Arts Council England Environmental Sustainability Report 2021/2022
Every year Arts Council England and Julie’s Bicycle produce an Environmental Responsibilities Report celebrating the successes of creative and cultural organisations in acting on national and international climate targets. The report covers National Portfolio Organisation’s (NPO)’s environmental data and narratives during the period following the pandemic, as the creative and cultural sector begun to resume their day-to-day activities and welcome back visitors and audiences.
This report covers the period following the pandemic, as arts organisations, museums and libraries cautiously and carefully began to resume their day-to-day activities and welcome back visitors and audiences.
The number of organisations that have provided the data necessary to compile this report shows the continuing commitment by the creative and cultural sector to understand, and reduce, its environmental impact. In doing so, they set an example not just to others within the sector but also in our wider society. This is shown through the breadth and depth of responses to the Beyond Carbon survey, which allows us to dig deeper into accomplishments and innovative work across the sector. The responses demonstrate how action can be based in practical solutions to the environmental crisis we all face, and how our Environmental Responsibility Investment Principle is both ambitious and achievable.
That is also evident in the continued success of the Spotlight programme, which provides focused support to a cohort of our largest National Portfolio organisations that are responsible for some of the highest carbon emissions. Its ambition is to reduce their environmental impacts, develop Net Zero carbon targets, and provide training opportunities and resources to help them do so. I am pleased to report that this group has exceeded their targets for reducing both the amount of energy they consume and their carbon emissions. It has contributed to a total reduction of 35 percent in emissions since the programme started in 2018. The programme highlights the benefits of consistent and well-placed support, investment, and time.
At Arts Council England, environmental action has formed a key part of our funding arrangement with organisations for a decade. That commitment has gone hand-in-hand with supporting the creative and cultural sector through our partnership with Julie’s Bicycle. I am pleased to say that we have awarded a new contract Julie’s Bicycle so that they can continue this work, both by helping the creative and cultural sector be leaders and by demonstrating how reducing our environmental impact is possible, achievable, and sustainable.
Sir Nicolas Serota, Chair of Arts Council England
Culture is mission critical to meeting our climate goals and many organisations are doing what they can to keep 1.5 degrees alive. This isn’t easy. The government’s optimistic Net Zero Strategy: Build Back Greener, published just over a year ago did not anticipate the energy crisis. None-the-less, the strategy endures, as does the commitment of the creative community; a recent survey undertaken by Julie’s Bicycle identified that the sector has already ‘…taken a leading role on the international stage in developing approaches to tackle Net Zero’ and furthermore, ‘…the sector’s creative problem-solving and design expertise can be deployed across wider industrial and public sectors to support their transition to Net Zero’.
Culture matters and people are beginning to notice. For the first time ever, national governments at COP27 included cultural heritage in statements on both loss and damage, and adaptation. This recognises that culture is both an asset to be protected from climate impacts and a resource to strengthen communities’ transformative change.
Culture is uniquely equipped to educate, enable and inspire change. Through the Arts Council Portfolio reporting we have seen real ownership of the type of actions needed, and a rich and diverse range of benefits as a result of engaging with environmental issues. The gains from acting are being felt by organisations, but also witnessed by others, generating more momentum for change. The commitment of Arts Council and the portfolio has created a model which others are already adapting and accelerating. This report shows where real progress has been made, and where the most effective interventions are now. We are all still searching for sensible ways to decarbonise, and to restore what has been lost.
Making the changes needed to tackle our greatest global challenge, will require paying attention to culture as it manifests in our past, our present and how we imagine, and make our future.
Alison Tickell, Founder and CEO, Julie’s Bicycle