Green Riders – Can we Make Touring Greener?

Fireworks coming from a festival stage

Reflections from our peer-sharing group

On 24th January, as part of the Arts Council Environmental Programme, we hosted a Peer-Sharing group on implementing Green Riders. The aim of this group was to support a community of innovators who are looking to share practices and learn from one another’s experiences, as well as some of the challenges and successes they encountered. It was a closed group discussion exploring the clauses that individuals and organisations have put in place, how well they’ve worked, and the conversations they opened up with artists, venues and touring organisations as a result.

What is a Green Rider?

‘Green Riders’ are designed to sit alongside hospitality and production ‘riders’ (documents that outline touring artists’ requirements), with environmental requests and guidelines to open up conversations between touring productions and visiting artists and venues / events on working to reduce environmental impacts together.

Insights from the Green Riders discussion

Our cross-sector group had a lot to share, from varied art forms and different organisation sizes.

Some insights that came from our conversation included:

  1. Riders need to contain enough detail to make them useful in supporting action, while balancing this with the length of the document. For more detailed documents, using sub-headings can make the document more accessible and navigable.
  2. Successful riders try to make realistic requests, while also trying to stretch ambitions and push for bigger changes. Finding this balance can be tricky – ‘realistic’ asks end up focusing on things directly related to a show (refillable water bottles, provision of recycling backstage, accommodation within walking distance) but don’t necessarily encourage systemic changes (energy efficiency investments, implementing environmental targets, public catering decisions, whether there is a nominated environmental lead).
  3. Accountability is slippery, and some have tried to improve accountability by seeking counter signatures on Green Rider agreements to gain some reassurance that these have been read and signed as a sign of commitment. Others have tried to incentivise compliance through payment for slower or greener travel choices, or to embed commitments in contracts.
  4. Feeling like everyone is working towards a shared aim helps too – so making sure Green Riders also refer to what the production itself is doing or how it will support (e.g. if information on public transport options for audiences are shared, that the production will in turn also share this).
  5. The group found that Green Riders are more likely to have successful outcomes when:
    • There is sufficient lead time for action and dialogue
    • There are existing relationships to work from
    • Agreements on big impact areas such as locations are built into contracts from the start (for large productions)
    • When conversations with senior people who are keen to engage are initiated early on.

Where are we now?

There is a long way to go, and gaining engagement with Green Riders is tricky, but there is value in having the conversation and continuing to push for change. Green Riders are often perceived as an ‘extra’ request among time-poor production leads, which highlights that the sector needs to be doing more to embed environmental action in its operations (if it were more normalised, it would feel less like an extra imposition).

The sector is making progress in embedding environmental action, and awareness and ambition when coupled with plausibility and bandwidth are likely to improve engagement and action.

Tips for implementing Green Riders

  • Riders that are structured as a ‘menu’ or checklist, requiring engagement from venues or events as to which clauses they are able to meet.
  • Venues and events more proactively including information on their own existing initiatives as part of technical specifications – so incoming tours/ exhibitions/ productions know what they do or don’t need to follow up on – and nominating a key in-house contact for follow-up conversations on environmental action where needed.
  • Aligning ‘big ticket’ Green Rider asks across the sector, so everyone is working to common aims and individual companies feel more justified in more ambitious requests.
  • Pushing for more contractual accountability among artists and companies that hold more negotiating power due to their name recognition/stature right from the start of any negotiations.


For suggestions about what you could include in your Green Rider, take a look at our Green Riders guide.

If you have a Rider that you would like to share, please get in touch and we can keep the conversation going.