St Vincent de Paul Society Victoria
Vinnies Victoria is a charity established in Australia more than 165 years ago to help alleviate poverty and social injustice. Today, through a network of 12,000 members and volunteers around the state, the charity provides practical frontline support, advocacy and friendship to society’s most vulnerable members.
Vinnies Shops already contributes to sustainability through promoting the circular economy. Last year, we sold almost 11.5 million second-hand items and clothing garments to nearly four million customers, and helped divert more than 3.5 million kilos of apparel from landfill.
We also advocate tirelessly for refugees and asylum seeker support services, help communities devastated by drought and bushfires to recover, provide education programs for children from disadvantaged families, develop consumer protection frameworks for vulnerable households around energy and utility bills and run nightly soup van services to provide food for people experiencing homelessness.
“It is incumbent on all of us who can to reduce our contribution to climate change.”
Type of certification
How long have you been certified carbon neutral?
Vinnies has been certified since July 2020.
Why are you carbon neutral?
The impact of climate change is on our minds more than ever in 2020 as the coronavirus pandemic has made us all too aware of our collective vulnerability. At the same time, climate change has been linked to the drought and bushfires that have devastated communities around Australia. It is Vinnies’ experience of assisting people affected by each of these crises, as well as our daily work with people on the frontline of poverty and disadvantage, that underpins our commitment to achieving a sustainable, equitable future for all. Vinnies Victoria is acutely aware that society needs to decarbonise and leadership in this space is paramount. As Vinnies Victoria looks to provide practical assistance to people in need, we recognise the disproportionate impact climate change can have on people living in poverty. Therefore, it follows that we have a responsibility to mitigate our own contribution to climate change.
What are the benefits of your carbon neutral certification?
The certification aligns so strongly with Vinnies Victoria’s values, it has already inspired significant staff engagement across the whole organisation. Staff members have expressed their enthusiasm for the news, willingness to further develop our carbon reduction activities and to share news of this fantastic achievement.
What offset projects do you support?
Projects we have supported – savanna-burning in Queensland, run-of-the-river hydropower in India, wind power in China and solar power in the Philippines.
Why did you choose these projects?
These projects provide value to the community including supporting low emissions technology and local employment – causes which are also very close to our heart.
How can the community support you?
We are already a front-of-mind option in the reuse, repurpose thought process of our consumers. The publicity and promotion around our certification will hopefully draw further attention to our cause and efforts in the circular economy space and attract more backing from donors, supporters and volunteers alike. Support for Vinnies Victoria – whether it’s through financial or material donations, visiting our shops or volunteering – equals a vote for a better, more sustainable future for all.
What else are you doing to reduce emissions?
Our emissions reduction strategy includes plans to install solar panels on our facilities, which will reduce electricity costs, while supplying surplus energy to the grid. We are also in the process of conducting a vehicle fleet review and plan to switch to more electric-hybrid style vehicles that will improve efficiencies and reduce our carbon footprint.
What has been the impact of your action?
As we have just been certified, quantifiable data on impact is not available, but achieving carbon neutrality has generated a great deal of enthusiasm within our organisation, which is motivating staff to do more as we continue our carbon emissions reduction journey. It’s also been an opportunity to consolidate a number of projects and key educational work Vinnies Victoria was already undertaking in the circular economy, landfill reduction and energy market democratisation under one meaningful and impactful banner that resonates across the organisation.
What advice would you give to a business considering certification?
The advice we would give to other not-for-profits is that you will benefit from the support in this process of a business that has been certified and may be able to act as a sponsor, so seek out potential partnerships of that nature in your corporate network. Our message is that if a traditional and multifaceted charity such as Vinnies Victoria can achieve carbon neutral certification, then others can too. Vinnies Victoria would welcome the opportunity to share our experience with other charities considering the move. Without drastic action on climate change, the impact will be significant on social, economic and health system infrastructures and we know that the most vulnerable members of society will be worst affected. It is incumbent on all of us who can to reduce our contribution to climate change. We hope to be a driving force for positive change for other not-for-profits and businesses.