perma collective

Exploring Carbon Footprinting

Written by Jessica Gage
Carbon Footprint


Perma collective takes its name from Perma Culture and the idea that we can absolutely align our working processes with its core guiding principles. For example…

Principle 1, Observe and Interact
Principle 4, Apply Self-Regulation and Feedback
Principle 5. Use and Value Renewables

As we grow our business, we use these principles to shape the way we work and to ensure that we build a business for the future. One that gives more than it takes. A business built on community.

A quote that has always stuck. ‘Small steps add up to great change. Progress over perfection every day’.


Liam Bergin, Partner of Perma Collective

We teamed up with Jessica to help us to realise our intentions, to help us collect and collate all the data required and we asked her to both record her journey and to share her learnings as we believe that sharing is fundamental to solving the climate crisis. We can’t keep doing what we have done before and we can’t keep working to short term wins. We need to look further and develop new workflows, new processes that are kinder on our planet.  

Exploring Carbon Footprinting Measurement

1. The why.

We wanted to find out more about measuring the carbon footprint of our business and of our projects; what this means, why it’s so key to addressing the impact of our industry on climate change and how we actually go about doing it.

It’s important to us that our learning and experience in this area are transparent and available to our wider collective (#sharednotsecret), so we’ve put together this journal to take you through our journey from initial research to trying and testing measurement on one of our recent projects.

The climate emergency is the biggest challenge we will face in our lifetime [1]. We all need to act now as businesses and individuals to reduce the impact we’re having on the planet. Record GHG (greenhouse gas) levels and the associated rise in temperature mean far-reaching consequences for current and future generations.

In a 2018 UN report [2] scientists and governments agreed that global temperature rise should be limited to no more than 1.5°C, which would help us avoid the worst climate impacts and maintain a liveable climate. Yet current national climate plans would see global warming reaching 2.7°C by the end of the century [3]. 

So what can we do to reduce our impact NOW, and how do we know what this impact is and where to begin? How can we be sure that changes we’re making are having the positive impact we think they are? 

Measurement of the carbon footprint of our business and our shoots enables us to quantify the impact we’re having on the climate crisis, to ascertain which areas of our business and projects are having the biggest impact and therefore need the most attention with regards to behaviour change. This then helps us to set targets and track progress. 

Although it’s not yet mandatory for smaller UK businesses to measure and publicly report emissions, it is recommended that all businesses do measure and report emissions to better understand their relationship with climate change [4], as a responsible reaction to the climate emergency. The sooner we can understand the “detail” of our impact, the sooner we can make informed decisions on how to reduce this effectively, and make sure that the things we do to reduce our impact are working.

2. What does Measuring our footprint involve?

Measuring a carbon footprint means working out how many tonnes of GHG’s were generated directly and indirectly as a result of your business activities. The GHG’s covered are the six included in the Kyoto Protocol [5], and the emission units are tCO2e, which are tonnes of carbon equivalent (calculated by understanding what mass of carbon dioxide would produce an equivalent effect on global warming [6]). 

To calculate the carbon footprint you multiply activity data (for example how many days you worked from home, or how far your taxi journey in a diesel taxi was) by emissions factors. Emissions factors are numbers set annually by the government (DEFRA and the DECC). They have to be updated annually as the global warming potential of these gases changes as scientific understanding develops [7]. See our previous Carbon Jargon post for more on this.

Businesses can either use these government emissions factors, or they can find relevant online calculators to make life easier. BAFTA developed a carbon calculation tool called WeAreAlbert to support the TV and Film industries. Following the success of this, AdGreen was set up as a part of the Advertising Association and has partnered with Albert to provide a carbon calculator tool for the advertising industry. This allows you to input data on spaces, transport, materials and disposal, and converts it into tCO2e generated from that project. AdGreen has also partnered with Natural Capital Partners to offer the ability to offset the carbon you weren’t able to prevent via reduction.

3. Our journey

To measure the footprint of a recent shoot the first thing we did was identify which elements of the project we needed to collect data for. The simple rule is that if it’s covered within your budget it’s included.

