#5.3 In Your Practice or Organisation: Change-Making

This step is about working out where you can most make a difference to reduce harm, as effectively and quickly as possible.

A wood slice is engraved with the word "fear", with a piece of paper that reads "creation is the antidote to despair"
Photo: Dear Earth exhibition by CDE Wharfdale and Airedale

Regeneration through your practice and operations

Many sustainability plans might make you feel you should do everything all at once. It can be overwhelming, for example, trying to measure Scope 3 emissions when you aren’t required to do so. 

  • What can we do to move towards Zero Harm in your practice and operations? This might include aiming for Net Zero in emissions, but also limiting the impact of pollutants, biodiversity loss, and harms to human health and society.
  • As we are in Arts and Culture, how can we create change with our ‘handprint’, which is how you can proactively innovate, care and create? This is a motivating balance to a focus on ‘footprint’, which is how you lighten the harm of existing activities.
  • How can we easily decarbonise or reduce our emissions of greenhouse gases? (These include methane e.g. from landfill and livestock and Nitrous Oxide e.g. from vehicles and industrial pollution. 
Photo: Kirsty Badenoch

TASK:

Decide on where you can make the greatest impact

What is one big thing you can do that will have impact within and beyond your organisation, or across more than one environmental or social problem? 

Rather than trying to do everything all at once, apart from quick wins, you could choose to focus on modelling best practice, to transform specific practices across your sector such as touring or catering.

If your operation is on such a large-scale that you will make a significant contribution by cutting your emissions, you should have specialist roles or groups that focus on this (and you may already have). An example is the National Theatre whose emergency declaration involved setting ambitious targets to move towards net carbon zero, having already cut its energy, waste and water carbon impacts by a quarter since 2016.

RESOURCES FOR THIS TASK

These are some different areas of action.

Measure and reduce the footprint of your practice

  • Go beyond a focus on Carbon Footprint to include a wider ecological footprint, aiming to benefit people, places and the planet positively.
  • For example, look at ways to improve air quality and reduce the use of plastics. Or reduce the use of materials that are obtained from deforestation or animal cruelty.
  • As well as energy consumption and waste, consider the impact of food and merchandise.
  • Encourage the reuse and sharing of materials and products.
  • Use the Scope 1, 2 and 3 measures as much as they are useful. If you aren’t required to report on Scope 3 emissions, use them as prompts for your ambitions. 

Balance the needs of the planet and the cultural industries

  • You might focus on ensuring that workers and communities have alternative means to thrive, as you reduce the footprint of your practice. For example, if salaries are stretched can you reduce the need for staff to commute? Consider a 4 day week? Organise a discount deal for staff to use local veg boxes, and to bring in what is unused at the end of each week for others to take. 
  • Looking more broadly, how can you reduce dependency on flight-based tourism and touring of arts productions, while enabling a just transition for cultural workers whose roles have to change or be lost, in a context that is also disrupted by the pandemic, Brexit and austerity?

Consider the impact of financing

  • Work to end cultural sponsorship by harmful industries, particularly fossil fuels. Be aware of how ecocidal companies seek social licences to operate through support for culture and education. (See the resource in Stage Three on assessing potential sponsors.)
  • How can you generate revenue from being more green? Support ecological enterprise within your cultural practice: develop, promote or sell products and services with green materials, designs and methods.

Think differently about the power of culture

  • Expand definitions of culture beyond notions of commodity, virtuosity or as a carrier of messages.
  • Include ideas of culture connecting people to place.
  • Consider the power of culture to overcome social attitudes that make it normal to harm nature and exploit people and animals.

Digital tools and data

  • Could you explore the potential of digital technology for new ecologically beneficial forms of culture?
  • Smart technology can provide better data feedback about ecological footprints, community needs and ecosystem changes, and can involve communities as citizen scientists.
  • What if an artwork could capture data that increases the generation of energy, nutritious food or biodiversity, which in turn provides value for a local community?
  • Could you promote a ‘knowledge commons’ by opening up access to expertise, data and ideas so that local people can collaborate to solve problems and carry out regenerative projects?
  • If you work in the creative industries, such as advertising, how can you influence the use of digital media for positive outcomes rather than pursuing the harmful agendas of extractive companies? See Purpose Disruptors. 

Building networks and capacity

  • Can you map all of the local practitioners of eco and social innovation such as micro solidarity, rewilding, circular forms of production, and urban food growing? What can you offer them and what do you gain in return?
  • What are the most beneficial ways you can generate revenue and sponsorship? Could your shop or cafe be a model for the circular economy, for example using your waste products to generate new products? Can you use any outdoor space to grow plants that can generate e.g. packaging, food, cleaning products or wellbeing items?
  • Support initiatives promoting eco-innovation, such as Atlas of the Future.
  • Greater Manchester Arts Sustainability Team (GMAST) carried out a mapping exercise of all local groups, people and initiatives to make their network as inclusive and powerful as possible. 

Culture sector guidance

Degrowth and decarbonisation

Decarbonising Finance

  • Ethical sponsorship: make a pledge to be Oil Sponsorship Free, or find resources on Culture Unstained.
  • Pensions and Divestment: shifting investment into low-carbon options could increase global GDP by roughly 5% by 2050 if we take into account the creation of new opportunities and the avoidance of the human and capital costs of climate change, from air pollution, coastal flooding, storm damage, drought and more.

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