6 June 2013 - Press release

A new report by the Third Sector Research Centre provides a detailed overview of the environmental third sector in England. The research is the first attempt to provide a national listing of environmental charities, and gives information on the number of organisations, their income, sources of funding, functions and distribution.

1,800 charities have the environment as their primary focus in England and Wales, just over 1% of all charities on the Charity Commission Register. Around 7,700 organisations make up the broader environmental third sector – charities and other types of third sector organisation that include the environment as one of their three main activities.

The research highlights some interesting comparisons between environmental organisations and the wider third sector. Membership fees are the most important source of income for environmental organisations, whereas the rest of the sector relies more heavily on donations and fundraising.

Environmental organisations are more focused on advocacy and campaigning. Around 30% see this as one of their primary functions - three times as many as non-environmental organisations. They are also more likely to be involved in non-public service and community development.

Although the percentage of environmental charities has increased – from around 0.3% in 1960 to over 1% in 2008 – it remains a relatively small number.

Rural areas have a higher prevalence of local third sector organisations than urban areas, and this is particularly marked for environmental organisations. This highlights a continued focus on traditional environmental concerns, which have often related to rural activities such as resource conservation.

This research is one of the most detailed quantitative analyses of any subsector or ‘industry’ within the third sector. It provides important learning for those researching other fields of activity within the sector.

Graham Smith, who co-authored the report, said ‘current studies of the environmental third sector tend to be skewed toward political protests and campaigns. A detailed analysis of the environmental third sector as a whole helps us to understand the nature of these organisations and how they are distinctive from the rest of the sector. It also opens up possibilities for more fully understanding other parts of the third sector in England.’

The research report ‘Mapping the environmental third sector in England’ is released today by the Third Sector Research Centre. It was produced by David Clifford, Frida Geyne Rajme, Graham Smith, Rebecca Edwards, Milena Buchs and Clare Saunders.

It is based on analysis of two data sources – the Charity Commission Register (1995 – 2008) and the National Survey of Third Sector Organisations (NSTSO) (2008). The research distinguishes between two definitions of the environmental third sector: 1. Environmental charities whose principal object is environmental - a mutually exclusive category drawn from CCR data; and 2. the broad environmental third sector – a wider, self-ascribed, non-mutually exclusive category drawn from the NSTSO.

The research, as well as a list of registered environmental charities in England, is available here.

For more information contact:
Naomi Landau, Knowledge Exchange Team
020 7520 2421