By Ginevra Addis
Adjunct Professor – Master in Arts Management, Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Milan (IT); PhD candidate in Analysis and Management of Cultural Heritage – IMT School for Advanced Studies, Lucca (IT)
Inter-sectoral connections between cultural venues and sustainability: the challenging work of Julie’s Bicycle
The aim of the present interview is to show how cultural networking favors sustainability and the development of those skills that art leaders need to have. This interview is with Lucy Latham, Project Manager of Julie’s Bicycle, leading global charity based in London that embeds operational sustainability and environmental management within artistic and cultural venues and activities both in the UK and internationally. Julie’s Bycicle has begun a number of striking partnerships with governmental art bodies such as Arts Council England, international organizations such as IFACCA (International Federation of Arts Council and Culture Agencies), and has launched initiatives such as the Creative Climate Leadership Training Programme, which receive applications from more than forty countries around the world.
Could you describe the core of these initiatives and the results achieved in line with your mission and in terms of cultural networking?
Julie’s Bicycle’s mission is to support a creative community powering action on climate change and environmental sustainability, inspiring a collective transition towards sustainability. We have two key objectives:
- Advocate to and for culture to publicly inspire action on climate change and sustainability. We will equip cultural professionals and artists with the knowledge and confidence to speak out and together on this issue, using their creativity to influence one another, audiences, and the wider movement.
- Support the Paris Agreement Goal to limit global warming to below 2 degrees by focusing on energy, the major source of carbon emissions for the cultural sector.
To deliver against these two core objectives, we ensure our work is grounded in environmental literacy and good practice, whilst harnessing the full force of creativity and cultural value to innovate and deliver long-term solutions.
Julie’s Bicycle was established in 2007 by the music industry to take action on climate. The industry wanted to act with integrity, so they built up relationships with scientists in order to gain an evidenced-based understanding of climate and generate targets based on data. Our first project calculated the carbon footprint of the music industry, establishing an abiding partnership with Oxford University’s Environmental Change Institute. It created a way of working that has stood the test of time: priorities and campaigns co-produced by the arts and science community, research to action, free resources and knowledge sharing, partnership projects, practical learning and a commitment to scale what works. This approach has informed Julie’s Bicycle’s theory of change – build, act, share, lead. Building environmental literacy and understanding; Acting on your impacts and driving efficiencies and carbon reductions; Sharing and catalysing change through networks and partnerships; Leading and advocating for and within the sector.
Our first major support programme – working in partnership with Arts Council England – materialised partly as a response to culture not being included within the Mayor’s London Plan in 2008. Julie’s Bicycle, along with several other organisations, were commissioned by the London Mayor’s Culture Office to produce a series of Green Guides for the creative industries outlining how they can meet London’s ambitious energy emissions reduction target of 60% by 2025. This created templates for sector action and inspired Arts Council England to embed this thinking within their own approach.
The programme swiftly expanded into a national, cross-disciplinary movement and in 2012, just two years later, Arts Council England made it a funding requirement for all their National Portfolio Organisations and Major Museums Partners to report on their environmental impacts and to have an environmental policy and action plan in place. The action plan is particularly critical in encouraging organisations to use the collected environmental data to inform strategies for impact reduction and continued performance monitoring. In order to support this policy measure, Julie’s Bicycle developed a rich portfolio of events, webinars and resources to facilitate the exchange of environmental best practices and promote a community of practice working in concert towards a common goal. This, combined with strategic action-planning, is driving emissions down.
The programme is underpinned by robust, relevant and accountable evidence-based research, ensuring progress is tracked by consistent longitudinal data-gathering of environmental impacts across the sector. We therefore route our work in data and impacts, ensuring that we deliver carbon emissions reductions and to not lose sight of the ambitious targets outlines in the Paris Agreement. Since 2012, this partnership has tracked an annual 4.5% reduction in energy use across 1,200 creative organisations, equivalent to over £10m in energy savings. The number of organisations able to report robust data has increased by 33% since 2012/13 which shows an increase in understanding of environmental impacts and a growing confidence in measuring and managing them. The programme works to embed environmental sustainability in decision-making across the board, from senior management – demonstrated through organisational vision, mission and values – to devolved environmental responsibilities permeating all job levels. Our approach is to support good environmental governance through the development of policy, strategy and planning (i.e. targets and action plans), informed by clearly disclosed environmental impacts and performance over time.
