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Why is sustainability important for the VCSE sector?

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. Genee is delighted to be delivering Investors in the Environment to over 100 voluntary, community and social enterprise (VCSE) organisations, across the North East and Cumbria as part of Going Green Together's 'Become Green Together' programme. 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. Spanning thousands of employees, their families, and clients, the sector has a huge regional impact.

Due to the funding available, the scheme is able to subsidise VCSE organisation’s participation in the 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. For VCSE organisations using iiE, they can be flexible with their time; training videos vary in length and templates are already created to make the process of establishing an environmental management system simple and undaunting.

This is a perfect scheme 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 Going Green Together project is VCSE sector focussed, participating organisations have the comfort of being in a cohort with other likeminded organisations, experiencing similar issues and impacts within their day to day work, and being able to work together to address these effectively.

The VCSE sector in the North East and Cumbria is significant as a major employer and is also integral to driving social change. As a link between the communities, they work with and local authorities, VCSE organisations are 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 understanding the issues their communities face and the place-specific solutions they need.

From initial conversations with participating ‘Become Green Together’ organisations, the scope of the project is already clear. Working with the VCSE sectors broadens the pool of people we can reach with knowledge regarding their sustainability and will lead to participating organisations using the project to engage their clients in new ways. For example, one organisation which supports people with learning disabilities, are 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 ‘Become 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 extends 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.

Applications for the Become Green Together Project close on the 31st January. All voluntary, community, and social enterprises in the North East and Cumbria are invited to apply.


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