Charities and Net Zero

Charities and Net Zero

Charities and Net Zero

The Climate Change agenda has gathered pace over the past few years with nations setting targets to reach net-zero carbon emissions.

In the UK, that target date has been set for 2050, with ambitious goals for reductions over the coming decades.

This has consequences for government, public sector bodies and businesses. While there has been significant progress in goal setting and active carbon emission reductions across business and the public sector, the charitable sector has been slow to adapt.

While the sector’s emissions pale in comparison compared to those of the private and public sectors, charities still have a significant contribution to make when it comes to reducing emissions.

What is net-zero?

Net-Zero, in effect, means that any greenhouse gases that are released into the atmosphere are balanced out by removing gases from the atmosphere. In reality, this means organisations making significant reductions in the greenhouse gases that they produce with the small amount that remains being offset through a credible offsetting scheme.

Many businesses and public sector organisations have begun setting targets, making plans and enacting changes in how they work to meet these targets.

How are charities faring?

There is evidence that charities have been slow off the mark when setting targets and moving towards net-zero. A 2021 survey conducted by the Charity Finance Group (CFG) found that 84% of charities have not yet set a net-zero target, and only 14% currently report on their carbon emissions.

Compared to the public sector and businesses, charities are yet to get off the starting block. This could have serious implications over the coming years as charities need to take more drastic measures to meet statutory targets.

Why are charities falling behind?

 Charities that completed the survey identified a range of challenges that prevented them from taking more robust action regarding net zero.

Many charities expressed confusion about what was required and the practical changes that needed to be made. Those that did understand suggested that it was difficult to communicate why it was necessary to stakeholders, such as funders and charity beneficiaries.

As key elements in the organisational make-up of any charity, this represents a significant problem. Related to this is how to link a net-zero strategy to the objectives of the charities, with charities feeling it isn’t relevant to their core mission.

Because charities have been slow off the mark, there is currently a shortage when it comes to practical examples and case studies for charities to follow.

What needs to be done?

Reflecting on the survey, CFG’s Acting Head of Policy, Richard Sagar, said: “Much more support needs to be provided to the sector, from infrastructure bodies like ours to the government, the regulator, and the for-profit sector.”

Charities need further advice and guidance on key areas such as emissions reporting, pensions, investments and procurement.

Examples of good practice need to be shared with better explanations of why and how the sector can step up to meet its net-zero responsibilities.

Our advisors work closely with charities and are well-placed to advise on the key courses of action that charities need to make to fulfil their obligations. If you have any questions, contact our team for a free consultation at 

Charlotte Willmore
Audit Manager at Wilder Coe
Charlotte has experience in the supervision and preparation of statutory accounts, management accounts including tailored client-specific analysis and service charge accounts as well as the audit of statutory accounts and preparation of Corporation tax returns for companies.