Similarly, Creative Climate Leadership (CCL) is a programme aimed at building capacity and understanding within the arts and culture but with a strong focus on leadership. CCL is an international, interdisciplinary programme that aims to connect and enable a community of cultural leaders to take an active leadership role in shaping an environmentally sustainable future for the international cultural sector. For our first course in 2017, we brought together 25 leading cultural voices from across Europe, Africa, Asia and Australia. The partnership consists of 8 organisations – Julie’s Bicycle (UK), ARS BALTICA (covering the Baltic region), PiNA (Slovenia), On The Move (pan-Europe), EXIT Foundation (Serbia), COAL (France), KRUG (Montenegro) and mitos21 (Greece). The project’s mobility opportunities enable the exchange of knowledge, new skills and business models within and between these regions and internationally. This collaborative and networked model enables organisations and practitioners to share stories of creativity, optimism, action and best practice with peers across disciplines to scale up solutions and encourage the conditions for creative thinking. By working together across Europe, we can create better conditions for innovation and develop appropriate solutions faster; by sharing knowledge we can enable more creative professionals to engage with climate change and sustainability, especially if they face barriers to action which might include a lack of financial capacity, scale or time to act independently. By bringing together and investing in a supportive and entrepreneurial community we can build the capacity of organisations and creative professionals at all levels in the sector to realise their full potential.
In regards to Julie’s Bicycle’s work with IFACCA (International Federation of Arts Councils and Cultural Agencies), we worked in partnership to produce the D’Art Report 34b – The Arts and Environmental Sustainability, an International Overview. This report has provided an exceptionally useful snapshot of national cultural policymakers’ level of engagement with environmental sustainability which still drives much of our thinking now. The report found that while most cultural representatives recognise environmental sustainability as relevant to their work and see environmental stewardship as a value that aligns with other cultural values, there are few national arts and cultural policies that explicitly include the environment or climate change. The report makes several recommendations on how we might begin to turn good intentions into actions, supported through practical resources, guidance, and tools for creative practitioners.
The point remains today, that while there are examples of outstanding practice across the world, it is rarely reinforced by policy; to date there are still just a handful of national cultural policies anywhere in the world that align with climate change. Vice-versa, environmental policy rarely benefits from the creativity and ingenuity the arts have to offer. Julie’s Bicycle is taking forward this agenda through several international programmes, primarily working with city governments to align cultural and environmental policy-making (programme details in Question 6).
What kind of work does Julie’s Bicycle do with its inter-sectoral connections, and how do you combine culture and sustainability?
Julie’s Bicycle is building a movement at the intersection of arts and culture and action on climate change. We do this because we believe that the creative community is uniquely placed to transform the conversation around climate change and translate it into action. Climate change is ultimately the result of a set of values which are incommensurate with the finite resources of planet Earth – values that uphold the individual over the collective, the extractor over the regenerator, the consumer over the steward, and the present over the future. If climate change is driven by cultural values, logic dictates, it can only be tackled effectively by shifting them – therefore the climate movement is in fact a cultural movement.
In order to deliver against this ambition, we work with organisations to build tailored programmes on organisational governance (environmental policies, green procurement, action plan development, engagement strategies with stakeholders); staff capacity building (training and mentorship, team building, roles and responsibilities and resource creation); understanding and analysis (audits, impact monitoring, performance opportunity analysis, attitudinal evaluation, certification); communications and engagement (campaigns, case studies, communications strategy, events, advocacy); networking building (strategic development of network ambitions, facilitating sharing and learning); and creative output (guidance, project collaborations, cross-sector brokering). We provide sector-specific carbon calculators (used by over 3,000 creative organisations) consultancy services and certification alongside policy analysis and attitudinal research. Our rich evidence bank of case studies, testimony, environmental data and surveys have enabled us to build the most extensive free resource hub anywhere in the world connecting culture and climate. Our campaigns, conferences and creative programmes convene creative initiatives and cultural responses from around the world that highlight the full force of creativity within global efforts to act on climate change. We have trained over 50 cultural leaders from 40 countries through our world-unique Creative Climate Leadership programme (running since 2017). Our international advocacy and partnership programmes continue to contribute to national and international policy development, including collaborations with C40, World Cities Culture Forum, Salzburg Global Seminar and UNFCCC.
Which challenges does Julie’s Bicycle face when promoting action on climate change through the arts and the strategies that art institutions should implement in order to respond to such issue?
