New report shows funders’ commitment to tackling climate change in year of COP26

The Association of Charitable Foundations (ACF) has published the first progress report from signatories to the Funder Commitment on Climate Change. The report shows signatories are committed to addressing the challenge of climate change but that the impact of Covid-19 has put pressure on organisations’ climate work.

The Funder Commitment on Climate Change is a high-level framework for foundations to play their part in tackling the causes and impacts of climate change. It was launched in November 2019, and since June 2020 has been hosted by ACF.

The signatories to the Funder Commitment have committed to taking action on climate change in five areas:

  1. Educate and learn about climate change impacts and solutions
  2. Commit resources to tackling and adapting to climate change impacts
  3. Integrate climate considerations within existing programmes
  4. Steward investments for a post carbon future
  5. Decarbonise operations


The sixth and final commitment is to annually report on progress.

The report shows funders making progress across all these commitments but with stronger progress on some. Committing resources came top with 11 funders at an advanced stage and 22 making some progress. Educating and learning about climate change and stewarding investments scored similarly, but with stewarding investments showing a divide with seven funders yet to start and 11 funders at an advanced stage. Stewarding investments had both the highest number of foundations rating their progress at the top level or the lowest level of all the five commitments.

Integrating climate into other work and decarbonising operations showed least progress of the five commitments, but even with these most funders reported either that they were making some progress or were at an advanced stage.

Funders have also been honest about the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. As well as general organisational pressures, many foundations have been providing additional emergency funds to groups that they fund, and to meet wider public need. While foundations are privileged to have financial resources to draw on, some foundations have seen asset values or income fall, particularly those that benefit from public fundraising or a corporate parent. These factors have meant that a number of foundations have not been able to commit the resources or make as much progress on the Funder Commitment as they had hoped during the year, and this is honestly acknowledged in several responses.

The survey was open from 8 February to 5 March 2021. 44 signatories provided responses to the survey in this period. It is important to note that the public commitment by signatories is to report annually on progress, and that only around 30 signatories have been signed up to the Funder Commitment for over one year. With the commitment to public reporting and transparency, signatories are also making public their full responses.

The latest signatory to the Funder Commitment is ICAEW Foundation, bringing the total number of signatories to 60. At the end of 2020, the then 50 signatories had an estimated total annual giving of £351m and total assets of £4,773m.

The UK Funder Commitment is now inspiring action in other countries with foundation networks in France and Spain to develop parallel commitments, and there are also plans for national commitments in other states and a global version. The global version is being developed in the run-up to the UN’s COP26 international climate conference in Glasgow in November 2021.

Joanna Pienkowska, ACF lead on the Funder Commitment and co-author of the report said: “It is fantastic to see this many signatories publicly reporting back on their work on climate, and we’re pleased to see that despite the difficulties of this past year, there’s been great progress across all areas of the Commitment. ACF continues to engage and support signatories in implementing the Commitment by creating a space for learning and exchange.

“The case studies in this report demonstrate that all foundations – whatever their charitable mission – can play a part in responding to the climate threat by acting in their space. We hope this resource will inspire other foundations to join this collective climate work and sign on to the Commitment.”

Nick Perks. Co-author of the report, said: “The funder commitment on climate change framework, begun here in the UK, is sparking interest amongst foundations and philanthropy networks around the world. This report demonstrates that UK signatories have begun turning their pledges into action. In the run up to the COP26 Glasgow climate summit, it’s an ideal time for other foundations to join in with this collective effort”.

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