Briefing report for Leeds Climate Commission

This briefing report by Milena Buchs and Rebecca Payling, with Matthew Hogarth, evaluates the effectiveness of Carbon Literacy (CL) workplace training in encouraging more environmentally-beneficial attitudes and behaviours, and reduction of carbon footprints both at work and at home. The evaluation is based on case studies with Opera North and ITV. We find evidence that Carbon Literacy training can encourage more climate-conscious behaviour and make practical recommendations for running Carbon Literacy in your organisation.

Summary of Findings

  • We find evidence that Carbon Literacy Training made participants significantly more knowledgeable about climate change and climate action compared to a control group that did not take part in training. The training also encouraged participants to reduce emissions, both at the work place and at home.
  • Carbon Literacy training works because it creates new work cultures and directly engages staff in making a difference to the organisation. In this way, the intervention can be considered a form of professional development similar to traditional workplace training.
  • Carbon Literacy Training can help to increase general staff motivation and identification with a common cause at the workplace.
  • Carbon Literacy Training is easy to implement from an organisational perspective (provided that financial and time resources for it are available), because it can be tailored to different workplace settings.
  • Existing contexts can limit results of the training. For instance, the training can only encourage organisational and behaviour changes that people are able to do within existing institutional and technological contexts. To achieve even larger impacts, higher level policies and infrastructures would need to become more supportive of carbon reduction.


Practical Recommendations

Our recommendations are based on the findings from this project and on insights from the training leads in Opera North and ITV.

  • Get senior leadership on board before you start to train people; senior leadership support and championship for the programme is key for success
  • Aim to train all members of staff in the organisation, this is the key to culture change within the organisation. Train as many people as possible within the organisation. Tackling the climate emergency is a big challenge, and hence we require broad culture change. If only a few "key people" within the organisation are trained up, there is a danger that they become isolated and lose motivation.
  • In advance of the training, identify areas where your organisation can make the biggest emission savings, as well as areas that present challenges. Ask the Carbon Literacy trainer to reflect this in the training programme, they can tailor it to your organisation.
  • Commit to a whole day of training to enable people to focus on it and reduce distraction. It seems like a big ask, but it’ll pay in the long run, after all tackling climate change is a big challenge that needs time and resources.
  • Don't be afraid that people will react badly to the training. Carbon Literacy is a programme where all the cards are being put on the table upfront, and then it lets people come to their own conclusion. People who at the start of the sessions are most sceptical against the training often become advocates.
  • Identify a training lead in the organisation who manages the process and liaises between management, staff and trainers. They should also keep engaging staff on carbon reduction and sustainability once training is completed, e.g. with regular updates on how the organisation is doing in reducing its carbon footprint, carbon saving tips, sustainability staff awards, etc.
  • Evaluate the training programme through before/after surveys and measures of environmental performance. Collate independent feedback on the programme. This helps to tailor the programme, demonstrate impact, and make the process as transparent as possible.

The research was funded by an EPSRC IAA (Impact Acceleration Account).

Download the report from the link below.

Media coverage

The research was featured in The Guardian (2 October 2021):

Read our press release