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Supporting Scotland's vibrant voluntary sector

Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations is the membership organisation for Scotland's charities, voluntary organisations and social enterprises. Charity registered in Scotland SC003558. Registered office Mansfield Traquair Centre, 15 Mansfield Place, Edinburgh EH3 6BB.

Growing Climate Confidence: what we've learnt

It’s been a year since we launched our Growing Climate Confidence project. In the spirit of open working I’m sharing some reflections on what we’ve learned, and what we will be doing next.  

If you don’t have time for whole article here are the key messages: 

  • We know most voluntary sector organisations are struggling to take action to reach net zero 
  • We created the Climate Confidence programme to help them benchmark their own progress and potential priorities.
  • We created a scorecard as a climate check-up but people find it demoralising to get a low score 
  • Much direct carbon use relates to buildings, and that can be a difficult (and expensive) thing to change 
  • Capacity (staff and money) limits the headspace and ability to take meaningful action 
  • We're pleased to be able to expand the programme in the years ahead, and we'll be reflecting on how we can make change and climate action feel less overwhelming and priority actions easier to identify 
  • We'll be working closely with the range of other stakeholders and support organisations, with our focus clearly targeted at both carbon reduction and climate resilience. 

What did we do? 

We wanted to help people start doing things, and to not get too hung up on measuring and reporting.  

We created information to help charities, community groups and social enterprises reduce their carbon emissions, and get more active on climate change.  

Our support included website content, a netzero scorecard to help organisations get a measure of where they’re at in their net zero journey, tailored support emails and a range of webinars and in-person events.  

Why did we do it? 

We have developed this project because we know that  

  • although most charities, community groups and social enterprises in Scotland care about the climate crisis… 
  • the majority have no policies to reduce their own emissions or achieve net zero.  

Source, Third Sector Tracker, Wave 7, Winter 2003.  

What are we hearing? 

The sector uses a wide range of buildings and spaces 

Net Zero plans need action to reduce direct emissions from buildings and energy. Because the voluntary sector is so varied, the spaces we use also vary - the plan for a village hall will look different to the plan for a home-based campaigning group.  

Almost 500 organisations have filled in our Net Zero scorecard and are giving valuable information about the specific circumstances of their work:  

We rent an office and warehouse
We have two properties: community building and garden, and playing field 
We all work from home. We use community spaces to meet up/deliver activities”  

Getting a low score can make you feel low 

We set up our Net Zero questions as a ‘scorecard’, but it can leave organisations feeling deflated if they receive a low score.  

We scored badly on all these assessments because we do not own our offices so cannot reduce our use” 

SCVO’s other assessment tools are framed as checkups which seems to provide a more positive user experience.   

There’s never enough time  

It won’t come as a surprise to anyone working in the sector to hear that organisations are feeling up against it right now. In an external environment where funding challenges are ever present and demand on services is rising, it is hard to prioritise this work: 

I’ve hit a brick wall of time with too many things to do…” 

What we’re thinking about next 

More capacity 

We’re delighted to have secured funding for the next two years to continue to develop and deliver the project. We will tweak the scorecard tool in response to the feedback we have had and will bring on a Climate Development Officer to drive more engagement. 

In the next twelve months, we will team up with Sniffer and Small99 to offer some fully-funded workshops and peer learning spaces with a focus on carbon reduction and climate resilience.  

More information and opportunities to sign up are coming soon - join our newsletter for updates.  

Particular thanks to our funding partners the Corra Foundation, the National Lottery Community Fund, the Robertson Trust, SSE and the William Grant Foundation.

Meeting organisations where they are 

As with all capacity building, it is important to meet organisations where they are and to give them control of the actions that make sense for their work.  

Small incremental shifts and changes matter. Taking part in climate hour as a staff team, or spending a few hours together on a litter pick can often create the appetite for a bigger shift when a new strategy or funding opportunity comes around.   

Learning together  

We’re glad to have the chance to work alongside the Environmental Funders Network, and Everyone’s Environment. One of the areas we’re particularly interested in is how independent funders and the public sector can provide carrots rather than sticks, to drive carbon reduction and broader climate action.  

Helping charities to articulate what they are already doing is important.  Resources like our draft environmental policy, or the results from a net zero scorecard can help with this. 

In line with our calls for fair funding, we’re interested in how funders can ask about this activity in a way that is proportionate and consistent.  

We’re planning a reflective conversation with funders around these areas later in the year.  

For more information, or to let us know about work you are doing in this space please reach out to us at

Last modified on 9 July 2024