An audit is the examination of an organisation’s current situation. It may be about verifying the documentation concerning the institution’s environmental obligations (environmental audit), analysis of its supply chain and its environmental impact (sustainable development audit) or investigating the daily practices of employees, processes and the way the building is used. Auditors rely on documents, interviews with employees, observation of their practices and ways of using space (human-space-environment). Using various tools, they search for areas for optimisation aimed at maximising effective use of resources (‘zero waste’ audit).

The aim of an audit is analysing the current situation and proposing remedial and optional action. Auditors locate gaps in the documentation and point out problems related to the use of the building and the common space and lack of cohesiveness in work processes. On that basis, they set pro-environmental priorities. The introduction of recommendations may require reorganisation or reveal management errors. An audit is a demanding process for an institution. It is important to make proper preparation beforehand and establish the aim of the audit and the tools employed in carrying it out. Audits cost money to carry out, it is also necessary to collate the appropriate documentation, engage the team to cooperate with the auditors and plan the implementation of changes. At the same time, this is a useful tool for defining available resources and mapping greening stages and areas for improvement. Audits may also motivate employees to continue to work for the environment. (see: GREEN TEAM, ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT, INSTITUTIONAL POLICY).


At this stage, an institution may carry out an analysis of good practices and ideas with the help of its employees.

A survey of ecological awareness may prepare us better for the audit and assess the level of employees’ ecological knowledge. The survey could include wider questions concerning the role of humans in ecosystems and the way people contribute to degradation. Another perspective would be to investigate the habits of people working in the cultural sector in the context of their daily routines. It may be useful to prepare a simple survey on the associations people make with ecology. Such preliminary steps may help us find out what employees currently know, what they are interested in and what pro-environmental activities they implement on their own. This process may reveal different definitions of ecology and differing perceptions in the priorities and capabilities of the institution. Some questions which may be used in the survey are as follows:

– Which of my activities or choices would I define as ecological?
– Which activities and choices which I observe in my environment do I consider ecological?
– Are there any activities regarded as ecological which I do not understand and do not see the point of?
– Are there any activities which I would like to get to know and understand better but which currently seem to me too complex, specialist or expensive? 
– Which activities regarded as ecological do I consider to be of priority?
– Do I want to act for the environment?
– Should the organisation for which I work act to protect the environment?

Self-education on pro-environmental topics.

It is also good to read regulations concerning waste sorting or calculate emissions – most institutions are obliged to comply with these regulations. An institution may apply to the relevant office to receive the interpretation of its environmental duties suited to its particular type of operations. Legal aspects of various activities are subject to change but being up to date with the current regulations will allow you to make adequate decisions. For example, if we are aware that a fee for a particular type of packaging will be introduced soon, we should refrain from buying it. Self-education may also be carried out through reading relevant texts within your group or meeting with people from other cultural institutions to share experiences.(link).


You can analyse the current situation regarding the consumption of various resources by yourself and consider how it could be reduced. Another way is to influence the supply chain through sustainable purchasing or tenders with environmental criteria. It is also worth looking at the habits of employees and through education and joint development of new rules, transform them into being more ecological. At this stage, the opinion of experts will be useful. We can develop our knowledge about the environmental impact of an organisation, but only if we know which issues are worth considering. If you have the necessary financial resources, hire an external company to conduct the audit. Select the scope and type of audit according to your needs, resources (time, human resources) and funding. Examples of types of audits related to pro-environmental changes in institutions:

Environmental audit (documentation + legal compliance)

It focuses on the analysis of documents confirming environmental impact. Auditors analyse reports on waste management, registration of appliances and cooling systems with the Central Register of Operators, emissions from vehicle engines and environmental impact analysis. Such a review makes it possible to assess whether the institution’s operations are in line with current environmental protection regulations. Proper reporting makes it possible to assess the scale of an institution’s impact in certain areas (e.g. carbon dioxide emissions). Permits and registrations of installations, contracts with recycling companies, contracts with rubbish collection companies, with waterworks, technical data sheets of devices used by the institution, data sheets of chemical preparations, documents related to tests of water or gas emissions are all under scrutiny. Auditors should have access to people who are knowledgeable about the specificity of the organisation, as well as technical installations and technological solutions.
The estimated cost of an environmental audit may be around PLN3,000–PLN5,000, depending on the size and type of the institution and the scope.

Sustainable development audit (environmental impact regarding water, soil, air + supply chain + environmental impact)

The audit assesses the impact on the environment through the analysis of the supply chain. This means that the areas researched previously in the organisation (e.g. gas emissions associated with the use of vehicles, water consumption) are applied in researching suppliers and purchases. Auditors also verify the rational management of existing resources (e.g. display cases, frames, stationery), including environmental criteria in tenders and requests for proposals, as well as analysing products ordered (e.g. checking for certificates, composition or recyclable materials).
The estimated cost of a sustainable development audit ranges from over PLN10,000 to tens of thousands depending on size and type of the institution and the scope.

‘Zero waste’ audit

This is based on the results of the environmental audit. Additional information is collected in various ways, e.g. through observations of the way space is used and conversations with employees. A ‘zero waste’ audit may concern lighting, biophilic motives (contact with nature, e.g. plants in the office), functionality and use of social facilities, storage methods, organisation of work, pro-environmental amenities (e.g. infrastructure for cyclists). Auditors can prepare photo documentation and pay an on-site visit. Sometimes they also visit galleries, bookshops or restaurants as customers to experience solutions from a user’s perspective.

The estimated cost of a ‘zero waste’ audit ranges from PLN10,000 to PLN50,000 depending on size and type of the institution and the scope.

The result of the audit is a report with recommendations, which concern remedial and optional action. Remedial action usually concerns changes necessary for compliance with regulations. The changes should be implemented at this stage. Some institutions in Poland have already had their audits carried out. A discussion about the audit at the Zachęta gallery in Warsaw is available under this link


Implementation of recommendations and optional action

At this stage, we have a report with up-to-date information and proposals for reducing the negative impact of the institution on the environment.
Let all staff members know about the report. Consultations with employees on how these changes should be implemented may facilitate the process. The ‘green team’ may be useful here. (see: GREEN TEAMS).
Prepare for a multi-stage and long-term process of implementing the recommendations and decide whether you will take this challenge single-handedly or with external training and consulting support.