The ethics of sponsorship

an Extinction Rebellion flag flies in front a museum
09 Feb 2022

Choosing a multinational oil and gas corporation as the major sponsor of a climate change exhibition sounds like something straight out of 'The Thick of It'. But, says Justin Williams, Shell's corporate sponsorship of the Science Museum is no fiction.

Welsh Government announces £750,000 for libraries and museums

18 May 2022

More than £750,000 of funding will be provided to help local libraries and museums develop their facilities and services, the Welsh Government has announced.

The funding, which will be delivered as part of the Transformation Capital Grant Scheme, will support Wales’ local libraries and museums to "develop and revitalise" their facilities.

There will be a particular focus on widening access, partnership working, decarbonisation, and developing sustainable services.

The fund will be used to refurbish and modernise six libraries: Penygroes Library, Dyffryn Ogwen Library in Gwynedd, Rhymney Library in Caerphilly, Pencoed Library in Bridgend, Port Talbot Library and Barry Library.

Funding will also be provided towards and Newport Museum and Art Gallery’s decarbonisation project, and to enable Monmouthshire County Council to ensure the preservation of, and future access to, their collections through work at the Shire Hall.

Deputy Minister for Arts and Sport, Dawn Bowden said: “The Welsh Government remains committed to supporting these important services that fulfil a valuable role at the heart of community life. 

"This fund will widen access for our communities, promote cultural engagement, provide learning opportunities and support community cohesion, sustainability and prosperity.

“I encourage everyone to see what their local museum, archive or library has to offer.”

Tate Modern scales back large exhibitions

09 May 2022

Tate Modern is cutting back on the number of works included in high-profile shows to reduce costs and carbon emissions.

Director Frances Morris says the gallery will continue to stage large exhibitions, but “in a very selective way”, and only in partnership with another large institution in a bid to save money.

“Concerns about cost - financial cost and cost to the planet - are absolutely reshaping our approach to borrowing works for exhibitions and the way we use our collection,” she said.

The gallery plans to put on more shows drawing on its own collection, much of which is conserved in storage.

“The number of loans from distant locations is [being] pared back to an absolute minimum,” Morris added.

Scotland to tie arts funding to net zero progress

27 Apr 2022

Creative Scotland says it will expect all funding recipients to demonstrate how their work contributes to making the sector carbon neutral by 2045.

Activists occupy British Museum

25 Apr 2022

Hundreds of activists have staged another protest at the British Museum against the institution’s links to oil giant BP.

Activist theatre group BP or not BP, organisers of the "Make BP History" event said around 400 people took part in multiple protests across the British Museum on Saturday (23 April), culminating in a 10 metre BP logo being pulled apart in the Great Court. Protestors then went on to occupy four different rooms in the museum after closing time.

BP is one of the British Museum's longest standing corporate supporters, supporting the museum since 1996. The current five-year contract was signed in May 2016 and extended for a year due to Covid. It is understood the museum is in talks with the oil giants over extending the arrangement further. Several protests against the museum's corporate partnership with BP have been held in recent weeks.

Deborah Locke, a member of BP or not BP, said: "Renewing this sponsorship deal would send a terrible message, making an oil giant seem acceptable when we need to urgently shift away from this disastrous industry.”

The British Museum has previously defended its relationship with BP, stating that "without external support much programming and other major projects would not happen".

Energy crisis likely to affect arts workers’ mental health   

20 Apr 2022

Arts workers are the professionals most likely to anticipate negative mental health consequences due to the energy crisis.

Projects across virtually all professional fields will be negatively affected by the energy crisis, including the arts and culture sector, according to the results of a survey by the Association for Project Management (APM).

The survey of 1,000 project professionals found most anticipated increased project costs. But among arts and culture workers, a negative effect on the project team’s mental health was the most prevalent concern.

Other likely negative impacts included delays to start dates and completion, and an inability to fully realise the intended benefits of projects or achieve net-zero targets.

“The breadth of responses from this survey show the many different ways that projects are likely to be affected by the global energy crisis,” said Professor Adam Boddison, APM’s Chief Executive. 

Fresh pressure on British Museum’s BP sponsorship

19 Apr 2022

The British Museum's board of trustees have received a formal call to reject a new sponsorship deal with BP.

Sent following revelations that Museum Director Hartwig Fischer plans to renew the partnership, Culture Unstained's submission argues trustees must exercise “informed and ethical judgement” of its continued association with the energy company.

