Carbon emissions drop 35% over five years among NPOs

Report shows environmental policies are having an impact
Profile image for Geraldine Kendall Adams
Geraldine Kendall Adams
A wide range of cultural and arts organisations in England reduced their carbon emissions by 35% between 2012-13 and 2017-18, according to a new report by Arts Council England (ACE).

Published this week, the Sustaining Great Art and Culture report assesses the impact of the arts council’s environmental programme for National Portfolio Organisations (NPO), which launched in 2012-13 and came to an end this year.

Developed in partnership with the environmental charity Julie’s Bicycle, the programme required NPOs to monitor their annual carbon footprint and develop environmental policies and action plans.

The report shows that, among the core group of 136 organisations who have consistently reported data, there was a 23% decrease in energy use over the five-year period, creating savings of £16.5m.

The focus on sustainability had a wider impact, with three quarters of the reporting organisations saying they found their environmental policy useful for supporting funding applications.   

The report’s findings indicate that a “new creative ecology” is developing in the sector. A quarter of NPOs are now either on a green energy tariff or purchasing their energy from a 100% renewable supplier, and 43% are actively seeking out products and services with strong environmental credentials.

In addition, 78% found their environmental policy useful for business planning and 43% found it useful for new partnerships and collaborations.

The programme also influenced the content of NPOs, with 65% producing work with an environmental theme. Meanwhile 70% of reporting organisations felt the programme had a positive impact on staff wellbeing.

Attitudes to environmental reporting among NPOs were overwhelmingly positive, with 88% agreeing that it could make a positive difference to the sector, and 71% saying their action plans had brought about recognisable positive change.
Case studies cited in the report include an energy efficiency initiative by Turner Contemporary in Margate, which now automatically shuts down computers at night and has reduced its administration-specific energy use by 50%. The gallery is also committed to re-using its exhibition furniture multiple times before sending it to be recycled.

University of Cambridge Museums has committed to using its collections to engage audiences with environmental issues. Projects include Operation Survival, a fast-paced game that asks teams of players to solve cryptic clues and complete tasks that will enable humanity to survive the challenges facing the environment.

In a foreword to the report, the arts council’s chairman Nicholas Serota said: “Changing the way things are done is never easy, but the Arts Council England Environmental Programme has shown that creative thinking and hard work can bring results. There is much more to be done, but I know the sector will continue to promote innovative ways that will help us to build an environmentally sustainable future.”
A news analysis of environmental sustainability in the cultural sector will appear in the January issue of Museums Journal.

The theme of the Museums Association’s Annual Conference 2019 is Sustainable and Ethical Museums in a Globalised World. The call for session proposals is open until 3 February 2019.

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