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Jewish charity adds climate change to its agenda

Jewish charity adds climate change to its agenda
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Jewish charity adds climate change to its agenda

Governance | Tania Mason | 23 Nov 2009

Jewish poverty-reduction charity Tzedek has decided that the problems faced by its developing-world beneficiaries are so intertwined with climate change that it has adopted an ambitious environmental policy that will govern all its operations both here and overseas.

For the last 20 years, Tzedek has supported small-scale, self-help sustainable development projects in Africa, Asia and Latin America in order to help people beat poverty and hardship.  

Following a recent trustee board meeting the charity decided that poverty in its beneficiary regions was so tied up with climate change that it needed to add the problem to its agenda and take tangible action by adopting a policy to help tackle it.

The policy pledges adopted by the board include:
•    Reducing its carbon emissions by 10 per cent in 2010
•    Becoming a ‘zero waste’ organisation
•    Implementing a sustainable procurement policy that favours local suppliers
•    Promoting vegetarian food at Tzedek events

The charity has already undergone a carbon audit, in which an environmental consultant traced every journey made by the charity over the last two years.  It has also switched printers, and accepted slightly lower print quality in order to use vegetable inks.  Now it is examining whether the benefits of its volunteer programme, whereby it sends 15 volunteers to Ghana every year (pictured), genuinely outweigh the environmental costs.

Dan Berelowitz, executive director of Tzedek, told Civil Society: “As a charitable organisation with limited resources, the task of implementing these policies will not be easy, but this is an issue that is central to achieving our mission statement.”

Berelowitz said the charity was lucky in that one of its trustees worked for an environmental agency and had donated 40 hours of his time to helping the charity examine its practices and identify ways of reducing its impacts.  “I can appreciate the difficulty a small charity might have if it didn’t have this kind of help, but I’d like to think we would have done it anyway,” he said

Although Tzedek hopes the changes will reduce its overheads, Berelowitz admitted the “hard decisions” would come if the policy started to cost the charity money.  But even then, he said, as long as the charity stays true to its mission it shouldn’t face any insurmountable problems.

“No organisation can afford to ignore the environment,” he said. “And as a development organisation we have to lead the way.”

In the year to March 2009, Tzedek had income of £240,000.

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