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Environmental and Social Impact

of voluntary organisations

Updated 25/11/13

Follow the trail

This page

The ethical operating environment of voluntary organisations is often ignored, but is creeping up the agenda. Here we give some starting points.


If you are concerned about means as well as ends in achieving your objectives, you can get heavily bogged down in 'minor' issues. In our view, you need to be pragmatic - there is no way at present that you can have no negative impact as an organisation (there always will be some waste and imperfections) but you can try to minimize these while still being effective in your chosen cause.

General environmental links

Voluntary sector web resources on this have come and gone over the years, and this page needs a revamp. Meanwhile, a link or two:

Reduce, reuse, recycle

The watch words in terms of resource consumption. It is better to reduce demand (eliminate need for a new fax machine) than re-use (e.g. pass on old fax equipment), which is better than recycling it for scrap.

Community Recycling Network, to find local recycling schemes for all sorts of materials.

Waste Watch Waste audits, support for new initiatives and recycling agencies, advice on recycled products. Visit the related Waste Online site for recycling 'how to' information sheets.

WRAP (Waste & Resources Action Programme) has info on collecting, selling and buying recycled materials.

In Ireland, if you have waste materials try Wastechange, the commercial waste exchange.

Disposing of ICT

If you are upgrading old equipment, check out the following. Note that most put restrictions on what they will take - minimum quantities or specification. If you are looking to buy 'pre-used' kit, look at the Suppliers page.

The following list was compiled quite a while ago, and details may have changed, projects closed etc. You may be better off checking out specific directories which have been created, for example WasteWatch Online information directory of computer recyclers or Community Recycling Network - see above.

Printer cartridges

Furniture/Office Equipment

Recycled Supplies

See general Suppliers page.

Energy issues

Try Energy Savings Trust.

Issues in Social and Ethical Impact

Social Auditing in voluntary organisations is the title of one-day training sessions run by New Economics Foundation. Phone 020 7407 7447. There is also a book with a similar title - not sure whether this is the same as Charitable Trust? - Social Auditing with Voluntary Organisations published with ACEVO, Nov 00. Order from ACEVO on 020 8424 2334 at £17-50 plus £2-50 p&p.

Community Business Scotland Network has run a social audit programme that develops the practice of social accounting and audit with clusters of community organisations in Scotland. There is a separate web site for Social Audit Network, where you can find social audit information sheets, reports and more details on their Social Accounting and Audit: Manual, Workbook and CD.

AccountAbility is a non-profit, membership organisation established to promote accountability innovations that advance responsible business practices, and the broader accountability of civil society and public organizations.

The UN has an IT and Environment Initiative, which seeks to improve awareness and understanding of the environmental impact of IT.

Sustainable Development

Aimed more at commercial companies but may be of wider interest, Sustainable Development in Action, from Association for Management Education and Development (AMED), a 50 page booklet published Dec 99 (£16 non-members). (NB may no longer be available, Mar 07)

SustainAbility The consultancy run by John Elkington has various reports available.

The SIGMA project (Sustainability: Integrated Guidelines for Management), involving British Standards Institute and Forum for the Future as well as others on this page, is exploring Sustainability standards for business.

See also on Areas of Concern page: Ethical investment, Sustainable business, Corporate Governance for other websites covering this issue mainly from a commercial perspective.