One of our main challenges is to keep environmental sustainability on the agenda and relevant when there are so many other competing pressures and demands on arts and culture, particularly as recipients of public funding. This means we have to keep making the case and continue to back up this case with evidence of good practice which results in sustainability in all its forms – social, economic, cultural and environmental. Sometimes this comes down to a wider articulation of value. For instance, even though efficiency savings result in cost savings, some green products and services can carry a premium. We try and support organisations in understanding the long-term nature of such investment decisions alongside recouping this increased financial investment through other value metrics i.e. reputation, audience engagement and development, Corporate Social Responsibility etc. Going forward, such investments will be fundamental to doing business in a low-carbon cultural economy, and we believe it is creative leaders – supported by progressive policy – who can help reconfigure the definition of good governance so that sustainability, in all its forms, needs no explanation or justification.
A further challenge when working with organisations and institutions, is to ensure that environmental sustainability doesn’t only sit within one job role or one department. If this is the case, it becomes very vulnerable to shifts in organisational priority as well as staff changes. For environmental sustainability to really take root and flourish it needs to be understood as a whole organisational priority and reflected across the organisation – embedded within policy, business strategy, investment, public engagement, cultural programmes; which are all aligned and optimizing each other.
Which skills do leaders in the arts need to have in order to promote cultural sustainability, in accordance with their charity and their interdisciplinary programs?
Environmental sustainability can be realised when inspiring, determined, creative and passionate people are enabled to innovate. This is why Creative Climate Leadership was set up – to give confidence, support, resources and space so this community of cultural leaders can take an active leadership role in shaping an environmentally sustainable future.
The skills and values that Julie’s Bicycle believes to be critical for creative climate leadership include: collaboration, inclusivity, empathy, openness, self-awareness, action-focused, pragmatism, adaptiveness, and of course, creativity! We support our participants in their development of divergent, whole-systems and critical thinking; their entrepreneurship; and their use of emotional intelligence and rhetoric skills (e.g. facilitation, public presentation, advocacy and influencing).
Which cultural policies are suggested or adopted by art institutions that are partners of Julie’s Bicycle?
Probably the most notable example is our partnership with Arts Council England. 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. This powerful partnership demonstrates how a light-touch policy intervention can galvanize a sector into sustained action – as demonstration, between 2015 and 2017, the ACE cohort produced energy savings of 17%.
Our commitment to policy creation also translates across our Creative Green certification and consultancy programmes. We work with clients across the country to build environmental governance on an organisational level, underpinned by policy and strategy, from the National Theatre and Somerset House to over 150 creative solo practitioners in the East of England as part of Culture Change (funded by European Regional Development Fund). We believe policy-makers and investors are in a prime position to secure the future vibrancy and diversity of arts and culture by locking the sector into a model of sustainable enterprise, ensuring its connection to the emerging economy of the future. To this end, we are now looking at policy in cities, supporting local government and enabling cultural and environmental departments to collaborate and embed environmental knowledge, ambition and action into their city policy, strategy and cultural activity.
What would you say about the cultural impact of Julie’s Bicycle’s agenda in Europe according to the 2030 SDGs on climate change?
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a set of 17 ‘Global Goals’ developed by the United Nations as part of their 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. While ‘Climate Action’ has its own goal, it is also acknowledged that emissions reductions (i.e. the Paris Agreement target) must be considered throughout the SDG framework: “Implementation of the Paris Agreement is essential for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals and provides a roadmap for climate actions that will reduce emissions and build climate resilience”. Effective action on climate change will underpin our success (or lack thereof) in reaching the other goals.
At Julie’s Bicycle, we work to continually make the case for why climate action should be firmly embedded across the socio-economic agenda, demonstrating its relevance to urban planning, place-making, civic engagement, social inclusion and justice, health and wellbeing, inward investment and financial sustainability – and of course, arts and culture which mutually-support and optimize the rest. Our approach to climate action is underpinned by evidence (i.e. data), carbon literacy and practice – understanding what works! This approach runs throughout Julie’s Bicycle’s programmes and we are working hard to scale our work internationally, developing programmes which focus on policy and civic governance and transferring models of best practice. For example, Creative Climate Leadership is also unique in that it connects training and development to policy – shaped around the science-based targets of the Paris Agreement and the broader ambitions of the Sustainable Development Goals.
