How to meet charity sustainability goals


One of the key requirements of the Charity Governance Code, which sets out principles and recommended practice, is that “the board recognises its broader responsibilities towards communities, stakeholders, wider society and the environment and acts on them in a manner consistent with the charity’s purposes, values and available resources” (Section 1.5.3 Charities Governance Code). In order to do this a charity needs to reflect on the long-term effects of their activities on both individual beneficiaries and the wider community and have a clear sustainability strategy to help do this.

A good place to start when creating a sustainability strategy is to use an existing framework as a guide. One of the most commonly used frameworks is the United Nations Global Compact.

In 2015, the United Nations agreed on 17 Sustainable Development Goals (“SDGs”) in a call-to-action for people around to world to address five key areas by 2030: 

  • People
  • Planet
  • Prosperity
  • Peace
  • Partnership

The SDGs form the framework for improving the lives of populations around the world and mitigating the hazardous man-made effects of climate change. The framework is the world’s largest corporate sustainability initiative formed of 17 individual goals that governments, companies, charities and individuals can contribute towards. 

Where to start?

  • Look at where you are now - understanding where your charity is now is essential to starting its sustainability journey. Which of the 17 SDGs are most relevant to your charity and your charitable objectives? What is your charity already doing with in terms of sustainability? Ask yourself how your charity measures up against each of the SDGs.
  • Speak to your key stakeholders, what matters to them in terms of sustainability and how can your charity incorporate that into your own strategy.
  • Set up a working group and work out who will take ownership of specific action points so they can take responsibility for each area of your sustainability strategy.
  • Use the 17 sustainability goals to help form your sustainability strategy and pick those that are most relevant to you as a starting point.
  • Set yourself clear measureable objectives. Map out where you are now and where you want to be. Make sure these are time bound so you have something to work towards and can reflect on progress when the deadline is met. 
  • Set some key performance indicators to measure your progress against. For each objective what does success look like? 
  • Identify any road blocks – what are the potential barriers and think how could these be overcome. 
  • Talk about it – publish your sustainability goals on your website, do a newsletter and discuss it in your annual accounts. Make yourself accountable by publicly committing to your goals. Give progress reports throughout the process. 

The next step

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