Arts and culture industry reaps benefits of sustainable business

The business benefits of being environmentally friendly have been made clear in the creative and cultural sector, with a new industry report revealing a significant financial boost for firms that have put sustainability in the spotlight.

The report, released this week by sustainability consultants Julie’s Bicycle, reveals that in excess of 50% of cultural institutions from music, theatre, visual arts, museums, literature and combined arts have reported financial benefits of being more sustainable.

Moreover, 40% of the 335 responding organisations said they have experienced reputational benefits from their commitment to environmental sustainability, while 62% believe it will become increasingly important to their business over the next two years.

Julie’s Bicycle’s chief executive Alison Tickell said: “This survey shows us that people are absolutely engaged with the issues facing the sector, and the wider world, and are beginning to reap the opportunities inherent in placing the environment alongside financial and artistic priorities. However, there is still a long way to go in terms of closing the value/action gap and really making the critical creative leap in the way we operate.

“Between now and March 2015, the ‘Sustaining Creativity’ programme will continue to inspire and engage the cultural sector to scale up best practice and develop the capacity for leadership on the most pressing issue of our time – climate change and environmental sustainability.”

Leadership opportunities

Over 335 businesses, representing a total audience of 70 million and combined turnover of £1bn, responded to the survey; making it the most comprehensive survey of leaders of creative and cultural organisations on their engagement with environmental sustainability to date.

It identified a group of ‘leading organisations’ that offer the potential to drive change across the sector. The majority of these are Arts Council England’s National Porfolio Organisations, indicating the success of the decision to make environmental reporting a funding requirement between 2012 and 2015.

However, the survey concludes that ‘there is still a leadership opportunity to be grasped by the boards and trustees of cultural organisations’. Despite high engagement and clear business benefits, a positive connection between commitment to environmental best practice and other pressing concerns – such as audience development and generating new sources of income – is not yet being made at a strategic level.

These findings were announced by Julie’s Bicycle as part of its wider Sustaining Creativity programme, which explores environmental challenges, drivers of change, and the opportunities that transformative solutions offer to the creative community.

Luke Nicholls

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