The demand is co-signed by eight leading professionals including former Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Chair Robert Watson, and Mark Serwotka, General Secretary of PCS Union, which represents many British Museum workers.

More than 300 people are planning to take part in a protest arranged by BP or not BP? on Saturday, the fourth held at the museum this month.

Culture Unstained Co-Director Chris Garrard says it is vital trustees "fulfil their legal duties".

"If the board does approve a new deal with BP, it would signal that they chose to sidestep their own sustainability policy and dismiss the reputational risks of partnering with a leading fossil fuel producer as the climate crisis worsens."

NPOs' carbon emissions plummeted during lockdown

13 Apr 2022

Some organisations found more time to plan and solidify environmental commitments, while others used more electricity and gas during the closures.

New Scientist Live festival drops BP

10 Mar 2022

A science festival has ended its association with energy company BP after fielding years of criticism.

New Scientist Live, due to take place in Manchester this weekend, has shifted its approach after dropping BP as a sponsor and speaker at an online event in September.

Several scientists withdrew from the event in protest at the time, though the festival has faced pressure over the controversial alliance since 2019.

Activist group Culture Unstained welcomed the change of policy, while Dr Emma Garnett, who pulled out of the event last year, applauded the festival's courage.

"I understand it is difficult for organisations to turn away funding. However, it is vital organisations refuse fossil fuel sponsorship because these companies are polluting our discussions as well as our planet.

"I think the evidence is incredibly clear: how far we succeed in limiting climate change depends on dismantling fossil fuel industry influence in our politics and culture."

Scottish Ballet ends BP sponsorship

23 Feb 2022

The Scottish Ballet has ended its partnership with BP.

Scotland’s national ballet confirmed it severed ties with the oil giant at the end of January as it works to become carbon neutral by 2030.

The announcement follows the National Portrait Gallery’s decision to end its 30-year BP sponsorship.

Member of activist theatre group BP or not BP? Scotland, Zoe Lafferty, said all eyes are now on the British Museum to follow suit.

“We desperately need cultural gatekeepers to start being leaders in times of crisis rather than allowing the arts to hide decades of violence towards people and ecosystems.”

BP and National Portrait Gallery cut ties

22 Feb 2022

A 30 year sponsorship deal between BP and the National Gallery will end in December, the parties say.

In a press release on Tuesday (February 22), they confirmed that BP's support of the Portrait Award will not be renewed. It said the decision was made "together", offering no insight into whether pressure to end oil company sponsorship of the arts convinced either partner that time was up.

"The BP of today is a very different company from when we first started our partnership with the National Portrait Gallery," the company's UK boss Louise Kingham said, noting a need to find "new ways to best use our talent, experience, and resources".

Lobby groups Culture Unstained and BP or not BP? claim its clear the partnership had become too controversial.

"This is clearly a vote of no confidence in BP’s business. The company spent 30 years painting a picture of itself as a responsible philanthropist but it is rapidly running out of places to clean up its toxic image," Culture Unstained Co-Director Jess Worth said.

Nicholas Cullinan, Director of the National Portrait Gallery, expressed gratitude for the long-running support.

"Its funding for the award has fostered creativity, encouraged portrait painting for over 30 years and given a platform to artists from around the world, as well as providing inspiration and enjoyment for audiences across the UK."

It's estimated the sponsorship enabled six million free visits and contributed to the career development of more than 1,500 portrait artists.

The last Portrait Award was in 2020. It was not staged this year or last because the gallery is closed for redevelopment.

British Museum considers BP sponsorship renewal

21 Feb 2022

The British Museum plans to renew its controversial sponsorship deal with BP, according to internal emails.

Documents obtained by Culture Unstained show museum director Hartwig Fischer met with the oil giant last year to discuss continuing the partnership beyond spring 2023.

BP or not BP, a separate activist group, staged a protest over the weekend in which they pretended to be British Museum staff presenting fake plans to drill for oil at Stonehenge, in reference to the institution's new BP-funded exhibition about the site.

Last year, the museum publicly claimed “no decision as to a future potential renewal is currently under consideration, nor is it likely to be relevant for some time”.

Culture Unstained said sponsorship renewal would be a “reckless move”.

“It would give further legitimacy to an oil and gas company that has made a massive contribution to climate breakdown and is raking in huge profits from an energy price crisis that’s causing financial hardship for millions.”

Where are the red lines on ethical fundraising?

protestors campaign against Shell's sponsorship of the Science Museum
02 Feb 2022

In recent years, as climate change has intensified, so has controversy around fossil fuel funding. Chris Garrard says we must learn from our leading museums’ mistakes.

