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Signing Up To The Funder Commitment On Climate Change: Next Steps For Treebeard Trust

The Treebeard Trust is now a proud signatory to the Funder Commitment on Climate Change, but what does this mean for us, a small outfit with one part-time member of staff and a small group of trustees deploying less than £1m in grant funding per year?

We see this Funder Commitment as an opportunity for Treebeard to communicate its commitment to playing a role in addressing the causes and effects of climate change, but also as a structure for setting our own goals in this area. The secretariat for the Funder Commitment is asking signatories to act and report against six named commitment areas, which Treebeard plans to do for the financial year April 2020 – April 2021. We are glad to report that we already achieve much in these six commitment areas. Here is a summary of where we are at, and what we want to achieve:

1) Educate and learn: we seek out opportunities to increase our learning around these complex issues. We are engaging with the work of climate activists such as Mike Berners-Lee and have been participating in solutions focused conversations. We’ve learnt from organisations such as Thirty Percy Foundation and Share Action about the transition to a green and just economy and the role foundations (and their endowments) have in this; from Forum for the Future on how to create the systems and structures that will enable lasting change in a way that ensures the most disadvantaged in society are not, once again, left behind; from Peers for the Planet’s founding team about how to push climate change to the top of the political agenda….. we’ve also been grappling with the role of activism with the help of organisations like the European Climate Foundation. We feel that we are ‘on our way’ but that we have much more to do. This year we will:

  • Make climate change the focus of our next Learning Trustee Meeting (Treebeard has two ‘standard’ and two ‘learning’ trustee meetings a year);

  • Explore the training offered by Carbon Literacy to determine an appropriate approach to this;

  • Join the monthly workshops run by the ACF for Climate Commitment members.

2) Commit resources: we have already made four grants in this area – across sustainable tourism (Green Apple Foundation, Columbia); policy (Peers for the Planet); climate movements and activism (European Climate Foundation’s UK Movements Fund); community access to justice (Environmental Law Foundation). This represented around 12% of our 2019-20 Impact Only (grant) budget. This year we will:

  • Increase this to 15% so that £120,000 of grant funding is deployed to organisations addressing the causes or effects of climate change;

  • Encourage a mindset of proactive collaboration in recognition that climate change is an issue that has to be addressed collectively.

3) Integrate: we recognise that we need to do more to integrate a climate-informed approach to the way we work. This year we will:

  • Start a conversation about prospective partners’ carbon footprint across our assessment processes (for both Impact Only and Impact Investment);

  • Update our Year End Impact Review template, amending a current section on ‘impact on people/places’ to ‘impact on people/places/planet’ and record each partner’s impact in this additional way;

  • Explore how we can tackle any projects we are involved in with sustainability in mind. For example, in working with our partner Lighthouse on their first residential children’s home, we will support them in their aim to renovate this in a sustainable, low carbon way.

4) Steward our investments for a post-carbon future: Treebeard’s public market investments are held in two funds, both of which proactively consider sustainability risks as part of their process (and both of which are managed by founder trustee Barnaby Wiener). We also invest in organisations which target environmental problems, including:

Going forward we will:

  • Allocate trustee meeting time to understanding the environmental impacts across our investment portfolio, and to challenge our fund manager on his process;

  • Continue to look for opportunities to invest directly in enterprises which are directly tackling climate change;

  • Complete a landscape review of organisations and institutions working to challenge and change investor (including foundations) behaviour and corporate environmental performance, from regulatory bodies to activist operations, which we will publish;

  • Use this review to inform Impact Only investments in organisations working in this field.

5) Decarbonise our operations: we are already carbon light! We run no office, our small staff works from home and travels by train, and we try to minimise paper where possible. We hold 100% of our cash reserves in ethical banks – Triodos, Charity Bank and CAF Bank. This year we will:

  • Formally adopt a paper-free approach to all trustee meetings;

  • Communicate to all partners that we are organisationally paper-free (including at partner meetings) and will accept no hard copies of reports and other documents.

6) Report on progress: we will check in, right here, in one year’s time - thoughts and suggestions welcome!


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