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Environmental Action Fund (EAF)

The Environmental Action Fund closed at the end of March 2008.

These pages are for anyone interested in knowing what the Fund supported, the research arising (especially relating to environmental behaviour change), and other sources of grant for environmental/sustainable development projects in the UK.

What was the EAF?

The Environmental Action Fund (EAF) was a Defra funding scheme which helped voluntary and community sector groups to further the Government's sustainable development objectives within England.

Grants awarded to groups ranged from £25,000 to £250,000 per year (£75,000 and £750,000 over a three year grant period).

As part of the eligibility criteria groups had to find eligible matching funding and ensure that a work plan was agreed with Defra containing well defined objectives, measurable outcomes and clear timescales.

The funding priorities and actual distribution of EAF grants were decided by Defra Ministers.

Other sources of funding

Further information about Defra and the third sector, including information about funding, is on the Third Sector Strategy webpages.

Further funding sources can be found at:

What did the EAF fund in 2007-2008?

Grant awards for 2007-2008 funding:

In 2007-2008, priority was given to projects that contributed to the sustainable consumption agenda identified in the Government's Sustainable Consumption and Production (SCP) Framework.

We sought applications from groups that could change behaviours: finding ways of making sustainable living attractive to consumers, and sustainable processes attractive to producers.

In particular, EAF funded projects that were:

  • influencing patterns of consumption within communities* in England to become more sustainable;
  • focusing on moving from awareness of consumption challenges into action for more sustainable consumption behaviours, building the capability and commitment of communities to change the existing patterns;
  • for the most part having England-wide coverage or strong potential for widespread application. Projects with a local or regional focus were encouraged as long as they could demonstrate the potential for wider influence or replication;
  • looking at consumption issues across the board or in broad consumption themes - for example, the consumption impacts surrounding the domestic household, or the impacts of its leisure-time activities;
  • going beyond single issues covered by other more specific programmes (which, for example, focus on aspects of energy efficiency, waste or mobility);
  • attempting to make some leap of innovation in social or market activity (as distinct from innovation in technology). To that extent, projects with a narrower focus on a specific good or service, involving new ways of supplying and consuming, were considered - especially if they had the potential to stimulate innovative thinking in other consumption streams;
  • delivered by eligible bodies in the voluntary, not-for-profit sector. However, projects which involved participation by business or public sector organisations were not ruled out as partnerships of this kind may be a distinctive feature of innovative projects.

* "Communities" could be physical communities at local or regional levels; or communities defined by common features of a social, demographic, religious or cultural kind.

Evaluation of EAF projects in 2005-08

Defra commissioned Brook Lyndhurst to undertake a three-year evaluation of the EAF (2005-2008) to assess and determine behaviour change impact and key factors for success. The year one and two interim reports and executive summaries are available below:

  • Year one
    The first interim report identified key lessons learnt, opportunities and risks along with a series of recommendations which were actioned by Defra. For instance, we provided evaluation support to groups who responded to our offer of a one-to-one evaluation consultancy (Recommendation 5) and we provided groups with easily digestible information about behaviour change theories (Recommendation 4).

    Evaluation support was offered to EAF groups by Kathryn Rathouse in association with Brook Lyndhurst. In recognition of the needs of the EAF groups, an important ‘Evaluation Handbook’ was prepared detailing a variety of evaluation methods which were applied by EAF groups. This resource is available here.

  • Year two
    The second report moves towards an evaluation of the extent to which there is potential for projects to deliver an innovative test bed of approaches that contribute to the Sustainable Consumption and Production (SCP) agenda.  The concluding and full report will present the overall assessment of learning points from the EAF projects.
    • Year two interim report (2007) (PDF 1.4 MB)
    • Final Evaluation report (PDF 2.5 MB) - The final report on the EAF concludes that the fund was successful in influencing behavioural change, and these successes were mainly in increasing recycling and water and energy saving rather than actions that might involve bigger lifestyle shifts like flying or in car use. The report also shows the successful levels of engagement with the public. The report highlights the involvement of at least 78,000 participants, the support of around 190 community action groups, the involvement of between 5,500 and 6,000 volunteers and receipt of pledges from at least 10,000 people.

Biodiversity projects – funding for 2008-11

The biodiversity stream of the Environmental Action Fund was transferred to Natural England. Launched on 15 December 2005, the fund is now known as “The Countdown 2010 Biodiversity Action Fund” and is administered by Natural England. The fund will continue to support projects carried out by voluntary organisations which will help deliver the objectives of the England Biodiversity Strategy and Biodiversity Action plan targets for England.

For details of grants awarded see:

Further information

Annual report

More information about groups and work supported by EAF grants can be found in the EAF annual report:

Evaluation of Defra’s 2002 – 2005 EAF Programme

An independent evaluation of EAF in 2002-05 by CAG Consultants was completed in January 2006. CAG produced a final report and executive summary available below:

The report held lessons for the EAF itself, and also for Defra more widely. The research took forward our understanding of how best to work with the voluntary and community sector to promote and support more sustainable behaviour. It also provided some useful pointers on the effectiveness of different types of behaviour change activity in different contexts, and with different target communities.

Contacting Defra

If you want further information about the Environmental Action Fund then you should first consult the pages mentioned above. If you then still need to contact the EAF team, you can do so as follows:

Environmental Behaviours Unit
5C Ergon House
Horseferry Road
London SW1P 2AL


Page last modified: 2 February 2010