Conservation of the natural environment

Conservation of the natural environment

Preserving the environment for future generations

committed to charities and social enterprises


kilowatt hours of renewable energy generated

kilograms of furniture has been saved from going to landfill by Storeroom


The environment is under increasing pressure due to climate change caused by pollution, poor waste management and the burning of fossil fuels. Social investment is enabling charities and social enterprises to develop social business models that link environmental and social benefit by supporting renewable energy, recycling furniture and preserving nature sites. Recent policy changes for Feed-in Tariffs will have an impact on the viability of future community energy and other renewable schemes.

This is an outcome area where we have has been less active as most of our investments have been in community energy projects (see Citizenship and Communities). So far impact evidence has been quite limited and we would like to see better information that demonstrates the link between environmental and social and impact in areas such as fuel poverty or improving health and wellbeing.

Further information is available on our social issue page about conservation of the natural environment

Southmead Development Trust

Social impact

Generating renewable energy

Community energy projects provide social and environmental benefits as well as locally owned assets that generate long term income to support local issues. Low Carbon Hub developed the largest hydro scheme on the River Thames with support from Resonance, FSE and Charity Bank. The scheme will generate over £1 million of surplus for community energy projects such as smart metering and insulation for areas of high deprivation in Oxford. 

Recycling furniture

Storeroom on the Isle of Wight helps deprived families by providing affordable furniture and education and training opportunities in areas such as carpentry and joinery. Social and Sustainable Capital provided a £354,000 secured loan which has been combined with a grant from Power to Change to help purchase a new warehouse. Revenue is generated by selling furniture to local customers. So far, 153,000 kilograms of furniture has been saved from going to landfill and used by more than 5,200 households, while over 200 people have taken part in accredited training to help improve their employment prospects. 

Preserving nature

Worcestershire Wildlife Trust received £350,000 of social investment from Esmée Fairbairn’s Land Purchase Fund to buy the 16 hectare Hollybed Farm Meadows. The land contains a Site of Special Scientific Interest because of its traditional hay meadow plants. A wide range of insect life is supported by the plants including bees, butterflies and crickets that support bird and mammal life. The investment from Esmée Fairbairn enabled the Trust to save the meadows when they came up for auction in 2012 and gave them time to raise the funds to secure the site’s future.


We have chosen to prioritise investments that achieve social benefits as well as environmental impact, so have less evidence of what works from focussing exclusively on environmental issues. Other organisations such as the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation have experience investing in environmental outcomes.  

We have learnt from our community energy investments that many projects are run by volunteers with limited time, so gathering impact data can be a challenge. Our current project with Pure Leapfrog aims to provide simple tools to help organisations with impact management (see Citizenship and Communities for more detail). 

Reductions to the Feed-in Tariff for community energy projects has made it more challenging to find investment opportunities.

Investors may need to pay commercial rates to purchase, develop or service complex projects such as solar energy which will ultimately provide community benefit.