Guide to Green Champions: building competency and capacity

Guide to Green Champions: building competency and capacity


With the climate crisis of growing prominence among audiences, artists, funders and wider society, the role of a Green Champion is more crucial than ever. Creative Carbon Scotland's Guide to Green Champions provides ideas and advice for new and experienced Green Champions working within the culture sector.

From our years of work with members of the Green Arts Initiative we know that Green Champions across all art forms often cite a lack of knowledge, skills or time as the main barriers for them achieving their green goals.

In this guidance you will find information on:

  • What is a Green Champion?
  • How can you develop your knowledge and skills?
    • Tools to guide your work
    • Online training and resources
    • In-person training by environmental charities
  • How can you build capacity for your green work?
    • Within your work
    • Within your organisation
    • With the wider sector

What is a Green Champion?

Green Champions are often people who are passionate about climate action and sustainability in their home lives and who see an opportunity to boost action in their work.

They help to promote sustainability initiatives in their workplace, engaging other members of staff and acting as a point of contact for those wanting to take green action.  Your role as Green Champion can develop both the environmental responsibility of your organisation, and your individual skills. It can be a great way to meet new people and effect high-level change.

For some organisations, there is an established Green Champion role, but for others this can be less formal or is still to be initiated. Anyone can be a Green Champion, and an organisation can have lots of Green Champions. The most important thing is that you want to create change to improve your organisation’s environmental impact.

How can you develop your knowledge and skills?

Understanding the causes and impacts of climate change, and what you and your organisation can do to affect change, is important for Green Champions in their work. In particular, developing your own knowledge on the subject can help you identify the best place to put your efforts, and increase your efficiency in taking climate action in the future.

What do you need to know?

We asked Green Arts members what kinds of knowledge and skills they thought Green Champions should focus on. The community suggested:

  • Develop a good understanding of what you mean by ‘green’ – research definitions, wider national and international contexts and where there might be differences of opinion. Think about relating your work to the Sustainable Development Goals or national strategy to find widely-accepted perspectives.
  • Explore the relative impact of different actions – some green actions reduce more emissions than others. For example, reducing air travel is much more effective than using less paper in your office. Consider the green changes you want to make, and prioritise them based on how much of an impact they will have.
  • Find out how your organisation works – particularly in terms of how decisions are made, how you can influence them, and where green ambition can be embedded. Think about your governance or finance processes, and talk to senior management.

Tools to guide your work

Online training and resources

  • The Zero Waste Scotland Green Champions Training Course is a free CPD Certified online training course for Scottish organisations. Each short Green Champions training module packs in knowledge and experience that will accelerate your understanding of the benefits of resource efficiency and quickly teach you how to identify cost savings and environmental improvement opportunities.
  • The United Nations Climate Change learning platform has courses on the science of climate change, how to move from information to action, as well as broader topics, such as the link between climate change and gender, our economy and policy making.
  • EDX has a number of free courses which cover lots of aspects of climate change.
  • Coursera offers more business-focused courses which focus on motivations for becoming greener.
  • Creative Carbon Scotland occasionally hosts workshops or training sessions on specific aspects of emissions reduction and carbon management in the cultural sector. These are shared on our website, by email and social media when available.

In-person training by environmental charities

How can you build capacity for your green work?

Within your own role

In the cultural sector, many organisations have limited resources and increasing demands, and climate change is a big issue for which it can feel like there is always something more to do. These tips  can help you define and refine your plans as a Green Champion, and support your own wellbeing at the same time.

Focus on specific projects

Think big and start small: start with small and positive changes where you can recognise the impact you’re having, or where your scope is clearly defined. Trying to do everything will feel impossible! As a first step, create (or update) your environmental policy. Take a look at the most recent Green Arts report to get some ideas of what other organisations are doing.

Carve out dedicated time

Climate change is challenging, and the timescales of change (years, decades) can feel distant when we’re faced with daily or weekly pressures. However, action now is essential to prevent the worst impact of the climate crisis. In specifically setting aside time for green work, rather than saving it for a ‘quiet day’ you are more likely to be able to move things forward. Consider booking 2 hours in your diary on a Friday afternoon; working in a different room; closing your email for some protected time, or making a regular ‘Green Monday of the Month’.

Get support from your senior management

Work with your manager (or your board) to get support for you spending time on greening your work. If it is part of your annual workplan or professional objectives, you’ll have a stronger mandate to spend time on it.

Recognise the benefits

Embedding positive climate action in your work can also have knock-on positive impacts for you and your organisation as a whole, meaning it’s time well spent.  For example, in greening your supply chain, you might also identify new, more cost effective or more high quality suppliers; in trying to increase your energy efficiency, you might make your office environment a more pleasant and positive space; in including more people in your green work, you might find new networks and supporters; and in reducing your travel emissions by doing more digital events, you might also be increasing the ability for more people to participate!

