(m) the advancement of environmental protection or improvement

Published: 20/08/2015
Updated: 20/08/2015


This purpose focuses on protecting or improving the environment and can include:

  • the preservation and conservation of the natural environment
  • the promotion of sustainable development
  • the conservation or protection of wildlife in general or of particular species, habitats or areas 
  • the protection of green spaces in a particular area
  • sustainable creation and use of energy and other resources.

What do we mean by environmental protection or improvement?

To be charitable the advancement of environmental protection or improvement generally means:

  • the protection or conservation of a specific plant, animal species, habitat, or area of land or water, including areas of natural beauty and scientific interest
  • the protection of green spaces in a particular area
  • the sustainable management of natural resources
  • the reduction of pollution and waste
  • the investigation of climate change
  • the promotion of energy saving measures and the use of renewable energy.

What activities might provide public benefit when advancing this purpose?

Organisations should also be prepared to provide evidence that there is public benefit in protecting the species. Sometimes the preservation of a particular species can have a negative effect on the local environment or community. For example, an invasive species that causes damage to the ecosystem and could lead to the extinction of a native species. In general, public benefit is the way that a charity makes a positive difference to the public. Where an organisation is set up to conserve the environment by protecting plants, animal species, habitat or land they must be able to show that these require conservation or protection. For example, organisations set up to protect a particular species must be able to provide independent evidence that the species is rare or in danger of extinction.

 Evidence of environmental or conservation benefits can be obtained from a number of sources and may be relevant when we consider this purpose. For example:

Scottish Natural Heritage publishes lists of:

  • designated protected areas
  • protected species in Scotland
  • sites of Special Scientific Interest
  • designated nature conservation marine protected areas
  • National Scenic Area
  • National Nature Reserves.

WWF-UK produces lists outlining the conservation status of a large number of species worldwide.

Organisations which aim to promote conservation generally or on a small scale will need to give details of specific projects and be able to describe how these will provide public benefit.

Where an organisation simply acts in a way that is environmentally friendly, for example making sure that it recycles as much as possible, we would not consider this to be the advancement of environmental protection or improvement.

Sustainable development

This purpose includes the promotion of sustainable development.

Sustainable development is often described as ‘development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’.

Organisations whose purposes are to advance environmental protection or improvement by the promotion of sustainable development must be able to show that they design their activities to balance different, and often competing, needs against an awareness of environmental, social and economic limitations.

Where an organisation has other charitable purposes involving urban or rural regeneration its governing document often requires that it pursues those purposes in the interests of sustainable development.

Case 1: an organisation provided evidence of environmental protection despite potential disbenefit  

We received an application from an organisation that planned to create an artificial reef by sinking a decommissioned warship. One of the purposes set out in its governing document was the advancement of environmental protection or improvement.

We had to decide if the activities were likely to provide public benefit as well as advancing the purpose. We asked if there was any potential disbenefit arising from the creation of the artificial reef. The applicant told us that the warship would be environmentally clean and that a robust environmental monitoring programme would be in place as part of the seabed licence. Further, it provided examples of a similar reef which was already well established and which had significantly increased the number of species recorded in the area.

We were satisfied that the applicant’s activities were intended to create or enhance the natural marine flora and fauna, and that any potentially negative impact on the environment would be closely monitored.  The application to become a charity was successful.

Case 2: an organisation indirectly increased environmental awareness as well as directly advancing education

We received an application from an established organisation that felt it advanced education and environmental protection or improvement through web-based documentaries and film screenings.

We agreed that making available a range of films and documentaries on various environmental issues was likely to provide public benefit and advance education.

We had to consider whether those activities would also have an environmental benefit. The applicant advised us that its aim, through the medium of film, was to better connect people with nature and to encourage a more environmentally conscious and sustainable lifestyle.

We decided that the activities were likely to meet the aim of raising awareness of the need to live in a more environmentally friendly manner, and therefore would indirectly advance environmental protection or improvement, in addition to advancing education. The application to become a charity was successful.

< (l) the promotion of equality and d...(n) the relief of those in need >