Ben’s Strategy Blog: Carbon Management Planning for cultural SMEs

21st June 2017

Image credit: www.caf-allier.fr

With a new Climate Change Act requiring greater carbon emissions reductions, CCS will introduce carbon management planning for cultural SMEs to help them play their part

Back in 2011 we were laying the groundwork for Creative Carbon Scotland. The late and sorely missed Euan Turner and I were running carbon management workshops for 10-15 theatre, dance and music organisations, members of the Federation of Scottish Theatre. Julie’s Bicycle had been doing similar work in England for a while. I had already been supporting the Edinburgh Festivals for a few months, but we hadn’t quite got to carbon management yet. With the FST group we started with carbon counting as the first step to carbon reduction, although of course within the discussion there was always a lot of sharing of experience and tips about how to reduce.

Good news on carbon reporting

Six years on, 117 organisations receiving Regular Funding from Creative Scotland have reported on their greenhouse gas emissions for 2015/16 using a consistent approach – around 90 organisations did so voluntarily for 204/15 and about 40 the year before. You can read the report here, hot off the press! And we’ve produced this infographic with the key information.

Better Carbon Reporting Leads to Better Understanding of our Sector’s Impact 2

The quality of the data is getting better and better. This is particularly so for travel, which for many cultural SMEs is the major source of emissions and is difficult to track as, unlike utilities, the messy data comes from everything from expenses claims to invoices to petty cash and is provided by everyone from freelancers to travel agents.

(Our own tool Claimexpenses.com is the solution: it replaces any paper based expenses claim system, can be used by the most irregular freelancer and tracks the carbon accurately in the background then collates it nicely for the poor soul who previously was sweating over endless lever arch files.)

The amount of carbon produced by these smaller organisations isn’t so great, but if we are going to get to the Paris Agreement’s carbon neutral (or indeed carbon negative: see Kevin Anderson) position by 2050, then it isn’t just the big emitters that are going to matter: we’re all going to have to work hard to minimise that carbon.

Next step: carbon management plans

So we’re suggesting that, even for cultural SMEs, the next step is carbon management planning. Essentially this means asking everyone to look forward to their future carbon footprint not just back at emissions they have already produced. Can we plan to avoid our most carbon intensive behaviours, find better ways to get the job done?  Can we use our knowledge to prevent unnecessary carbon emissions before they happen? We think the answer is ‘Yes’.

Regular Funding and Open Project Funding

In April around 180 organisations submitted applications to Creative Scotland for funding for the period 2018-21. These applications will include fairly detailed plans for their activity for those three years. Many of the successful applicants will have reported on their carbon emissions for the period 2015-18, so they’ll know their main sources of emissions. In other words they will have the basic information necessary for a decent carbon management plan.

And those arts organisations that apply for funding from Creative Scotland’s Open Project Fund also know their plans. Although they may not know their previous emissions, they can use tools like our tenants’ energy toolbox or the Julie’s Bicycle ig tools to work out where their main emissions sources will be, as their projects will be similar to others’.

How carbon management planning works

A column for ‘carbon cost estimates’ can be included alongside financial cost estimates in production planning, with estimates based on previous measurements and experience since, for most organisations, their future activities will bear some resemblance to their past, where emissions are known. This will enable them to identify a few specific areas where they can take action to reduce their carbon emissions from their ‘business as usual’ scenario. The Albert tool, run by a consortium led by BAFTA, does something similar for screen production projects.

We’re therefore encouraging cultural SMEs to use their knowledge to develop plans to reduce carbon, focussing on the areas of their work with the most significant emissions, and where realistic action can be taken. The three-year period for the new cohort of Regular Funded Organisations will be especially useful, as it allows for some expenditure up front if necessary to get payback over the longer term. There is time to plan, implement and monitor the results to find out what works and learn from the experience. But for shorter projects there are fairly straightforward decisions to make. We’ll provide training, tools and comprehensive support from this autumn onwards, just as we did when mandatory carbon reporting was introduced for Regular Funded Organisations.

A cultural shift

Euan Turner’s main job was Health and Safety Advisor for the FST. In that role his great achievement was turning  H&S from a tedious compliance issue into a set of values, skills and knowledge that would enable cultural organisations and their staff to do their work more effectively.

Our work on Carbon Management Planning is based on the idea that understanding and managing their carbon emissions will help cultural SMEs improve their operations to make them more efficient, will strengthen their reputations as climate change moves up the agenda, and will align with the qualities that make them trusted and valued by their staff, artists and audiences. In all sorts of ways it will make them better organisations.

I don’t know but I have an idea that there are few sectors where the majority of micro, small and medium-sized businesses are accurately measuring their carbon emissions and developing coherent plans to reduce them. I’m proud that the cultural sector in Scotland has taken the first steps so effectively, joining our Green Arts Initiative and working together to develop and share good practice.

In 2017 there will be a new Climate Change Act for Scotland which will increase the ambition and reach of Scotland’s climate change action. The cultural sector’s work demonstrates what can be done by everyone to help achieve those aims. And Euan, who helped us set out on this journey, would be thrilled.


Read more of Ben’s strategy blogs on culture and climate change here.

Photo Credit: Cnaf – Caf de l’Allier – fotolia

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About Creative Carbon Scotland

We believe cultural and creative organisations have a significant influencing power to help shape a sustainable Scotland for the 21st century.


Read more about CCS

0131 529 7909
info@creativecarbonscotland.com

Supported by

Edinburgh Festival City Edinburgh Festival City

A project initiated by Edinburgh’s Festivals with key partners the Federation of Scottish Theatre and Scottish Contemporary Art Network

Edinburgh Festival City Federation of Scottish Theatre Scottish Contemporary Art Network