Cultural Shift: Making Progress at Two Major Conferences in Scotland

This post comes from Creative Carbon Scotland

Cultural shift has featured at two very different but equally interesting conferences over the last couple of weeks: our own Green Arts Initiative Conference, 51 Shades of Green, and the Sustainable Scotland Network conference Pathways to 2030: public sector climate action.

Nearly 100 Green Champions from all sorts of cultural organisations, individual artists and workers in the sector from relevant organisations crammed into the Pearce Institute in Govan for 51 Shades of Green… where the focus was very much on shared learning.

…generally, people working in the arts didn’t come into the business to address climate change…

Generally, people working in the arts didn’t come into the business to address climate change. For most of them it is only a part, and often quite a small part, of their job.

At Creative Carbon Scotland we aim to make connections between these people, who are usually dealing with similar questions and may well be the only ones in their organisation thinking about them. Most of our speakers were therefore people working on the front line, sharing in quite short talks their challenges and how they’ve overcome them.

Stallholders included the GAI sponsor and Scotland’s greenest and carbon neutral printer, PR Print, who have been our print suppliers for a couple of years now (even their delivery is carbon neutral!), Changeworks and Plan Bee to name a few.

We also had some carefully targeted longer presentations. In one of these, Kenneth Fowler, the Director of Communications and senior environmental lead at Creative Scotland (a core strategic and funding body for the arts in Scotland and a ‘non-departmental public body’ with responsibilities under the Climate Change Act) talked about how Creative Scotland is approaching its obligations to reduce carbon emissions.

As well as working to reduce its own environmental impact, Creative Scotland distributes the vast majority of its funds to arts, screen and creative industry organisations and will expect those seeking support in the next Regular Funding round (for 2018-21) to continue to demonstrate how they are reducing their own carbon emissions. Mandatory reporting of carbon emissions by Regular Funded Organisations started from 2015/16 and Kenneth congratulated the sector for rising to this challenge.

Creative Scotland Regular Funding and the Environment Connecting Theme

He also indicated that Regular Funding applicants will be asked to show how they are using their influencing power to help shape a more sustainable, lower carbon society, using the role of the arts to go beyond operational improvements to influencing wider society.

He argued that we need to ‘increase the volume of what we’re communicating’, which I took to mean both making it louder and increasing the amount. This is reflected in the guidance for applicants which Creative Scotland has published since the conference. Creative Scotland will look for:

  1. Any systems in place to measure your carbon emissions, any policies or plans for environmental sustainability including reducing your emissions.
  2. A Board or staff member who has responsibility for or actively champions environmental issues within the organisation and that there is a clear structure to address any issues.
  3. Any opportunities where you are taking the opportunity to influence others with whom you engage[1]

We think Creative Scotland is to be congratulated for this approach: it’s very engaged and advanced thinking for a public body not directly involved in environmental sustainability. It’s also why we Creative Carbon Scotland (it’s sometimes confusing!) set ourselves up, and it’s what we work on day by day.

We already provide support for the first of the three areas and argue strongly that organisations should have a Green Champion at the highest level. And we have been developing our support for those organisations using both their communications and the work they produce, present, promote or distribute to influence wider society.

We’ll be running seminars looking at this area in more detail between now and February to help Regular Funding applicants think imaginatively about what they can do – keep an eye on the website and look out for our newsletters (if you don’t yet receive them, you can sign up at the foot of our home page).

And if you want some more ideas before then, take a look at an earlier blog and a summary of an event we ran during the Edinburgh Fringe, Changing the Culture. Or feel free to drop me a line on


Sustainable Scotland Network Conference

Meanwhile, and connectedly, we were asked to run a parallel session at the SSN’s Pathways to 2030 conference on Cultural Shift: working with the arts for mitigation and adaptation.

…we tried something new, inviting the climate change- rather than arts-focused participants to identify a ‘wicked problem’ they were facing in their work, and then to think about how artists’ skills, practices or knowledge might help address it…

We tried something new, inviting the climate change- rather than arts-focused participants to identify a ‘wicked problem’ they were facing in their work, and then to think about how artists’ skills, practices or knowledge might help address it.

Artists (and this can include a wide range of people working in a wide range of areas including screen and the creative industries) have different ways of doing things and are allowed to think in different ways: one important aspect of their work is that making things up is part of the job description, whereas most people would get sacked for it! But when we are facing a climate challenged-world with impossible to reconcile issues, maybe imagining and inventing a different future is a useful skill.

We were thrilled to be asked to explore this at the SSN conference, where culture and the arts hasn’t previously played a prominent role. The very interactive session went well and we are following it up with at least two of the participants. You can download the slides for the session here, and we’d be happy to talk about it with anyone who’s interested.

Cultural Shift

What these two conferences highlight is how our work at CCS is increasingly bringing together the two worlds of climate change and culture, not just in operational matters and carbon management, which remains important and a core part of what we do, but also in terms of inspiring and instigating a cultural shift.

We have actual and potential projects in the pipeline with partners as varied as the RSPB, SNIFFER, people working on blockchain technologies, local authorities and of course arts and cultural organisations. Creative Scotland’s inclusion of the influencing role in the Regular Funding application process and our invitation to contribute to the SSN conference demonstrate how this area of work is becoming mainstream. It’s what we’ve been arguing for for a couple of years now, so we’re very glad to see it.

[1] Regular Funding 2018-21 Appendix 3: Connecting Themes Guidance

The post Cultural Shift: Making Progress at Two Major Conferences in Scotland appeared first on Creative Carbon Scotland.


Creative Carbon Scotland is a partnership of arts organisations working to put culture at the heart of a sustainable Scotland. We believe cultural and creative organisations have a significant influencing power to help shape a sustainable Scotland for the 21st century.

In 2011 we worked with partners Festivals Edinburgh, the Federation of Scottish Threatre and Scottish Contemporary Art Network to support over thirty arts organisations to operate more sustainably.

We are now building on these achievements and working with over 70 cultural organisations across Scotland in various key areas including carbon management, behavioural change and advocacy for sustainable practice in the arts.

Our work with cultural organisations is the first step towards a wider change. Cultural organisations can influence public behaviour and attitudes about climate change through:

Changing their own behaviour;
Communicating with their audiences;
Engaging the public’s emotions, values and ideas.

Go to Creative Carbon Scotland

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