Next, we had to work out how to collect the data. This is very much a work in progress. We’ve started with online Google Forms specific to department (inclusive of studio) that ask people working on the project about their working spaces, travel, materials and disposal. We used the AdGreen calculator requirements to inform what data needed collecting and worked back from that. The forms are quick to fill out and store the responses digitally for reference.  Alongside this we created a master internal spreadsheet, where all this data could be stored, so we can easily access, edit and hold internal progress notes and any other information we want to record that doesn’t fit into the calculator tool. 

Having collected the necessary data, we input it into the AdGreen calculator, which gave us a total carbon footprint figure for the shoot, a breakdown of emissions per section (non-filming spaces, filming spaces, transport, materials, disposal) and more detail per activity line. 

It’s really important that we’re able to share this information with both our client, and with members of the shoot team. It’s a collective effort, so it’s important to make sense of why we choose to work differently on set and accredit team members who found new ways of doing things. Measurement allows us to quantify and celebrate the success of changes made.

4. Design is in the detail

Emissions information can be confusing and difficult to visualise, so we developed our first project based carbon report. We chose to highlight “Three Things” (influenced by the book by Ana Santi & Company [8]) that we did differently to reduce our impact, to obtain a focus for the report.  

“The more actions we take - however small at the beginning - the more likely we are to engage in the bigger, necessary efforts”.

These three behaviour changes, alongside the hard statistics, would help us to create a benchmark moving forward, as well as allow for a positive message to ring true. Although paramount to highlight the ugly truth of the total footprint (with breakdown) and what we weren’t able to reduce, we wanted to recognise how much carbon was saved and information on how we offset, to empower others to do the same. Lastly, we elected to use illustrations to capture visually our tonnes of carbon (trees and flight miles), making it easier to grasp and help us to formulate if we’re making progress on future projects.

With the completed report in hand, we are reviewing this data and focussing on developing new ways of doing things in the areas with the biggest impact. This is information we can share with clients on future projects, and we’re now able to demonstrate how these new ways of working not only saved time and money, but also reduced the environmental impact of the shoot. And where brands and agencies are publicly reporting their own emissions, the shoot emissions will form part of their downstream Scope 3 emissions total (see our recent Carbon Jargon post for information on emissions scopes), so this is information they will require. 

5. In summary

It’s been an interesting process so far. It can seem overwhelming to begin with because of the high stakes, the new jargon, and it’s just a lot to get your head around. But in practice the data we’re collecting is relatively straightforward, for example how many days someone worked from home and whether they were on a green tariff, how someone travelled to and from set. And the AdGreen online calculator handled the more complicated equations for us. 

We continue to improve our methodology for data collection and reporting, making this more efficient each time, and using this to effectively change the way we work for the better. A huge win though has been starting a conversation with our clients, our team, the studio and suppliers about the impact their behaviours might be having and what changes they might be able to make next time. Could they switch to a green energy provider, or use an electric cab instead of a diesel one? We’re keen to change how we behave together and to support each other on this journey. Conversation and information are key. We were able to share the successes our collaborative behaviour changes have resulted in with everyone involved, but also to quantify and visualise the impact we did have, and why we still need to do more. It’s a collective mission and working together motivates us all to continue to evolve and find new more sustainable ways to work, working towards achieving net zero emissions on all productions.

6. The journey continues. Step by step.

So, what’s next? This is an ever-evolving process. We continue to learn, to look at how we can change the way we work to reduce our impact, keep setting new targets, keep measuring and re-assessing, keep asking questions, keep the conversation going and keep sharing our findings along the way. And we’re going to apply this to not just our projects, but also our business as a whole so that we can understand our annual carbon footprint and begin the process of reviewing this for change and public reporting. We’ll post more about these areas as we work through them. 

We’d love to hear about your journey into working more sustainably too. What you’ve learned, what has and hasn’t worked, and anyone you’ve come across pioneering new, more sustainable ways of doing things. 


Download our first report here…

Jessica Gage
Our Carbon Queen