COMMUNITY GROUPS, CLUBS, CHARITIES & VOLUNTEERS
What’s sustainability got to do with us?
Unless you’re a conservation or climate action group, there may not be an obvious link between what you do and sustainability, but whatever type of activity you’re involved in, there could be some major benefits from embracing sustainability, for you and your community.
Sustainability is about more than the natural environment: it’s about people and our places, and whether we can all prosper, now and in the future. Have a look at the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. The chances are, at least one or two of these global goals will relate to your aims as a group, club or charity, and no doubt you care deeply about local people and their future.
Thinking about how sustainability relates to your group’s goals can be a great first step, and make for a stimulating discussion between your members, committee or team. Then use the questions below to consider ways you could develop your activities to align with sustainability principles.
COULD OUR ACTIVITIES BE MORE INCLUSIVE AND CARING?
The first step to being sustainable is to be inclusive! Sustainability is all about creating greater equity within and between generations. By involving people with different perspectives, it helps us to be more caring and think about the future.
Many community groups and charities are founded on the ideas of promoting inclusion and diversity, but no matter what you do, there will always be steps you can take to further develop inclusivity, such as:
PROMOTING VOLUNTEERING & INVOLVEMENT AMONG WIDER AUDIENCES
Promote involvement in different places where you could reach people who are currently under-involved/represented, and have a constant ‘get involved’ message on your website and on local noticeboards.
ENABLING EVERYONE AND ANYONE TO TAKE PART
Show through your communications that you’re open to all and welcome diversity among your members/users/volunteers; have a policy (see below) that states you only permit inclusive behaviours and will make reasonable efforts to make adjustments if it helps different people to get involved.
LISTENING TO DIVERSE VIEWS
Being inclusive is founded on listening and understanding, and this can help you be more effective and respond better to local needs. Ensure you’re hearing different perspectives to help develop your plans, and run meetings/discussions/activities in a way that enables everyone to be heard and shape the way forward.
GOVERNANCE AND REPRESENTATIVENESS
Being inclusive may involve looking at how you’re set up and your governance. Does your committee, board or steering group have new people elected to it regularly? Does it have a code of conduct and policies to ensure it’s fair, inclusive and respectful of diverse views? Are steps needed to make sure this committee is representative of the community you serve?
Across your activities, could you take steps to empower and enable local people and diverse groups, to help people achieve their goals on their terms, express themselves and make a different to the community. Is there anything you can do to draw on and amplify the voices of people who may otherwise find it harder to engage with you and the community.
You might find it helpful to draw up, as a group, an inclusion and diversity policy or set of commitments (e.g. ‘we will always take X approach to X / work like this’), which you can then review regularly. This should make clear your expectations that everyone involved will act in an inclusive manner, what you’ll do to ensure anyone can get involved, and any other inclusive ways of working you identify. See this guide for small groups, or NCVO’s advice for charities.
COULD WE ENHANCE THE LOCAL ENVIRONMENT?
Whatever type of activities your group carries out, it will have a range of impacts on the environment, and it’s important to consider and work through these. Again, it’s good to do this collectively and inclusively, considering together as a group all the aspects of what you do. Even if you’re an environmental or conservation group, you may be having negative impacts that are going unnoticed, like people driving to meetings or printing lots of hardcopy materials.
Try running a dedicated meeting on this, or allocate a decent amount of time on your agenda to discuss and record good and bad environmental impacts from different aspects of what you do. It may take several sessions to map everything out and start considering how things could change. You could use our ‘Be the change’ section to support the discussion, considering waste and resource use; transport and travel; energy use; and the extent to which you enable people to connect with nature and each other. Think about your set-up, assets, suppliers, and supplementary as well as main activities: you might be having hidden benefits too, such as a neglected bit of property being a mini wildlife haven (or the opportunity to become one)!
Next, draw up an action plan for reducing negative impacts and maintaining/enhancing good ones. It can help to consider immediate priorities and easy next steps, as well as bigger, longer-term goals. Be ambitious, but realistic too, and agree who will take ownership for what, and when you’ll check back on progress. Some steps may have cost implications: community groups and charities can often access local environmental improvement or climate action funds to help, and/or you may be able to draw on local volunteer/in-kind help.
COULD WE REDUCE OUR CARBON FOOTPRINT?
Following on from assessing your environmental impacts and coming up with an action plan, you could join the many organisations that are putting together a long-term strategy to reduce their carbon footprint and achieve ‘net zero’.
The UK government has committed to net zero emissions (100% below 1990 levels) by 2050, and has brought forward interim targets, committing to reduce levels by 78% by 2035. Your strategy could align with this, or go further faster.
To start, you’ll need to assess your carbon footprint, taking into account all carbon emissions created by your activities directly, and knock-on effects, such as travel to and from them. Try using the Carbon Trust’s calculator for small businesses (only looks at energy use and transport), or Climate Stewards’ tool for non-profits and churches, which includes suppliers, waste and water too. You can also sign up to access free tools for carbon assessment and progress tracking at Julie’s Bicycle – designed for the arts sector, this also looks at local events.
You’ll then need to draw up a strategy for reducing emissions in stages between now and 2035 (or whatever timeframe you’re working to) in each of the key areas you’ve assessed. You can download a free guide to help at Net Zero Club. Book in periodic reviews of progress where you can assess progress, consider what’s working, and what else needs to change.
Plus, sign up for our Grassroots bulletin to hear about what other groups are doing and get access to further tools.
HOW CAN WE SPREAD THE WORD?
Whatever steps you’re taking to be more sustainable, inclusive and climate-friendly, make sure you tell as many people about it: promoting your forward plans and celebrating your successes. This can help encourage others in your area to take positive steps too, and build momentum, while promoting your group and local connections. You may find that other groups and organisations in your community want to speak to you and find out more. Encourage feedback and further ideas.
Be loud and proud about the fact that what you’re doing is all about sustainability, while benefitting the community and its future. To link this to the climate emergency in a way that resonates, you’ll check out this great advice on ‘talking climate’, linked to local issues.
Don’t forget to let Grassroots know about what you’re doing and planning, even if you’re at the start of the journey, including any challenges you have, so we can learn and share more advice with others.
WHY EMBRACE SUSTAINABILITY?
A few of the ways community groups, clubs and charities can benefit include:
INVOLVE MORE PEOPLE
Being sustainable and being inclusive go hand-in-hand, helping you recruit volunteers
Grant providers and corporate sponsors are often keen to see green and inclusive credentials
SHOW YOU CARE
Showing you care about your locality helps you become a more valued part of the community
Being sustainable means thinking about the future, and looking out for the next generation
Doing something different, and making a visible difference to your area, makes great news
HEALTH AND WELLBEING
By addressing sustainability, you’ll also benefit health and wellbeing
Sustainability is all about creating happier, stronger communities
FEEL GOOD FACTOR
As a group, you’ll get great satisfaction and pride from making a difference now and into the future