promoted in Mosques the attendees will notice and it will spread.”

When we first piloted the eco audits, we gave evidence to the Charity Commission for England & Wales, and I believe it did partly influence the subsequent Commission guidance on good environmental practice. If organisations over a certain income threshold had to report on their environmental performance as part of the SORP requirements, that would really help to start shifting the dial.

It is important for us to encourage grantees to see the connections between environment and social action. One example is our support for ‘growing and greening’ projects that bring people together to address environmental concerns, like improving their local park, and at the same time build stronger communities. Another is our funding an Environmental Playworker for three years at Triangle Adventure Playground. Their role is to engage children in planting and growing crops, and in preparing food from the fresh vegetables and herbs they have grown – the children learn vital skills while increasing their knowledge and understanding of the ‘green’ environment and biodiversity.

Climate change is also of importance to our trustee – the City of London Corporation. At our recent Committee meeting we presented a positioning paper on our approach to climate action. We have done quite a lot in this area, but we could do better. We tested 13 ideas, including how we can show leadership, support and advocacy; improve our own climate mitigation measures; and support the delivery of the City of London Corporation’s ambitions to be an environmentally responsible business. We also want to support the Corporation in developing a Climate Action Strategy and in its transition to wholly responsible investments, as outlined in the UN Sustainable Development Goals. The response from the Committee was that they wanted us to progress all of the ideas, and more. The next step is to prepare proposals and costings.

Around 80% of what we do is responsive grant-making, and we use 20% for strategic initiatives – work we ask someone to deliver because we want it to happen, either to complement and add value to our grants portfolio, or because we will learn from it, or the sector will benefit from it.

One of those strategic grants is to ClientEarth towards the salary of a Business Engagement Officer. We started from the premise that disadvantaged communities are particularly impacted by poor air quality in the capital. ClientEarth wants to encourage both a residential and a commercial behavioural shift towards greener ways of travelling around and doing business. This would not only benefit human health but also potentially create economic opportunities for businesses that develop the new products and services needed to improve air quality in London.

Jenny Field
Deputy Director
City Bridge Trust

We support UK foundations and grant-making charities