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Climate Action Programme case study: Bristol Old Vic


Nico CondeBristol Old Vic is working purposefully to bring sustainability into all aspects of their activities. In this case study, Bristol Old Vic’s Environmental Consultant, Nico Conde, shares some highlights and ambitions.

We want to build our sustainability strategy collaboratively so that any initiatives are embedded within the organisation. Inevitably our environmental efforts suffered throughout the pandemic, but we’ve been working to reactivate that conversation through our Environmental Working Group, which includes representatives from every team.

Engaging our staff

Communications and engagement are essential to this work. We wanted to understand both internal and external perspectives on climate change and cultural organisations, so we ran surveys with our staff and audiences. These helped us to gain broad perspectives on environmental issues and how concerned people are, where we are currently, and what our priorities should be.

Bristol Old Vic window

Martyna Bober via Unsplash

It became clear that our staff are largely concerned about climate change but it’s not what we tend to talk about in day-to-day operations. We wanted to find a way to address this, ensure staff have a shared understanding of the issues, and an opportunity to work together to drive meaningful change for themselves and for Bristol Old Vic. So, our main priority for 2023 is carbon literacy training for all teams. We’ll also be offering training places to the freelancers that we work with regularly. A large percentage of the people who work in the creative sector are freelancers, so we want to ensure their voices are part of the conversation.

We’ve also created a course, accredited by The Carbon Literacy Project, that has been made available for free to other theatres across the UK. Our only request is that they also ensure a certain number of places to freelancers in their region. As an industry we share an ecosystem so it’s important to ensure we’re all on the same page about the changes that need to be made.

Creative solutions for a creative organisation

We have the benefit and privilege of being a cultural organisation, with art being a fantastic tool for enabling meaningful conversations. We believe that through our creative programme there is an opportunity to engage people in a useful dialogue about environmental issues. This goes way beyond reducing Bristol Old Vic’s carbon footprint – it’s also about inspiring our audiences to think about the positive change they can make.

Through the Theatre Green Book framework, we’re also looking at how we can build and make our theatre productions in a more sustainable way, focusing on the circular economy. We work with skilled makers, designers, and carpenters, and the aim is to consider the source and end of life of anything built for our shows from the very beginning. Sustainability requires creative thinking, and as a creative organisation we want to develop innovative solutions.

Next steps

We’re still in that part of the journey where we’re trying to understand more about our emissions. So alongside our plans for carbon literacy training and circular productions, we are looking at improving our emissions measuring. It is a particular challenge to gather comparable data over the period of the pandemic as, for example, covid regulations meant needing to ventilate the space at the same time as keeping it warm.

A newer area of our work is making films of our productions and we’re in the process of creating the first film with an Albert certification – the BAFTA standard for sustainability in film and TV which is now a requirement for some of the larger studios.

Top tips

  • Involve people from all areas of your business, especially those who are already interested in the subject. If you give them a voice and an opportunity to contribute it can activate your sustainability journey by empowering individuals, and inspiring others to participate.
  • Don’t be afraid of getting it wrong. Try to encounter the problems rather than moving away from them as it will help you learn.
  • Start with the easy wins – there are some actions that are very easy to implement at a low cost but have a big impact. For example, switching to a green energy tariff.
  • Try to approach it collaboratively. The more partners you involve, the more it expands your impact and helps you reach a little further than trying to do it on your own.
  • There are loads of free resources available out there. Whether it’s the Partnership’s Climate Action Programme resources or more sector specific ones such as Julie’s Bicycle, make use of these tools!

Bristol Old Vic is a is a member of our Climate Leader’s Group. Find out more about their sustainability actions on their website, and read about their community greenhouse project.

Business, Membership Updates, Arts Heritage and Culture, Climate Action
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