Arts Council and Julie’s Bicycle report: “Culture has a carbon footprint, and data matters”

Article: David Styles | Image: © Seb Schofield

A report released today by Arts Council England and Julie’s Bicycle celebrates the successes of arts organisations in acting on climate targets, while concurrently outlining a four-year plan to help others do the same.

Further, the duo has unveiled a new flagship environmental event to be held in February.

The report, Sustaining Great Art and Culture 2018/19, is at once analysing the past and looking forward to the sector’s future. The publication contains data, projections and initiatives focused on the opening year of the pair’s four-year sustainability programme.

Today’s report is the first to cover the environmental credentials of Arts Council’s 2018-22 National Portfolio – and so offers the first meaningful measure of progress within this group.

The Portfolio has now grown by 20% and includes 184 organisations that are new to environmental reporting. The cumulative total carbon footprint of the Portfolio stands at 114,547 tonnes of CO2e, but many participants have already implemented projects to slash this figure.

“Culture has a carbon footprint, and data matters,” Alison Tickell, CEO of Julie’s Bicycle, notes. “This report shows why. It also highlights, through the range of responses, that there should be no opposition between what art is and how art does: reducing emissions prompts creativity and activism, and vice versa.

“Sustainable practice is reframing cultural leadership, offering regenerative solutions and giving back more than we take.”

National Portfolio Organisations are required to put environmental policy and action plans in place, whilst annually monitoring their environmental impacts using a carbon foot-printing tool designed by Julie’s Bicycle. This has been the case since 2012 when Arts Council became the first cultural body in the world to make environmental reporting part of funding agreements.

Headline figures

In 2018/19, progress made by National portfolio Organisations included:

50% developed new creative or artistic opportunities as a result of environmental initiatives
54% have installed energy efficient lighting and controls
32% of purchased electricity is on a green tariff contract
47% are trailing sustainable production or exhibition methods
30% are working with banks that invest in social and environmental projects
49% have produced, programmed or curated work on environmental themes
70% actively promote virtual communications technology as an alternative to travelling

“The success of this programme goes far beyond data collection and carbon reduction,” Nicholas Serota, chair of Arts Council England, adds. “Cultural organisations are embedding climate action into the core of their operations – developing creative solutions, forging new partnerships and sparking valuable conversations on sustainability with their audiences.

“The actions taken to address climate change over the next decade will be crucial and, as society faces up to this challenge, the imagination, ambition and commitment demonstrated in the Arts Council’s 2018/19 Environmental Report point the way forward.”

Speaking out

Arts Council and Julie’s Bicycle have also taken the launch of today’s report as an opportunity to announce a major new summit on culture and climate that will take place next month.

We Make Tomorrow will be held on 26th February at The Royal Geographical Society in London, with high-profile speakers from the cultural sector and leading climate specialists asking what 2030 will look like and how the nation’s creative communities can help mould a better future. More details on this can be found here.

The new report and its findings are underpinned by two new strands of work: Spotlight and Accelerator.