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Sustainable Warwickshire Podcast

With the ambition to lead Warwickshire to reach its net zero targets by 2050, Warwickshire County Council wanted to raise awareness of climate change and biodiversity in the county. To reach a wider audience, highlight the breadth of subjects that fall under the sustainability umbrella, showcase the action being taken by people across the county and to encourage individuals to get involved themselves, they launched the Sustainable Warwickshire podcast. Produced with little budget, it features conversations with people from the public, private and voluntary/community sectors, each taking action to reduce carbon emissions, support biodiversity and promote sustainability in the county.

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The challenge

The need to take action to reduce carbon emissions can be a difficult topic to communicate. The science can be inaccessible, the challenge can feel too big to solve and the solutions can be expensive. In addition, the cost of living crisis means that many people have much more pressing priorities closer to home.

We knew our existing communications about our own Council's actions were reaching those already interested and engaged with the topic, but this was a relatively limited audience, and our news and social media content didn't feel nuanced enough. We wanted to show that the idea of a sustainable Warwickshire was relevant to every single resident and business, demonstrate that there was no single, easy solution to reducing carbon emissions and that to reach our net zero targets and protect our natural environment would take community action, partnership working and a focus on solutions.

The solution

We launched the Sustainable Warwickshire podcast. Although it is designed to showcase community action as much as council initiatives, each episode is linked with a theme from our Sustainable Futures Strategy and ties in with ongoing projects, such as the creation of our own tree nursery and work taking place by our Fire and Rescue Service to adapt to the increased flood and fire risks from a changing climate. Our guests range from professional experts in their field, working either in the public or private sector, to volunteers from our communities.

Our host is one of our senior climate change officers. He had no hosting experience before this project, but does have a lot of knowledge, is easy to chat with and most importantly, was willing to give it a go!

We have no specialist recording equipment (as listeners can often tell!), but instead, simply recorded a Teams call between our host and the guests. Each episode is between 25-35 minutes long. Afterwards, we strip out the audio, add a pre-recorded introduction and publish using Podbean, which allows us to distribute it on both Spotify and Apple, ensuring our reach is as wide as possible. The production, recording, editing and promotion of each episode generally take around one day in total.

The impact

To date (April 2024), we've recorded and published 13 episodes, which is about one every six weeks. The number of downloads for each episode has been steadily increasing since launch, and we know that this number now exceeds 200 per episode, though we believe the number of total listens is more. We're encouraged to see that when a new listener finds us, they will often spend time going through the back catalogue of episodes as well as the latest one. And the best feedback of all is being contacted by listeners to suggest new topics, or even to volunteer as an expert guest; this is concrete evidence that people are engaging with the content and see it as a valuable tool to share their own experiences and expertise.

The main communication benefit is having a platform to showcase a variety of voices, opinions, and perspectives. Whilst we've had Warwickshire County Council officers (and a portfolio holder) as guests, we've also featured volunteers from local repair cafes, NHS sustainability officers, young people from our Warwickshire Youth Council, school teachers and experts from the worlds of academia and local government.

In terms of impact on the environment, we believe the podcast has contributed to our carbon handprint. That is, we're helping other people to reduce their own footprints, by raising awareness of the breadth of activity, building connections and links between organisations and individuals, and giving people ideas and inspiration to live more sustainably.

How is the approach being sustained?

We have a calendar of themed episodes planned for the remainder of the year. For some of these, we are moving away from discussions about causes of carbon emissions (e.g. transport, energy, etc.) and focusing on the practical application in everyday places. For example, exploring how local schools are inspiring a new generation to use their voices, or looking at how local sports clubs are embedding sustainability into their facilities and activities. This way, we hope to show a wider audience that action is not just needed, but possible.

Lessons learned

You don't need expensive equipment to create a podcast and it doesn't have to be onerous in terms of workload. The biggest challenge is instead making sure there is a clear theme and purpose for each episode and finding the right guests for each one.

Whilst we set out to produce a podcast that was a relatively informal way of communicating with our communities, we're aware that we haven't always hit the right tone. When we have traditionally controlled the narrative very tightly on our other corporate channels, it takes some adjustment to learn to 'let go' a little. Having guests from different organisations to ours is a key part of this, but I think it's fair to say we're still working on finding the right balance.


Rachel Killian, Strategy & Commissioning Lead, Marketing and Communications - [email protected]