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Sustaining Great Art

In a year, England’s arts sector saved enough carbon to fill the Royal Albert Hall 47 times
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A report published today (11 November) from London-based sustainability charity Julie’s Bicycle and Arts Council England has found that England’s arts and cultural sector has saved over 12,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions and £2.3 million over the last two years.

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Monitoring impacts

The Environmental Sustainability Partnership programme, the first of its kind in the world, was set up in 2012 to track the environmental impact of Arts Council England-funded arts and cultural organisations, and to inspire them to be more environmentally sustainable.

‘Our arts organisations are some of the most innovative in the world and I’m incredibly proud to see the UK’s theatres, music venues and galleries taking action on climate change with this bold new programme.’

Ed Vaizey MP, Culture Minister

The findings

According to the Sustaining Great Art report, 98% of the 700 reporting Arts Council-funded organisations were involved in the programme by 2015 – compared with just 14% in 2012 – and 40% of them have gone beyond the Arts Council’s reporting requirements.

80% now consider themselves engaged or very engaged with environmental sustainability, and 51% reported that they had experienced financial benefits.

Between 2013 and 2015, £2.3m was saved and there was an average annual 5% decrease in CO2 emissions, despite growth in the sector.

Scaling these results up across the entire sector would see savings of £15m in just two years.

‘Caring about the world we live in shouldn’t be an optional extra for any of us. Not only is there a moral case for helping arts organisations, museums and libraries to become environmentally sustainable, it makes good business sense too.

‘I’m proud of what our partnership with Julie’s Bicycle has achieved so far and there’s more to come over the next three years. In this area, as in so many others, art and culture can make a huge difference to all our lives.’

Darren Henley, chief executive of Arts Council England

Sustainability in the arts

The results indicate that the country’s arts and cultural sector is now leading in sustainable behaviour change. These findings will be shared with global leaders at the COP21 UN Climate conference in Paris in December as an example of best practice in tackling climate change.

From the installation of solar panels to the production of plays addressing climate change, the sector has seen a step change in sustainability over the past three years.

The UK’s leading theatres, galleries, museums, tours, festivals and concert halls are now reporting on energy and water use thanks to tools developed in conjunction with The University of Oxford.

‘The UK’s creative industries have long been celebrated for their talent, now we have another reason to recognise their leadership. They’re shaping a stronger, progressive and sustainable arts for us all.

‘There are three simple ideas at the heart of this programme. First that climate change is not confined to the corridors of politics, business and science, but it is a cultural issue. Second, that collective environmental knowledge and action delivered collaboratively and at scale will lead to cultural change. Third, the creative community has a vital role to play in shaping our future.

‘We’re looking forward to continuing our work with Arts Council England over the next three years, it’s an exciting time packed with innovation and potential for us all.’

Alison Tickell, founder and director of Julie’s Bicycle

Developing policies

A dedicated programme of events, networking and resources has been delivered by Julie’s Bicycle over the course of the three years to help organisations develop current and effective environmental policies and action plans. These resources are now used by arts organisations from 178 countries around the world.

Julie’s Bicycle and Arts Council England will launch the Environmental Sustainability Partnership results at their ‘Culture and Sustainability’ event on 11 November at The Tetley in Leeds.

They will share insights on how arts and culture are addressing and benefiting from environmental sustainability, and what role the creative sector will play at COP21.

Click here to read the full Sustaining Great Art report.

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