'Artists straddle the worlds of imagination and industry. Art challenges our ways of thinking and shows us alternative ways of living. This is what the Arts Council’s environmental reporting programme is about.'
Alan Davey, Foreword to Sustaining Great Art

Environmental sustainability is an issue of global significance. The Arts Council wants the arts and cultural sector in this country to take a lead in making the world a more sustainable, responsible and equitable place and to transform itself into a low-carbon, sustainable and resilient sector. In October 2013 we published the second edition of our strategic framework, Great art and culture for everyone. In the publication, we stated that the Arts Council is committed to ensuring that we, and the organisations and projects that we fund, embrace environmental sustainability and reduce our carbon footprint.

We will:

  • work with partners to support arts and cultural organisations to understand and reduce their environmental impact
  • support the arts and cultural sector to take practical steps to embed environmental sustainability into their creative and business models
  • support creative and imaginative responses to climate change
  • support the sector in developing the vision and leadership to innovate for the low-carbon economy of the 21st Century

Environmental sustainability funding agreement requirements 2012-15

In 2012, in a world first, the Arts Council introduced environmental reporting, policy and action plan requirements for National portfolio organisations, Bridge organisations, Major partner museums and (from 2013) National youth music organisations. Our partnership with Julie's Bicycle provides the means for organisations to achieve this. For further details see our page on funding agreement requirements.

Sustaining Great Art

In December 2013, we published Sustaining Great Art which presents the results of the first year of environmental reporting. 

  • In the first year an outstanding 90 per cent of all 704 organisations engaged in some capacity with the environmental reporting programme. These results represent the single biggest dataset from arts organisations globally.
  • In a survey, nearly 90 per cent of funded organisations agreed or strongly agreed that “Arts Council Environmental Reporting has made or can make a positive difference to the arts sector as a whole.”

The year 1 findings clearly show the value for organisations in engaging with environmental sustainability. The Arts Council welcomes the insights and recommendations in the report; in particular, the need for a differentiated strategy for year two and beyond.

The Arts Council will explore options and ways forward with Julie’s Bicycle.

You can read the full report with all the results, case studies and key insights and recommendations here.

Environmental sustainability requirements 2016-18

We want our funded organisations to be able to increase resilience.

Resilience is the vision and capacity of organisations to anticipate and adapt to economic, environmental and social change by seizing opportunities, identifying and mitigating risks, and deploying resources effectively in order to continue delivering quality work in line with their mission.

Environmental sustainability is an integral component of resilience and resilient organisations are those that build environmental considerations into current and future thinking in order to optimise efficiencies and help future-proof against risks including energy and water price increases, the cost of materials as well as the possible consequences of climate change such as more extreme weather.

  • Within 2016-18 funding agreements, we will continue to ask organisations to collect data and to develop policies and action plans that improve environmental performance and carbon emissions.
  • As part of a differentiated strategy, we will ensure that what we ask is proportionate so that there are differing levels of monitoring and reporting that reflect organisations’ scale and activities. We also want to recognise, support and celebrate the inspirational work that is being done to increase environmental sustainability. We will discuss this with successful applicants as part of the funding agreement negotiations.

Full guidance for applicants to the National portfolio organisations and Major partner museums programmes is now available on our website.

'At moments of upheaval – and we are indeed at one of those – creativity of the highest order comes into being. Our challenge now is to recognise this as leadership and build on it.'
Sustaining Great Art – Exec Summary