What are the main concerns for voluntary organisations in tackling the climate crisis?

Author: Nathaniel Spain

On Tuesday 30th January 2024, VONNE co-hosted a workshop and networking event with Community Foundation Tyne & Wear and Northumberland on how VCSE organisations can become more environmentally conscious.

The project coordinator for VONNE’s Going Green Together project, Nathaniel Spain, started the event by sharing his perspective on the needs of small organisations in becoming more environmentally sustainable.

Nathaniel identified three key considerations or areas of concern when addressing the climate crisis. These were expertise, capacity, and what organisations are able to control.


The Going Green Together project has identified that many VCSE organisations feel like they need to gain more knowledge and confidence in how to tackle the climate crisis. However, they might already know more than they think. Organisations are already very conscious of their use of energy and other resources in order to reduce costs. Because resources like electricity contribute the largest proportion of carbon emissions, reducing usage is already a key action to tackle the climate crisis. Recognising this helps organisations realise that they’re already on the way to having an effective environmental strategy. Through sharing tips with peers and using tools like the Going Green Together website, organisations can discover lots of other ways to build their environmental expertise and take action.


Capacity is a familiar challenge when adopting new ways of working. Alongside the important ethical arguments, it’s important to make the ‘business case’ for climate action in the workplace to help justify staff time and other resources invested in becoming more sustainable. Having a strong environmental policy and action plan is increasingly important to meet funding requirements, as well as the requirements of partners who want to make sure they’re working with environmentally responsible third parties. It’s also reputationally important to be environmentally conscientious, particularly when working with young people or attracting younger staff - the climate crisis is a particularly high priority for this demographic. Building expertise in climate action and incorporating this into your core work can also open new funding streams.

Having a trustee with an environmental responsibility at board level helps to keep these considerations in place when decisions are made in how your organisation operates. For everyone throughout your organisation, environmental sustainability shouldn’t be framed as a separate project or area of work, but a working practice with the same importance as health and safety, safeguarding, EDI, or data protection. It’s therefore a shared responsibility, rather than sitting with only one or two members of staff, which means not only are your environmental initiatives more effective, but also that knowledge isn’t lost if the responsible staff members leave.

What can we control?

Lastly, the Going Green Together project has learnt from the experiences of its participants how challenging it can be to reach Net Zero carbon emissions when many activities and their associated emissions are outside our control. If you don’t own your building, you will have a limited ability to make it more energy efficient. If you’re operating in a rural area, you might have emissions tied with transport use which can’t be reduced because of the importance of reaching your beneficiaries.

While it’s important to do what we can to reduce emissions, we can consider using our position within the sector and our communities to have a wider positive environmental impact, which can help balance out these difficult-to-reduce emissions. VCSE organisations are in a valuable position to engage with communities, address their concerns about the climate crisis, encourage cultural change, and help them access the advice and resources they need to take part in climate action. We have a fantastic opportunity to bring about a greener, fairer future through these connections, and together we can make this happen.