A few of our EU and international programmes as follows:
- Creative Climate Cities Programme
In partnership with WCCF (World Cities Culture Forum) Julie’s Bicycle is developing a support programme to inspire cities to realise the opportunities of connecting climate and culture in cities. The Creative Climate Cities Programme (CCCP) is a support programme focused on enabling cultural and environmental departments to collaborate and embed environmental knowledge, ambition and action into their city policy, strategy and cultural activity.
A European-funded partner project called ROCK which is focused on the role of cultural heritage in sustainability-led regeneration. Julie’s Bicycle’s role is responding to the need for cultural heritage to position itself in the context of climate change, biodiversity loss, air pollution, and other environmental challenges facing us at present. We are working with Skopje (Macedonia), Lisbon (Portugal) and Bologna (Italy) on an 18-month support programme to enable their cultural departments and city municipalities to maximise opportunities for environmental leadership, strategy and governance development, developing city-specific creative responses to climate and environment.
URBACT is a European exchange and learning programme promoting sustainable urban development. It enables cities to work together to develop solutions to major urban challenges, reaffirming the key role they play in facing increasingly complex societal changes. Julie’s Bicycle will be working with a host of other partners, led by Manchester City Council, to understand and transfer skills in network development connecting arts and culture to five further EU cities.
How would you measure the so-called cultural renaissance that Julie’s Bicycle is experiencing, especially in Europe?
The creative community is already trailblazing new ways of thinking and doing. For the last decade, Julie’s Bicycle has been collating inspirational stories from the creative community championing a new ecology of practice. At Julie’s Bicycle we have identified Seven Creative Climate Trends; key communities of practice that are already leveraging significant new cultural value. From jobs, finance and clean energy to eco-design, audience engagement and new collaborations, these communities are creating a new cultural ecology fit for our changing world. These trends are already inhabited by significant numbers of real people and we believe that one of the most useful things Julie’s Bicycle can do, is to demonstrate and champion this cluster of creative practice. Examples from these 7 trends are now being logged and shared using our new map, designed to give greater visibility to this growing international movement and we invite everyone to add themselves on to it.
On a more practical basis of data and metrics, during 2014 Julie’s Bicycle asked leaders within the creative community to tell us how they felt about the environment – how important it was to their missions, business, creative output and engagement. The same study was in 2017 rebranded as the Creative Climate Census (supported by Arts Council England and the Knowledge Transfer Network). With over 500 responses, it is the only research we are aware of which tracks views, values AND practice of cultural decision-makers towards climate and environment. The Census showed that senior leadership is now driving action on environmental sustainability (whereas in 2014 initiatives were mainly being driven from the middle of organisations) and more than four in five organisations (83%) have benefited from their environmental sustainability practice. Benefits range across financial, reputational, and well-being indicators. Critical to the business case for cultural action on climate, the Census also demonstrated how climate change and environmental sustainability are creative catalysts, helping to animate new work, partnerships, and practices; ¾ of survey respondents collaborating both within and beyond the sector.
Our Arts Council England partnership also provides rich insights into the growing benefits and value being brought to arts organisations engaging with environmental sustainability. As documented within the annual report, Sustaining Great Art, we found that environmental sustainability is finding its way into the strategic core of cultural organisations. For example, in 2016/17, 69% of organisations were using environmental data to inform decision making and 84% found their environmental policy useful for business planning. Organisations have also reported a wide range of creative work, programmes, performances, events, and installations with environmental sustainability and climate change as main themes; 73% of organisations produced/programmed/curated work exploring environmental themes either in the past or are planning to do so in the future.
Questions for further discussion
- Which are the values of cultural leaders in response to climate change?
- How could cultural networking help activate urgent actions toward sustainability?
- How are you able to approach sponsors and partners?
Ginevra Addis collaborates as Adjunct Professor in the Master in Arts Management at Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Milan (IT) – Professor of Visual Arts Management, 2017; HR Management and Marketing for the Arts, 2018. She is finishing her PhD in Analysis and Management of Cultural Heritage at IMT. School for Advanced Studies, Lucca (IT). Her research interest focuses on both Contemporary Art History and on the application of sustainable management practices by Arts Institutions, in Europe and internationally. She worked for non-profit organizations such as More Art in New York, and for International Organizations such as UNESCO in Paris and the UN in New York. She studied Jean-Michel Basquiat for three years, interviewing important art dealers. She works as curator and art consultant for young contemporary artists that live in London and in Italy. She participated in several scientific conferences nationally and internationally.
 D’Art Report 34b. The arts and environmental sustainability: an international overview. November 2014