How Cirque du Soleil copes with climate change

Cirque de Soleil has seen the effects of climate change on a firsthand basis. It’s been holding outdoor shows in its big top tents for nearly 40 years, and it’s had to adapt to extreme heat and more intense thunderstorms.

Duncan Fisher, VP of operations and GM of the touring show division at Cirque de Soleil, spoke with CFO Brew about changes the company has implemented to cope with rising energy costs while reducing its impact on the environment.

This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Q. What changes has Cirque de Soleil made to reduce the financial impact from climate change?

Energy costs have gone up across the board, be it for cooling or for trucking. We want to make sure that we’re as environmentally friendly as possible, and financially responsible as possible as well, by not using as much fuel. So there’s a couple of things that we’ve done.

We typically return year after year to the sites we go to with the big top. Over the last five or six years, we had a big push on installing regular shore power [A/C power from the electrical grid] onto the sites rather than using generators. We’ve been in touch with the electric companies in the cities that we go to, and have installed transformers on what may have just been a vacant field or parking lot at a stadium that had no reason to have electricity before, so we can use regular power for the shows, which is much less impactful than a generator. And we don’t have noise pollution as well.

If you look back at Cirque’s history, the iconic big top was always blue and yellow. We don’t use that anymore. And the reason that we don’t is that the blue and yellow had a very high rate of absorption of sunlight. So we tend to now use either blue and white, or gray and white, or completely white tents. The white is much more reflective of the sun’s rays. Just by changing the color of the tent, we had about a 20% reduction of the energy that we had to use for air conditioning.

Q. How has climate change impacted your scheduling?

We typically try to avoid the storm seasons. We’ve got the hurricane season, so we’re never going to go to Miami in summertime. The same with Korea and the typhoons.

We do know from history as well, when is it going to be really hot in a place? We just set up a show in Osaka, Japan. Traditionally we set up [our shows there] in the middle of August when it’s ridiculously hot. And with our partners in Japan we changed the schedule and started a month earlier. And it really was to avoid the heat, because it was unbearable for the guys [setting up the tent] previously.

Q. Are there other changes you’ve made to be more environmentally friendly?

In Montreal we just launched a new show called Echo. And we did not sell drinks in single-use plastic. And theoretically people were supposed to give us the cup back to be washed for the next show. But because they are branded with the name of the show, we seem to lose a lot of them, but yes, we’re doing away as much as we can with single-use plastic.

{ SOURCE: CFO Brew }