17 Nov 2023
Campaigning policy positions
Ever wonder what Friends of the Earth's stance is on topics like population, housing, or consumption?
To find out what Friends of the Earth's policy is on a particular issue, head over to our policy site.
On setting up or joining a local action group we strongly advise you read the guidance on General Data Protection Regulation requirements.
If, after reading this, you still have questions or concerns please email us at email@example.com.
Local action groups are supported by Friends of the Earth – an organisation committed to conducting our activity in a way that is politically impartial.
All local action groups are required to follow the political impartiality guidance to ensure they are as effective as possible in tackling the climate emergency.
Protest and non-violent direct action
Friends of the Earth supports the right of individuals and organisations to take part in peaceful protest and nonviolent direct action where this is likely to support the achievement of its objectives. However, as a group that works within the courts system, we cannot encourage groups to take illegal action.
Friends of the Earth groups are required to adhere to Friends of the Earth's policy on protest. Please read our guidance on protest and non-violent direct action and contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions or concerns about participating in any planned actions.
Protest guidance: know your rights
In 2022 and 2023, new laws were introduced in the UK to stifle civil rights movements and suppress our rights to protest on issues like climate change and inequality.
The new Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022 and Public Order Act 2023 are particularly aimed at movements and activists that use direct action and civil disobedience against government or corporate inaction on the climate emergency, however many of their provisions impact on protest more widely.
By doing so, the government aims to silence activists and communities, rather than meaningfully engage with and address their concerns. These new laws use vague language to expand police powers, and significantly broaden the definition of “serious disruption” in an apparent attempt to limit protest action as much as possible. But remember: protesting is legal and everyone has the right to protest and to express themselves. It may seem like protest is banned altogether, but this isn’t the case.
Read our protest guidance which equips you with information about protest law, police powers, and your rights and responsibilities when planning or attending a protest.
We believe that everyone has the right to live free from abuse of any kind, and that everyone should feel safe when participating in group activities. We all have a legal responsibility to do everything we can to keep children and vulnerable adults safe and to report any concerns we have about their welfare.
Local action groups should abide by the Fundraising Regulator’s Code of Fundraising Practice when raising money, whether this money is meant to fund the group activities or intended to be donated to Friends of the Earth.
Groups and charity status
Occasionally local action groups become interested in registering as a charity. This shouldn't be undertaken lightly, and groups are advised to look carefully at the pros and cons of registering as a charity.
There is no hard "yes" or "no" on whether a local action groups can become a charity, but it's a big decision which could potentially limit the kind of work you can do.
The local action group charter, that all groups are required to sign, requests groups speak to Friends of the Earth before registering as a charity, and that groups that are already charities speak to us before signing the charter.
The main reason for this is that registering as a charity will place the group under the regulatory control of the Charity Commission, which will place restrictions on the scope of campaigning that groups can undertake. As we expect local action groups to be undertaking environmental campaigning, this can potentially be a problem.
There are rules on how charities can campaign. But in short, a charity can engage in political campaigning if it supports the stated charitable aims of the organisation (the aim that would be registered with the Charity Commission). But a charity’s sole reason for existing can't be campaigning. A charity can devote some of its time to campaigning, or all of its time for a limited period, but it can't be the reason that charity exists. For example, a charity set up to help homeless people can take part in a campaign aimed at challenging political inaction on homelessness, but that campaign can’t be the thing it exists to do.
In 2013 a new charity definition was created – a Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO). This is very similar to a regular incorporated charity, but it's regulated solely by the Charity Commission. Regular incorporated charities report to both the Charity Commission and Companies House. In theory this should reduce the administrative burden and make reporting easier. However it should be remembered that CIOs are still subject to the same rules and restrictions that apply to normal charities, and CIOs are still required to undertake all the reporting and accounting that normal charities would do, and would still need to source and maintain boards of trustees.
There are some common reasons why groups might want to register as a charity. Sometimes it can be to access funding streams that are only open to charities. Occasionally funders will place this requirement on applicants. Sometimes groups can be attracted by the idea of reduced liability. Charities can sign contracts and operate in their own name as a legal entity, which can reduce the liability on individuals in the group. If this is something you are considering, it's worth looking at how you are already protected by Friends of the Earth’s Public Liability Insurance and Employers Liability insurance before making this decision. We think this'll give groups the protection they need for most activities they may want to do.
In general our advice on becoming a charity is that for the vast majority of local action groups in the Friends of the Earth network, charitable status isn't necessary and would place an administrative burden and campaigning restrictions that far outweigh the benefits. But if this is something you do want to explore please get in touch with your regional team as a first step.