Sustainability is off the radar for many charities, says former energy secretary

Sir Ed Davey tells a Fit for the Future Network event that it makes good business sense for charities to embrace environmental sustainability

Sir Ed Davey
Sir Ed Davey

Many charities have allowed environmental sustainability to slip "off the radar", according to Sir Ed Davey, the former energy secretary.

Speaking today at the annual members’ event for the sustainability group Fit for the Future Network, Davey, the network’s chair, said environmental issues were too low on the agendas of many charities and it made good business sense to embrace sustainability.

Fit for the Future Network is a partnership between the National Trust and the sustainable energy charity Ashden. It works with more than 100 different organisations, including the charities Oxfam, the Royal National Lifeboat Institution and Guide Dogs, to reduce their environmental impact.

Davey, who was the Liberal Democrat MP for Kingston and Surbiton between 1997 and 2015, said that by embracing environmental sustainability charities could also improve their financial performance and public trust.

"My job is to convince more in the charity and not-for-profit sector to see the opportunities a green agenda offers – and that’s my challenge to every charity and not-for-profit organisation across the UK," he said.

"For too many third sector organisations, the environment has slipped off their radar. It’s time to wake up and realise that tackling sustainability challenges almost always makes good business sense.

"And by cutting waste, charities won’t just be going green – they will also prove to the public that they can use donations more wisely."

Davey’s comments come after two previous attempts by government to improve the charity sector’s green credentials.

In 2010, a task force of ministers from the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs, the Department of Energy & Climate Change, the Department for Communities and Local Government and what was then Office of the Third Sector published Shaping Our Future, which considered how charities could tackle major sustainability issues such as climate change.

The task force’s recommendations were also endorsed by the coalition government as part of its big society agenda.

In 2007, Ed Miliband, then Minister for the Third Sector, and David Miliband, then Secretary of State for Defra, launched a Third Sector Declaration on Climate Change in which charities pledged to reduce their carbon footprints.

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