Within your organisation

If you are the only Green Champion in your organisation, it can feel like quite a lonely role. But there are lots of ways to change this! More people can grow the strength and scale of your action.

Form a Green Team

The way that organisations are run depends on individuals, but individuals work more effectively in teams. Development of a strong environmental programme depends on cooperation and involvement of members of the organisation at all levels. This is particularly true in larger organisations, as an individual may have limited knowledge of how all the other departments work within the company. Pooling the experience of a group to form a Green Team can help spread the burden and bring new knowledge and energy to maintain progress with the environmental programme.

  1. Forming your Green Team Start with a simple email asking for Green Team volunteers, put out to all paid and volunteer staff, people who work in the same building or even freelancers that you work with you. You may be surprised by the response! Try to have at least one team member who is also part of the senior management team, or perhaps an interested board member who will provide a direct link to your board, give the team added credibility and help with obtaining approval for a green budget. Try to have a diverse composition of your team – a range of people, experience and expertise.
  2. Organising your Green Team meetings. Don’t wait for a day when everyone can attend the first or subsequent meetings or it may never get started. Pick a time and date in the future, write an agenda, send it out with the invite and don’t get too worried if not everyone can make it. Set a regular meeting date (perhaps monthly or quarterly) and book it in people’s diaries.
  3. Running your Green Team meetings. All members of the team should be invited to contribute ideas for projects and encouraged to cooperate with projects led by other team members. Define and minute clear actions along interest areas and encourage members to own and report back on actions at the next meeting.
  4. Using your environmental policy. One of the most important tasks for a Green Team is to develop or deliver an Environmental policy. For help on developing your policy see Creative Carbon Scotland’s Guide to Environmental Policies.
  5. Reviewing progress. Think about what can make your Green Team better: rotate the chair and team member positions to keep ideas fresh; invite guest speakers for external perspectives and report your progress in your annual report.


Organisations based in the Centre for Creative Arts, The Briggait and the Royal Lyceum have formed building-wide green teams through their connected Green Champions. This has resulted in shared initiatives (like a Swap Shop) as well as joined-up approaches when asking for building changes.

Creative Carbon Scotland’s Guide to Green Champions: Building Competency and Capacity

The green team of the Edinburgh International Book Festival (spelling out ‘green’!)

Create accountability at a senior level

Having a mechanism for sharing your work with your organisation’s senior leadership or governance group can help keep actions on-track, support prioritisation and develop more support for your work. Think about adding a standard ‘green’ item on your board agenda.

Develop your communications

Think about how and where others within your organisation will be able to find out about your green work. Inform colleagues of your progress and celebrate your successes, by circulating a monthly ‘green’ newsletter, or embedding a ‘green news’ feature within your existing circular. Green Arts member the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society has an internal Slack channel (#green) which helps them develop and share ideas of sustainability initiatives. The Royal Lyceum Theatre has a pin board in their Grindlay Street offices which shares seasonal utility readings with staff and tenant organisations to highlight their green work.

Embed Green Champion responsibilities in job descriptions and hiring practices

Adding ‘contributing to climate action ambitions’ or ‘contributing to our carbon management plan’ to job adverts and job descriptions is a key way to attract those who can contribute to your green work. The Scottish Storytelling Centre has Green Champion responsibilities included in all their job descriptions.

More ideas on how to build awareness and enthusiasm within your organisation can be found in this guide to team engagement by Julie’s Bicycle.

With the wider sector

You can also increase your own capacity by seeking ideas, help and energy from others in the sector.

Join the Green Arts Initiative

Become a member of our Green Arts Initiative to join the network of Scottish arts organisations committed to reducing their environmental impact. We have over 240 Green Arts organisations, ranging in art form and geography across Scotland. Free to join and participate in, we host monthly Green Champion meet-ups, an annual conference, share case studies and support member activity, boosting your wider support network.

Creative Carbon Scotland’s Guide to Green Champions: Building Competency and Capacity 1

Scottish cultural Green Champions at the 2019 Green Arts Conference

Collaborate with the sector

If you are daunted by doing climate change or environment-themed events or activities solo, think about other networks or associated organisations who you could partner with to co-produce something. Our cultural sector is generally very good at collaboration and we should bring this strength to our green work! Use formal noticeboards (like the Creative Scotland Opportunities Tool); social media groups (like Admin Monkeys) or put out an open call. Get in touch with Creative Carbon Scotland if you want us to be involved too.

Learn from visiting artists or members

If your organisation has members or regularly works with visiting artists, get them involved in your green work! They could be a great source of ideas and inspiration, providing an external perspective on your work and bringing their knowledge of what is happening elsewhere.

Explore external funding opportunities

Some new ideas will need funding to get off the ground. Although there is limited funding available for some energy and resource efficiency actions (see our list of funding resources here), some innovative ideas might be appropriate for research and development funds from cultural funders, environmental organisations, trusts and foundations, or academic funding councils.

Advice for a More Sustainable Fringe 1

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

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Resource type: Guide/tools | Published: 2021