Arts Sector Engagement with Sustainability at an All Time High

Julie’s Bicycle and Arts Council England today release the Sustaining Great Art: Environmental Report 2015/16 demonstrating that arts and culture engagement with environmental sustainability is the highest it has ever been.

Julie’s Bicycle has been working in partnership with Arts Council England since 2012 to inspire environmental action across the arts and culture sector, with a focus on National Portfolio Organisations. 

In 2015 the programme was extended until 2018 and widened to encompass both funded and non-funded arts organisations.

This report demonstrates the success of the programme in supporting the sector to act on environmental sustainability nationally and internationally.

Key report findings include:

  • The sector continues to reduce its environmental impacts; notably greenhouse gas emissions from energy use decreased by 17% between 2014/15 and 2015/16 despite a growth in cultural activity.
  • Environmental action is making the sector more resilient, avoiding £5.1 million in energy costs during 2015/16 (compared to taking no action), and improving staff wellbeing in 71% of reporting organisations. 
  • The sector is taking action in multiple ways, increasingly engaging audiences and other stakeholders in the process. 37% of organisations have produced, programmed or curated work on environmental themes, with a further 28% planning to do so or exploring possibilities.
  • People are increasingly working together to address environmental issues, with 45% of reporting organisations having found their environmental action plans useful for developing new partnerships.
  • The sector’s work is having an international impact, with more knowledge-sharing taking place between cultural organisations internationally, and other funding bodies considering policy interventions inspired by Arts Council England. 


Minister of State for Digital and Culture, Matt Hancock commented:

"This important partnership is a beacon of international best practice and shows how our arts organisations are leading the way in building a more environmentally responsible industry. The report demonstrates that a sustainable sector can also have a positive financial impact and improve staff wellbeing.”

Alison Tickell, CEO, Julie’s Bicycle said:

“As the first national council in the world to introduce environmental reporting for its regularly funded organisations, the Arts Council has been a major driver for unlocking the sector’s contribution to environmental responsibility. This report demonstrates the response taking place, and the sector’s potential to engage the public, design solutions and initiate a shift in cultural values to support a more sustainable future.”

Darren Henley, Chief Executive, Arts Council England, added:

“We see sustainability as being intrinsic to resilience. It’s not only environmentally responsible but it makes economic sense. Our collaboration with Julie’s Bicycle is introducing us all to new ways of working. Our funding supports not only the mechanics of compliance - the environmental reporting tools, help and support but also thought-leadership. We all believe that art and culture can make the world a better place; this programme shows how our actions can make a real difference.”

Over the next two years of the partnership Julie's Bicycle will continue to support the creative community to act on climate change and environmental sustainability through a varied programme of events, workshops, network facilitation and resources.

The report is available to download below. It is also available to download and view on the Arts Council England website.

Image: Cornelia Parker's War Room, The Whitworth. Photo © David Levene.

Sustaining Creativity