The arts and environmental sustainability: an international overview

November 2014


In 2013 Julie’s Bicycle and the International Federation ofArts Councils and Culture Agencies (IFACCA) stablished a partnership aimed at informing international arts leaders about global developments in policies and programmes related to culture and environmental sustainability, and how these impact on national arts and cultural organisations.


Their aims were to:


The report contains early examples of good practice; begins to identify agencies already embedding environmental sustainability in their country or region; and potential partners and collaborations.


Recognising culture as a creative and dynamic life force will profoundly influence our understanding, interpretation and shaping of our world. The environment, natural and built, is one of the key determining factors of culture, both contemporary and heritage. The Hangzhou and Florence declarations specifically invoked culture to promote environmental sustainability in a number of ways.


It should also be noted that for culture and development programmes to achieve their full potential, there is a need for greater environmental literacy and an evidence base that is compatible with the goals as conceived at the 2012 Rio + 20Summit in its outcome document, The Future We Want.


The cultural sector, in the main, has well-articulated values that promote equality, inclusion, diversity and community. In many ways these values arise from the sector’s sense of responsibility towards audiences, artists, artworks, and cultural heritage. When asked directly whether environmental sustainability is relevant, most sector representatives answered in the affirmative: good environmental stewardship is a value set that meshes well with other sector values. The next step is learning how to articulate this in a more explicit fashion, both in language and in action.


Arguments and policies establishing culture and the arts’ role in sustainable development are, for the most part, not going to come from outside, at least not in a way that can be tangibly interpreted and translated into practice. It is up to the sector itself to write its own narrative and take up this leadership opportunity, moving beyond individual well-being and into the shaping of our global human values with reference to the well-being of our planet and its life-support systems.


For some countries the arts and culture sectors are subject to direct environmental legislation.

However, for the majority legislation is notspecific to the arts. At least nine agenciesare anticipating legislation and translating it into policy.Those are:


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