ESG services for a mental health charity


Mind, one of the principal mental health charities across England and Wales, came to Grain in August 2023 for support with sustainability work. Mind’s mission is to give advice and support to empower anyone experiencing a mental health problem, campaigning to improve services, raise awareness, and promote understanding. The charity, which has a focus on anti-racism, poverty, and young people, has over 162,830 supporters and its work has helped almost 470,000 people.

The work of National Mind (around 500 staff) and Mind Retail (around 160 charity shops) was in scope for this project, but not Local Minds which are independently run charities in different regions across England and Wales that also form part of the Mind Federation.

Mind had already formulated an environmental strategy to help tackle the climate emergency with the three main goals to strengthen their operational performance on environmental issues, tackle the mental health impacts of climate change, and use Mind’s influence and leadership voice. They had also measured their baseline carbon footprint for 2022/23.

Grain assisted Mind in carrying out a materiality assessment to enable the charity to identify and prioritise areas of focus, ramp up levels of sustainability activity, and be able to report on initiatives. As previous sustainability work was set internally from the top down, they wanted to use this report to incorporate and align stakeholder priorities.

After a kick-off meeting, we began researching key topics and emerging trends in the charity and mental health sector and came up with a list of 11 topics across the areas of environment, social, and governance that we deemed to be material to Mind. We began mapping stakeholders, creating a list of 17 interviewees including internal members of the Mind workforce and external affiliates with significant links to the charity.

Seventeen anonymised one-on-one interviews were conducted between November 2023 and February 2024. Interviewees were open and candid and offered useful insights on sustainability at Mind and the importance of the topics identified.

We created a survey for further input on material issues which was sent out to all subscribers of Mind’s newsletter. The survey allowed us to collect pre-formatted and open-text evaluations on the meaning and importance of sustainability. This was key to ensuring that the voices of donors and those with a vested interest in the charity were incorporated into the work moving forward.

The final materiality assessment report helped to prioritise material topics for Mind. It showed that in particular, focusing on the accessibility of services, ethical fundraising and investing, and tracking and reducing energy and emissions should be strategic priorities for the charity moving forward.

It is important to note that Mind Retail stores have a significant positive impact in terms of reducing waste, especially fashion and textiles, as they are charity shops offering a second life to items that are no longer used. However, we noted that when items cannot be sold waste becomes a key issue.

An interesting material topic specific to this project was that of climate anxiety and emotions around climate change. While the climate emergency is not the main charitable focus of Mind, its impact on mental health is something that will likely grow in importance, especially among young people. We identified an opportunity to align the sustainability work of National Mind with the services offered by Local Mind charities to help people’s mental health, for example, eco-therapy and nature-based activities.

This was a fascinating project for Grain: we enjoyed helping Mind with their materiality assessment and wish them luck in achieving their targets following the report. We look forward to sustainability becoming a growing priority for the charity alongside its current focus on providing mental health support to all.

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