How we’re supporting sustainability engagement with North East VCSEs

Investors in the Environment’s North East franchise partner Genee are delivering the national accreditation scheme to North East VCSEs, with a focus on sustainability engagement.

The voluntary, community and social enterprise (VCSE) sector is integral to driving social change and contributes as a sector to wider sustainability. As a link between communities, they work with residents and local authorities as important advocates for underrepresented communities who are often more impacted by the effects of climate change. Their physical proximity to the communities they work with also leaves them best equipped to understand the issues their communities face and the place-specific solutions they need.

Tailored to VCSEs

The scheme is ideal for the VCSE sector to better understand their environmental impacts and approach to sustainability. With access to the iiE’s clear and user-friendly resources, participating organisations will feel the benefit and clarity of the programme whether they are beginning their journey into sustainability or have an existing environmental management strategy in place. As the Become Green Together project is North East VCSE focused, participating organisations have the comfort of being in a cohort with other like-minded organisations, experiencing similar issues and impacts within their day-to-day work, and being able to work together to address these effectively. iiE membership and support from the Going Green Together element of the umbrella project that empowers the organisations to improve their environmental impact and demonstrate to their stakeholders that they are also doing their bit for the environment.

Going Green Together project

This is the first regional-level programme of practical support for charity sector organisations in the country. There are approximately 7,200 VCSE organisations in the region, and the sector accounts for 3 – 4% of regional employment. The sector has a huge regional impact, spanning thousands of employees, their families, and clients. During 2021 we got involved with the VONNE Climate Action Alliance (VCAA) an initiative aimed at helping the North East Voluntary sector become more environmentally aware and give them the skills to take practical action. The VCAA got funding through the National Lottery Community Fund and County Durham Community Foundation to develop a suite of support through a new project, Going Green Together.

Due to the funding available, the scheme can subsidise VCSE organisation’s participation in the iiE programme, providing access to a wealth of information which may not have been available to them otherwise. VCSE organisations often work with tight budgets and small workforces, and priorities are the day-to-day running of the organisation. That is why the iiE programme is so well suited to the Going Green Together project. VCSE organisations using iiE can be flexible with their time; training videos vary in length and templates are already created to make establishing an environmental management system simple and undaunting.

Making it easy to engage with sustainability – meaningfully

From initial conversations with participating Going Green Together organisations, the scope of the project is already clear: VCSEs are an important link to the pool of people we can reach with knowledge regarding environmental awareness and will lead to participating organisations using the project to engage their clients in new ways alongside understanding and reducing their own environmental impacts.

For example, one organisation which supports people with learning disabilities is seeking to engage their service users in the project through data collection (e.g. taking meter readings). The same organisation has expressed that they’ll be altering any environmental guides and resources provided to make the information more accessible for their service users.

Within the North East and Cumbria, VCSE organisations are trusted voices for the communities they work with, and can be an impactful link to remove the barriers to environmental action, which can be quite an overwhelming subject for many.  Other Going Green Together members have expressed their desire to share the knowledge they gain from the programme beyond their organisation, to assist the communities and other organisations they work with to save money and improve their sustainability long-term.

The beauty of working with VCSE organisations is that the work and knowledge provided extend far beyond those initially receiving it. VCSE organisations provide a crucial intersection of diverse communities, workplaces and local authorities to create a linked-up approach to the climate emergency, ensuring a just transition as we move towards a greener future.

Investors in the Environment, through our partnership with Genee (Greening the North East of England), is delivering training and the iiE programme to over 100 VCSE organisations, across the North East and Cumbria. Applications for the Become Green Together Project open on the 1st April 2023. All voluntary, community, and social enterprises in the North East and Cumbria are invited to apply here.

Interested in seeing how this funded approach has worked for other regional partners? Check out what we did to support SMEs across Nottingham, Derbyshire, and Leicestershire as part of the Net Zero Accelerator programme.