New carbon budgeting tool

Creative Carbon Scotland is happy to launch a new carbon budgeting tool. This marks the end of over six months of collaboration with organisations across the cultural and creative sectors, who have been taking part in an action learning set to try out carbon budgeting (the planning of how and where we ‘spend’ our carbon) across their own operations.

Beginning of the project

The tool was first developed by Imaginate as a way to identify planned travel up to three years in advance, estimating the carbon emissions and strategically planning ways to limit these emissions through pre-emptive actions. With the initial tool, they could set reduction targets for different departments, allowing these areas of the organisation to take ownership of their emissions. Creative Carbon Scotland has developed the tool further by integrating net-zero trajectories and expanding the emission sources beyond travel, so that emissions totals can be aligned to a given net-zero target.

We understood that a lot of organisations were looking for ways to plan carbon and we wanted to try out this new tool before launching it. Therefore, we invited green champions to participate in a carbon budgeting action learning set where they could try out the tool, see how the processes would work in their organisations and discuss improvements collectively.

Action learning set

Thirty organisations signed up to be part of the carbon budgeting action learning set. They represented a range of sizes, art forms and activities, giving the sessions a real insight into different ways organisations and individuals in the cultural and creative sectors will interact with carbon budgeting.

The sessions began with an introduction to the tool, then the green champions were given a month to explore it. At this stage, as they had been shown how to use it, the participants found that the tool was much easier to understand. To help new users understand the tool, we have provided a walk-through video of the tool.

A month later, we reconvened and discussed how we found the tool and talked about how it could be improved. This feedback completely changed the look, usability and functions of the tool. Some features that came from this included having cumulative totals of budgets, space to plan materials and a page to add additional locations for travel.

Once Creative Carbon Scotland made improvements to the tool, the participants were given three months to integrate the tool into their organisations’ operations. We came back for a final session where we discussed the potential issues of carbon budgeting as a concept and how we can avoid them.

A discussion point that came up was that of the climate justice aspects of planning travel emissions – for example, how can you ensure equitable participation as you try to move to slower forms of travel or less travel? On the Move, which supports artists to operate internationally while working to reimagine mobility as fairer, greener and more inclusive has produced some valuable resources around this. We recommend reading their 2023 Cultural Mobility Yearbook.

The involvement of a wide range of organisations was a valuable part of this process. Their collaboration has led to what we believe is a versatile tool that can be used by any organisation or individual to reduce their operational emissions through planning.

The tool

You can access the tool on our website. The main use of the tool is to allow you to plan carbon in the same way you plan your financial budgets. It will allow you to do the following:

  • See how your emissions should reduce each year to reach net-zero emissions by any given year.
  • Plan emissions for the coming year in line with your net-zero trajectory.
  • Split up your planning by department or project.
  • Explore how changing what you do can impact your emissions.

It has been built to be as adaptable as possible. You have the option to budget for up to 10 departments/projects, but you can equally plan all your emissions as one. It can be used in either Excel or Google Sheets, though Excel will be slightly more user friendly.

When using the tool, you should be aware of the following:

  • It is a planning tool where all calculated emission values are estimates only. You should not use these methods for reporting or actual measurements.
  • This is our most advanced tool. You should have calculated your/your organisation’s carbon footprint, understood all your sources of emissions and set a net-zero target year before using the tool.
  • If your/your organisation’s emissions are less than five tonnes, please explore the tool and use it if you would like, but the benefits might be outweighed by the time it takes to fill out the tool. We encourage you to instead explore how you can use your influence to effect change beyond your core emissions.

We hope you find the tool useful and if you have any questions or suggestions for improvements, please do get in touch at

(Top image ID: Carbon management logo.)

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