Wales aims for zero carbon screen sector

02 Feb 2022

New targets for decarbonising Wales' screen sector are on their way.

Screen New Deal: Transformation Plan will see the BFI, BAFTA albert and Arup collaborate with Creative Wales, Fflim Cymru Wales and Clwstwr to create new sustainability recommendations for the industry.

The 18-month programme will begin with 12 months' data collection, followed by zero carbon, zero waste plan of action.

The initiative responds to the Screen New Deal report in 2020, which explored the film sector's carbon impact.

“Taking this work across a screen cluster’will develop practical and sustainable outcomes that can work for all productions and help reduce the sector's carbon footprint,” BFI Deputy CEO Harriet Finney said.

Londonderry project to address climate change

31 Jan 2022

An arts-based community project aims to change behaviours towards climate change in Northern Ireland.

Led by Derry theatre The Playhouse, Artitude: Climate, Culture, Circularity has £150,000 from the National Lottery Community Fund to tackle environmental topics including waste and net zero targets.

The 18-month project will culminate in Artitude Festival 2023, timed to coincide with the 10th anniversary of Londonderry’s stint as the inaugural UK City of Culture.

Playhouse Chief Executive Kevin Murphy says research conducted throughout will help form new environmental targets for the area.

“This project will give a clear path to the future and help people who want to take action to know what to do. As a community, we are positively choosing to help sustain our planet’s climate.”

Glyndebourne invests £25 per tonne of emissions

24 Jan 2022

Glyndebourne will invest £25 per tonne of its direct and energy use emissions into sustainability measures.

The opera house will plant new trees on site, replace all plastic signage and continue converting to LED lighting.

All four new productions scheduled for this year’s Glyndebourne Festival will adopt the Theatre Green Book's baseline principles.

Glyndebourne is also marking 10 years of generating its own power through an on-site wind turbine, which has cut its energy emissions by 83% since 2009. 

“Our priority remains to continue to reduce gross carbon emissions,” Managing Director Sarah Hopwood said.

Horniman Museum plants micro-forest

11 Jan 2022

The Horniman Museum is planting a micro-forest on its site.

A 300m2 area of the south London museum's grounds is being redeveloped into a 'green screen', protecting its gardens from noise and air pollution and creating new habitats for local wildlife.

Plans were made possible following a successful fundraising appeal. The museum estimates it lost about £150,000 each month it was closed due to Covid-19.

Horniman's Head of Horticulture Errol Fernandes said donors have "played a vital part in creating something that will benefit our local environment for decades to come".

Planting will continue through the winter and into early spring.

Tackling the climate crisis

Climate change workshop
11 Jan 2022

The cultural sector has a role to play in driving the change needed to respond to the climate crisis. But much has been overlooked in the conversation to date, says Lauren Healey.

Call for global collaboration to protect creative industries

08 Dec 2021

The creative and cultural sectors must not be treated as a policy "outlier" if they are to help meet global challenges.

Scientists boycott Science Museum amid new sponsorship claims

22 Nov 2021

Leading scientists have boycotted the Science Museum until it announces a moratorium on fossil fuel funding.

An open letter signed by over 60 professionals, including former Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Chair Robert Watson, says they “can no longer be complicit" in the policies adopted by the museum.

“This means publicly committing not to renew any existing contracts when they expire, or to form any new ones until, at the very least, the company demonstrates a credible plan for phasing out fossil fuels in line with the Paris 1.5°C target,” it continues.

The letter follows criticism of the Science Museum’s sponsorship agreements with oil giants Shell and Adani, which led to the resignation of its former director and two trustees, and comes amid new claims the institution signed a similar 'gagging clause' with Adani as it it did Shell.

The contract prohibits the museum from making "any statement or issue any publicity or otherwise be involved in any conduct or matter that may reasonably be forsseen as discrediting or damaging the goodwill or reputation" of Adani Green Energy.

The Science Museum did not apply its own standards for ethical sponsorship to the Adani's parent group because the deal is with Adani Green Energy.

However, newly released documents suggest Adani Group negotiated the partnership.

"In the wake of COP26, there is no justification for providing positive PR to companies heavily involved in fossil fuel extraction," said Culture Unstained Co-Director Jess Worth.

"It’s time [the Science Museum] admitted their mistake and engaged with those who care so deeply about the museum’s future that they are willing to pass up paid work and prestigious opportunities to make their concerns heard."


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