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5 Ways Nonprofits Can Help Solve the Climate Crisis

By Jonny Elliot December 15, 2021

In the past, the climate crisis was mainly the concern of environment and conservation organisations. Today, largely thanks to the work of Greenpeace, WWF, and others, it is recognised as the defining challenge of the century.

We all have a responsibility to solve it, and civil society organisations play a critical role. As not all organisations have climate action integrated into their strategy yet, let’s have a look at five key ways the nonprofit sector can help to solve the climate crisis — and concrete examples of intersectional initiatives that are already happening.

The climate crisis is the defining challenge of the century and civil society organisations play a critical role in solving it.
The climate crisis is the defining challenge of the century and civil society organisations play a critical role in solving it.

Apply Pressure to Limit Global Warming to 1.5 Degrees

As we know, world leaders didn’t quite get to 1.5 at COP 26, so pressure from both civil society and the private sector will be crucial in the coming years if we’re to create the political will to get there.

Historically, environmental and conservation organisations have led the charge through their advocacy and campaign work. Now that we know the climate crisis threatens society’s progress toward achieving all Sustainable Development Goals, and that all industries have a responsibility to decarbonise, it is vital that all nonprofit organisations join the campaign to limit global warming and raise awareness about the impact of climate change on their mission and the communities they support — be that in aged care, education, housing, or health.

Innovate Solutions to Address the Crisis

The nonprofit sector is at the heart of helping communities adapt to the effects of climate change and is working across sectors to innovate new ways to address it.

For example, humanitarian organisations like Oxfam are delivering disaster relief to people whose homes have been destroyed by severe weather, innovating drought-resistant agricultural crops, and training farmers in new techniques to improve the resilience of local and global supply chains.

Other organisations, like the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, are focusing their efforts on the power of cross-sector partnerships. The Foundation partnered with private-sector firm IKEA to embed circular economy principles into their business by shifting to a closed-loop furniture design and production model.

Collaboration is key to solving the climate crisis, and cross-sector partnerships are unlocking innovation and systems change.

Protect the Worst-Affected Communities

Whilst the climate crisis adversely affects poorer communities in the least polluting countries of the Global South, it has also exposed the limitations of the “Global North/South” divide as higher-income countries in the Global North, like the United States, have faced an increasing number of “billion-dollar” disasters from hurricanes, storms, and fires.

In the United Kingdom, social sector organisations working with vulnerable communities have started integrating climate action into their strategy. Age UK, an aged-care organisation, is forming new partnerships to educate older people on how to deal with very hot and very cold weather, take advantage of green innovations in their home, and reduce their own carbon footprint.

Achieve Their Own Net Zero Targets

Every organisation has a carbon footprint, even those in the nonprofit sector. In some countries, regulation demands every registered company set net-zero goals. In other countries, sector leaders are advocating for net zero as a moral imperative.

In Scotland, both forces are coming together to drive the sector’s strategy, and the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations is helping the country’s voluntary sector with a range of resources and services, while investing its own net-zero initiatives across its facilities.

Fund the Climate Response

Whilst world leaders failed to deliver the $100 billion of public finance pledged at COP26, many philanthropic organisations in the nonprofit sector have stepped up. During COP26, the Rockefeller Foundation announced an alliance with multilaterals and development finance institutions to unlock $100 billion in financing. And in the U.K., coalitions like the Funder Commitment on Climate Change are mobilising billions more.

The funding landscape is changing: Climate action will likely become a dominant funding category in the coming years, and nonprofits should be mindful of this when designing new programs or applying for repeat funding.

These five actionable steps are examples of ways the nonprofit sector is mobilising to solve the crisis, and there are many more ways to integrate climate action into your strategy. Every initiative and every program that addresses the climate crisis will help the world take a step closer to solving the biggest challenge of our time.

Want to learn more about the unequal effects of climate change? Check out our third Impact Labs cohort, which will focus on climate justice, and read about the imperative for cross-sector collaboration to take meaningful climate action.

About the Author

Jonny Elliot, Nonprofit Strategic Industry Advisor at
Jonny Elliot
Nonprofit Strategic Industry Advisor at
Jonny is a technology executive with 15 years experience leading end-to-end digital transformation programmes in the software and nonprofit sectors. He is passionate about the role digital can play in helping organisations advance their vision, mission, and impact.