Laura Yonish

Laura Yonish

Client Experience Lead – Charities and Individuals

Charities Aid Foundation


COP 28: Why businesses and charities must forge a new way of working together for people and planet

01 December 2023

For the first time at this year’s COP 28 climate conference, a Business and Philanthropy Climate Forum is taking place, aiming to harness the knowledge, resources, and dynamism of the private sector to expedite climate and nature action.

Recognising the role that philanthropy and business can play is vital if we’re going to make bold strides against the goals of the Paris Agreement. As King Charles III highlighted in his speech opening this important event, we need to bring together organisations - private, public, philanthropic and NGOs - to work together and draw on each other’s strengths. It is essential that the expertise and contribution of the non-profit sector are not ignored.

There is a growing reliance on charities worldwide to respond to crises, inequalities, and other climate-related risks, whilst under increasing funding pressure. But many charities are also at the forefront of understanding the impact of climate change - both to people and planet - and driving forward innovation towards a greener future. Yet, civil society groups and charities are infrequently offered a ‘seat at the table’.

COP 28 takes place against a backdrop of increased climate-related emergencies, from wildfires in Greece and Maui to typhoons in China and the Philippines. These disasters underline the severe need to focus on both people and planet.

It is an unfortunate truth that natural disasters and conflict disproportionally harm the poorest and most vulnerable countries in the world. To this end, charities have been calling for a focus on vulnerable communities – to help them adapt to the change that’s already occurring.

If businesses are to play their part in driving climate change solutions, businesses and philanthropists should consider the twin challenge of people and planet. Their own internal expertise can be applied to tackle these issues, but they can also seek out and harness the expertise they do not have.

Businesses can choose strategic charity partners to work towards a shared goal, and in doing so, benefit from

  1. Specialised knowledge in environmental issues, in-depth knowledge about the intricacies of climate change, local ecosystems and sustainable practices.
  2. Community engagement with local communities and grassroots organisations. On-the-ground, community-level involvement is vital as we see an increase in the number of climate disasters.
  3. Holistic approach to environmental issues that considers social, economic and cultural factors alongside ecological concerns.
  4. Credibility and trust within the communities they are looking to support. Collaborating with charities can enhance the reputation of businesses, fostering trust among consumers and stakeholders.
  5. Innovation and flexibility: Charities are known for their agility and innovative problem-solving. Allowing them to take the lead encourages the exploration of new ideas and approaches that may not be apparent within traditional business frameworks.
  6. Global collaboration with other organisations, governments and stakeholders worldwide. Businesses partnering with these charities can tap into these extensive networks for a more impactful and coordinated response to climate change.

The need to integrate environmental and social agendas has never been clearer; increasingly the purpose of business is not just profit but also to serve people and planet. The business case for this is outlined in Forum for the Future’s Report: Integrating Social and environmental sustainability[BD1] . A collaboration between Forum for the Future, Mars and IDH, the report puts purpose into practice and sets the standard by spotlighting a number of companies who are collaborating in innovative ways to tackle interlinked environmental and social issues.

By way of example, Diageo are tackling supply chain resilience by working with government, NGOs and local stakeholders to restore a wetland treating wastewater in Mexico, improving irrigation networks with farmers in Turkey and providing access to water for many smallholder farming communities*. This cross-sector collaboration highlights how charities can help businesses strengthen their goals with purpose by aligning environmental and social issues to support vulnerable communities at risk from climate change.
*Please note CAF were not the advisors on this project.

If we are to truly accelerate change to a sustainable future, we no longer have the luxury of being reactive. Governments, businesses and charities must be proactively working towards climate solutions. The inaugural Business and Philanthropy Climate Forum acknowledges the potential for collaboration and action needs to follow. Much research and thought leadership has already been undertaken by the charity and academic sectors globally, but they require the funding and committed support of business to begin implementing solutions.

From our network of over 160,000 global charities, we know there are many organisations out there who have long been at the forefront of environmental conservation and social sustainability initiatives. There’s no need for businesses to re-invent the wheel.

If you want to make an impact, but don’t know where to start, our in-house expert advisors can help you find the right charity partners who are already working on solutions to the climate change challenge and work with you on the best ways to support them to deliver real progress.

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