Lindsey Podolanski: Charities need to support their ethical credentials with socially responsible activities

27 Jun 2019 Expert insight

Lindsey Podolanski from Unity Trust Bank looks at the need for charities to be able to support their ethical credentials with socially responsible activities in a world where fundraising is dropping.

Just the other week Acorns Hospice in the Midlands announced the closure of one of their sites, due to a lack of funding. As consumers assess where their every pound goes, it’s time for charities to make sure they are fulfilling their ethical credentials to make sure that funders are attracted to supporting them.

In the last episode of Sir David Attenborough’s Blue Planet II series, he made an impassioned plea to viewers to become more sustainable.  The episode showed baby birds feeding on plastic, coastlines covered in pollution, and oceans filled with plastic waste.

The response was emphatic. A recent report by GlobalWebIndex revealed that 53 per cent of people surveyed in the US and UK have reduced their single-use plastic over the last 12 months

There is now growing awareness that consumers’ choice of services – such as their bank, credit card or mortgage – can have an even more profound effect on the environment.  With the UK market for socially responsible investing (SRI) expected to grow by 173 per cent to reach £48bn by 2027 – could the ‘Attenborough effect’, drive an equally seismic shift in consumers’ choice of bank?  Does this decision also impact who they choose to support?  If their charity is banking with someone without a recognisable social conscience, what does it say about that charity’s ethical credentials. It’s counter-intuitive.

The new generation seem to understand this better than anyone.  Generation Z – or post millennials as they are otherwise known – use their collective buying power to advocate companies and brands that reflect their values.  Dubbed ‘the change generation’, they’re savvy and socially conscious, and shouldn’t be ignored.

Gen Zers will eclipse millennials to become the biggest consumer cohort globally this year.  Within 12 months they will make up 40 per cent of the global population. 

Charities will need to pay close attention to their corporate social responsibility, consistently demonstrating that they are truly purpose-led, or risk alienating this generation for good.

While customers and employees are demanding more of the organisations they associate with, there is a growing mistrust of brands in general – 58 per cent of UK adults surveyed by Trinity Mirror Solutions said they do not trust a brand until they have seen "real world proof" that it has kept its promises.

Thankfully, for charities there are many options to show that they practice what they preach. They can pick from a wealth of suppliers who have decided that ethical and social responsibility is something more important than a line at the bottom of the business plan that ticks a box.

Energy companies who fund windmills, sustainable office spaces which are built with a reduced carbon footprint, legal firms with social credentials, banks lending to fund societal change, catering firms which utilise surplus food, the list is endless.


The environment is now cited by people as the third most pressing issue facing the UK, according to tracking data from YouGov that began in 2010. Young people rate environmental problems such as the climate crisis and global annihilation of wildlife even higher, placing them second behind Brexit. These calls for change will grow ever louder. 

There is no time to wait – charities need to show greater accountability, responsibility and transparency now, or risk losing the hearts and minds of potential funders and employees forever.  

Socially responsible investment could be the key to help charities hit their fund-raising targets, and a growing number of providers are offering ethically-orientated solutions to common business challenges. When people realise that their choice of bank account, energy provider and telecommunications company could help to leave behind a more sustainable world for future generations – and truly put their money where their heart is – the impact will be profound.

Lindsey Podolanski is chief operating officer at Unity Trust Bank, which is an ethical bank that lives its values and gives its staff five paid volunteering days. Last year it volunteered 169 days and donated £7,332 to good causes. It is also the world’s first Carbon Literate bank recognised by the Carbon Literacy Trust. 

This content has been supplied by a commercial partner. Unity Trust Bank sponsored the disability category at the Charity Awards 


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