Creative Carbon Scotland’s Guide to Environmental Policies

2nd February 2020

Creative Carbon Scotland's Guide to Environmental Policies 2

A strong, well-planned, and useful environmental policy is essential for any organisation aiming to affect its environmental impact and tackle climate change. We've put together this guide to provide some advice, tips and examples, to ensure the successful creation and implementation of your policy.

It contains advice on:

  • What is an environmental policy?
  • What makes a good policy?
  • Getting Started: the 5 key questions to consider
  • Examples of policies from across the Scottish arts sector
  • Ensuring success

As climate crisis concerns become more prominent, the motivations and requirements for arts and cultural organisations to affect their environmental impact continues to grow. As well as meeting growing funding, reporting and legal requirements, improving your environmental sustainability can also save you money and help your staff to work more efficiently.

What is an environmental policy?

An environmental policy is a written statement of your organisation’s environmental/sustainability commitment. It should explain your approach to addressing our climate crisis: reducing your environmental impact, and how your organisation seeks to contribute to climate action goals.

Associated action plan

An environmental policy should also be associated with a plan of action: how you intend to achieve the aims outlined in the policy! This should be more detailed than the overarching policy, and detail specific actions for specific people.

What makes a good policy?

  1. It is unique to your organisation. The best policies reflect the values, work and nature of an individual organisation. Each organisation is at a different stage in their environment work and will have different key areas they choose to focus on. Think about what makes your organisation unique, and how you can best explore and address the sustainability dimensions of this.
  2. It addresses the primary areas of your environmental impact. Many of the issues facing arts organisations when it comes to carbon emissions are similar. Understand your scope (what activities you have control over) and what you already know about your environmental impact. At Creative Carbon Scotland, our work with the sector means we know that emissions resulting from travel (particularly flying) and energy from heating and lighting buildings are the main contributors to the size of your footprint, but things might vary depending on your circumstances.
  3. It is owned by everyone. A policy is only successful if it is implemented, and for that you need support and buy-in from your team. Build ownership by involving people in the creation of the policy, claiming actions and reporting back.
  4. Your actions are within your control. Climate change is a complex problem, and it can be difficult to know what you can change. Think about what is directly within your control (often this can be linked to finances) and what is within your influence. Break things into manageable chunks to make them more immediate to your work (i.e. you might not be able to change our transport system overnight, but you can commit to going ‘flight-free’).

Getting started

Begin by asking yourself the 5 key questions below:

  • WHY is your organisation creating an environmental policy? Think about your internal motivations and external pressures.
  • WHAT do you want to achieve? Set achievable but ambitious goals and targets which reduce your environmental impact and contribute to sustainability. Having a clear idea of what you’re aiming for will make things more tangible than just a general ‘be more sustainable’.
  • HOW are you going to put your policy into action? Think about what resources, knowledge or additional support you will need. Will you need to send staff on training, or seek expert advice? Think about the steps needed to achieve bigger or more complex objectives.
  • WHO needs to be involved in the creation of the policy? Think about who needs to own different actions, and who needs to ‘sign off’ the policy for implementation.
  • WHEN are your milestones for your actions? When will you develop, improve and update it? Think about aligning these milestones with other milestones for your organisation or your business plan.

These questions can form the basis of a structure for your policy!

Examples from the Scottish Cultural sector

Ensuring Success

Your policy shouldn’t be a weighty document that gathers dust on your office (or digital) shelf. It should be something into which everyone has regular input and understands, and which makes it easy for staff to make an environmentally sustainable choice in your organisation. Most importantly, it should have
backing and approval from your senior management.

  • Embed sustainability into your existing processes. An environmental policy isn’t just a piece of paper but a set of processes for organisational change. Make green responsibilities part of job roles and new projects. Think about how your sustainability ambitions intersect with your work on equalities, diversity and inclusion, and cross-reference in things like you strategic plan or annual reviews.
  • Set SMART targets (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound) to make it easier to understand your progress.
  • Engage senior management. Getting top-level commitment to your environmental work is key to embedding positive behaviours across your organisation, and there are financial, regulatory, reputational and social/artistic benefits for organisations to grow their environmental sustainability. Without their leadership from the top it will be difficult to implement changes in your organisation. Having CEO and/or Board contribute to, and sign off, your policy makes it easier for other members of staff to integrate monitoring or reduction activities into their weekly routines, or to make new investments in efficient technology or infrastructure more likely.
  • Make your policy public and accessible. Think about how people will know about your green ambitions and be able to help. It could be included in staff handbooks or contracts, on your website or displayed in your office, but staff awareness of its existence, and how it applies to their position, is essential to its success.
  • Have a point of contact. Having a nominated individual, team, or senior management member with the authority to progress the policy and any resulting actions is crucial for internal communication of your aims. We suggest all Green Arts organisations nominate a Green Champion, and many members have a ‘Green Team’ made up of members from different departments or different organisations within a shared building.
  • Communicate your achievements! Share progress regularly through internal communications methods, include a paragraph in your board papers or annual report and participate in the Green Arts community.

Finally, if you’re struggling with creating your policy, would like a second opinion or someone to bounce ideas off: get in touch! Contact Amanda or Catriona for some feedback and we’ll see how we can help.

Advice for a More Sustainable Fringe 1

This guidance is part of Creative Carbon Scotland’s resources for our Green Arts community: a group of over 230 cultural organisations in Scotland committed to reducing their environmental impact. Find out more and join for free on our Green Arts Initiative page.

Get info on news, opportunities & events by email

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.

0131 529 7909

Supported by

Creative Scotland logo City of Edinburgh Council logo

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

Edinburgh Festival City logo Federation of Scottish Theatre logo Scottish Contemporary Art Network logo


Scottish Living Wage Accreditation Good Business Charter Accredited