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Climate change conversations: Q&A with Co-op Foundation and ACF 

Friday 5 August 2022

We’re proud to be a signatory of the Association of Charitable Funders (ACF)’s Funder Commitment on Climate Change (FCCC). 

In this blog, Aruna, Funding & Partnerships Manager at Co-op Foundation, and Joanna, Senior Policy and Engagement Officer at ACF, chat all things climate change, hopes for how the FCCC will impact the Co-op Foundation’s work, and why other funders should join.   

Aruna: To start, can you tell us a little bit about the Funder Commitment on Climate Change (FCCC), Joanna?  

Joanna: The FCCC was developed by a group of our members who are non-environmental funders and wanted a framework to support taking a climate lens to different areas of their work, including investments, operations, funding programmes, and organisational learning. 

The FCCC launched at ACF’s 2019 conference, where climate change was a key focus. We’ve had a steady growth of foundations signing since. We also published two reports analysing progress being made by FCCC signatories. That accountability and transparency element is a key achievement in ensuring the commitment doesn’t just sit there or worse – aid greenwashing.  

Aruna: How many funders do you have, and how far reaching is the commitment?   

Joanna: There are 95 UK charitable foundations committed to climate action through the FCCC. Since its launch, it’s also inspired parallel national-level commitments in France, Spain, Italy, and Canada, as well as an international philanthropy commitment hosted by WINGS. All these commitments sit together under the global #PhilanthropyForClimate movement, which brings together over 500 philanthropic organisations around the world committed to climate action.  

Aruna: What kind of funders can join the FCCC, and why should they join? Any tips for funders thinking of joining?    

Joanna: Any grant-making organisations can join! Current signatories fund health, poverty, inequality, children and young people, housing, the arts, refugees – and many more! Whether you’re a dedicated climate change funder or coming to the issue for the first time, there will be an area of the FCCC that you can focus your attention on. There are entry level actions that all funders can take, but there is also no cap on ambition in each area.   

The FCCC provides a helpful framework to approach your climate work, a reporting mechanism through which to benchmark your progress and view it in relation to the progress peers are making, and a network of funders who, like you, are putting a climate lens on their work. Signatory funders can collectively troubleshoot, reach out and ask for peer support or learn from each other’s approach. There’s a lot of potential to share expertise and build on the work already done by others. 

If you’re a funder thinking of joining, please reach out. We’re happy to talk though the process and answer any questions you might have. We can also put you in touch with signatory foundations who might be able to share their experience with you.   

Aruna: We found signing up really easy and you were a great help, Joanna! For other funders thinking of joining, can you tell us what they can expect when it comes to signing up? 

Joanna: The signing process is straightforward – you fill out a form with your contact details and we add you to the website and our mailing list. Often funders are cautious not to sign on before they’ve got their climate work going a bit more. But even those early-stage conversations are enough reason to signal your intent by signing the FCCC.  

We’re really happy Co-op Foundation joined our growing list of signatories. What made you sign the commitment and what does it mean to you as a funder? 

Aruna: When we came across the FCCC, we’d been working on a new fund in partnership with Co-op – our £3m Carbon Innovation Fund. This aims to support organisations that are tackling climate change by reducing carbon emissions in the food and farming sectors. As such, climate change was at the forefront of our minds.   

We believe it matters how we fund, and we want to live and breathe our co-operative values by connecting and collaborating with others. So, when we found out about the FCCC, we jumped at the chance to sign. We felt it important that we officially recognise the climate emergency as a Funder and take steps to hold ourselves accountable for the future of our planet.  

Recently, we’ve also joined a community of flexible funders committed to open and trusting grant making, coordinated by the Institute for Voluntary Action Research (IVAR).   

We now have a network of other funders we can share learning with, and work together to achieve the same goals – which aligns with our co-operative values!  

Joanna: You mentioned some work you’ve done in the climate space already. Will you tell us a bit about what the Co-op Foundation has done so far?  

Aruna: Yes! We’ve recently launched our Carbon Innovation Fund, in partnership with Co-op. We’re Co-op’s charity and this is the largest partnership of its kind we’ve held together.   

A total of £1.4m has just been awarded to 15 organisations who are working to reduce greenhouse gas emissions within the food, farming and aquaculture sector. This sector accounts for more than one-third of greenhouse gas emissions globally, so it’s important to support organisations addressing this.   

Increasing our awareness and understanding of the issues we face in the food system is important to us. We’ve attended numerous webinars, workshops and events – including COP26 – to increase our awareness and understanding.   

We’ve also become an active member of the Environmental Funders’ Network to ensure we learn, share ideas and collaborate with others working in the same space. In addition, we’ve had support from climate philanthropy experts, Impatience Earth, to help us refine our thinking, increase our impact and upskill on the ever-changing landscape surrounding the climate crisis.    

We’ll launch our second round of funding from the Carbon Innovation Fund in 2023 to support more game-changing organisations leading the way into a more sustainable future. Interested organisations will be able to hear about this first by signing up to our blog

Alongside this work, we want to put more of a climate lens on all things we do at Co-op Foundation. How can the FCCC help us do this? 

Joanna: The causes and solutions of climate change intersect with other areas of civil society, so foundations are well-placed to highlight these intersections and foster climate action by building on their expertise in their existing funding area. The pillar around integrating climate into existing programmes, priorities and processes is particularly useful in putting a climate lens on your funding.   

The FCCC doesn’t prescribe what this might look like, as it will vary depending on the type of funder you are and what your individual funding programmes, priorities or processes are.  

However, in our most recent progress report we included a spectrum of activity ranging from explicitly welcoming applications with climate considerations, through to designing funds with climate change in mind, or setting aside dedicated funds to help grantee organisations think about how climate relates to their work. we included a spectrum of activity ranging from explicitly welcoming applications with climate considerations, through to designing funds with climate change in mind, or setting aside dedicated funds to help grantee organisations think about how climate relates to their work.  

The report includes named examples from different funders on how they are putting a climate lens on their funding, which we hope will inspire others.   

Aruna: And finally, what are your hopes for the FCCC and its members in the future?   

Joanna: Ultimately, I hope to see more funders (of all types and sizes) acknowledge the unique and critical role they can play in responding to the climate crisis. A report published last year showed that climate change mitigation grants represent less than 2% of total European foundation giving, which really isn’t good enough.  

Foundations have the independence to rapidly invest in community-driven and innovative solutions, scale proven strategies, finance advocacy and storytelling, and to take risks. So, my hopes for the FCCC are that more funders commit to climate action, bringing their grantees along with them. 

The people and places on the frontline of the climate crisis are closest to the problems and to the solutions, so I hope more FCCC signatories can begin to redistribute wealth and decision-making power to organisations led by directly impacted communities.   

Those most impacted by the climate crisis are young people and communities likely already marginalised, minoritized, and historically underfunded.  I hope more FCCC signatories recognise the power imbalances they perpetuate and begin to engage a climate justice lens across their work.  

Want to hear more about our work?  

You can reach Aruna at aruna.bahia2@coop.co.uk, and keep up to date with everything we’re doing at Co-op Foundation on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn. And, of course, sign up to the Co-op Foundation blog below! 

If you’d like to learn more about the Funder Commitment on Climate Change or have any questions about signing, please get in touch at Climate@acf.org.uk. You can follow ACF’s other work on our Twitter and LinkedIn.  


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