The greening of institutional policies should reflect the collective belief of all staff members that caring for the environment in which we live and the need to take action to keep climate and ecological conditions at an appropriate level is a basic indicator for the institution’s operations. In this Guide, we assume institutional policy is expressed as a strategic document (eco-strategy) and is a sum of the activities and practices derived from specific values and goals. It is important that the policy of the institution should be an expression of activities undertaken by the team and that the strategy reflect the everyday practices related to the neighbourhood, production, technology and communication, etc. It is also important that it respond to the present and future challenges. The institution’s eco-policy should be shaped from the bottom up, rather than being imposed from above. Only then does it have a chance to function in practice and not act as a dead document full of declarations. It is also important that it is an open and verifiable document that responds to dynamically occurring changes. The institution’s policy must be defined in a participatory manner, with the whole team.
The work on ecologising institutional policy does not have to wait until ecological programme and operational activities have been developed at your institution. These processes can, and ideally should, occur in parallel. What matters in institutional policy is that it should be understood and supported by the whole team. That is why it is especially important to pay attention to teamwork and universality, i.e. ensure that every employee has been included. As in other areas, we recommend starting with a diagnosis.
Mapping the ongoing changes and current needs should be undertaken on several levels: both those located inside the institution, based on the practices and needs of individual employees, and those outside which the institution can respond to, i.e. global challenges posed by the effects of climate change and ecological crises. In the first step, it is best to take care of the process of non-intrusive education, i.e. one that will be integrated with the functioning of the institution.
We work together
Remember that an institution is its team. If you are not part of management, do not wait for regulations coming from ‘above’, start collecting observations and information. If you are in charge of an institution, do not provide your team with a climate emergency announcement accompanied by a list of guidelines. Let’s work together, support institutional eco-agents, green teams and their initiatives. If such a team does not exist in your institution, create one (see: GREEN TEAMS). Together with members of the green team, collate activities from all departments that aim at responding to climate challenges in different ways. Collect the needs that individual employees indicate as important to be included in the work of the institution. Organise an all-staff meeting to present the conclusions. Showcase activities already undertaken by individuals or entire departments. Present examples of good practices from other institutions and organisations. Talk about motivations.
Give yourself and your team a good start. Gather existing practices, smaller and larger, to appreciate initiatives taken, irrespective of how advanced, complex, cross-sectional or systemic they may or may not be. It is better to avoid shaming or accusing people of doing too little or of not doing things well enough. Take a diligent look at what is already being done and on that basis set the directions for development.
It is important that the need for action is understood by all employees. Taking care of equal access to knowledge by allocating working time for joint education, discussions, reaching conclusions, and then equal participation in initiating actions and changes, regardless of the positions held or differentiation into departments, will strengthen the team and contribute to building collective knowledge. Sharing various sensitivities, dilemmas or limitations will enrich the institution’s operating strategies. Organise a series of lectures and workshops, invite experts, specialists and artists who will feed your collective knowledge.
Almost all studies, sociological and psychological interpretations show that regular, direct contact with nature deepens the awareness of ecological changes, makes people more sensitive to the world of nature, and also brings psychological and emotional relaxation. Regular work trips to the surrounding wild corners of nature may turn out to be a good practice. Invite naturalists, people with a passion for hiking and artists to conduct work trips for you, sharing their knowledge and interests. Perhaps someone from the team is fascinated by some area or some species of flora or fauna? Include the practice of regular, e.g. monthly trips into the institutional calendar. This way, you will also take care of the emotional wellbeing of employees. Together you will learn systemic moderation at work and get to know each other in non-professional situations.
According to science, direct contact with the soil improves the mood. When organising friendly, neighbourly spaces (see: GOOD NEIGHBOURLINESS), do it as a team, without distinguishing between core, administrative or technical departments. Make sure to reserve time for joint activities. Designate days in your calendar when you spend time outdoors, working together. In every institution there are staff members who are experts on such topics and who can guide the rest of the team in its activities. You can set up a rain garden in front of your building. It is a simple and easy-to-implement project which does not require a large area. During the work, you will become familiarised with the real issues involved in saving the climate. It will also be a message for your audience that you do not just pay lip service to the idea of being environmentally conscious – you talk about climate change in your programme and you take action yourself.
Familiarise yourself with reports on climate alarms. The reports of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) and the report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) are the most comprehensively developed and widely recognised by many scientific, academic and activist circles. In the reports you will find extensive evidence that urgent action is necessary at all levels of government and all organised human activity. Cultural institutions must take a stand and prevent the disregard of the deepening ecological and climate crises. Join other institutions, declare a Climate Emergency, as did, for example, Czech arts and culture institutions and organisations. (see: PARTNERSHIPS AND ECO-COALITIONS)
Revision of institution’s mission
Open a team discussion on the need to revise the institution’s mission. While agreeing with the diagnosis of the Climate Emergency, assess critically the mission and goals which your institution sets for itself in its strategic documents. Look at the values it lists and consider whether they need to be verified. Also, take a look at how programme activities symbolically locate your institution. Does your institution measure its importance in a vertical perspective, prioritising activities aimed at prestige and success determined by the principles of competition, referring to a globally established hierarchy, i.e. measuring itself against other institutions with a similar profile? Or is the importance and uniqueness of the institution seen horizontally, creating an environment of mutual interests and providing specific tools to improve the quality of life? Think as a team what the current and specific historical moment suggests, where to look for anchors for the institution’s mission. As a group of people who prepared this guide, we say straightforwardly: we must look for anchors and values in the world closest to us, in the policy of moderation, in cooperation, in the policy of commons, in intersectional justice applying to various categories (environmental, economic, social, etc.) as well as in kindness and community.
A very inspiring example of a careful, all staff-inclusive, systemic evolution of an organisation from an ‘ordinary’ art institution to a commons institution is the CASCO Art Institute in Utrecht. It might seem that this transformation is about something else. But as we point out in many places, greening in terms defined by us refers to the complexity of crises and problems that led to the Climate Emergency. In our guide, we look for hints for eco-transformation in various methods, including feminist economics, policy of moderation (in the sense of ‘degrowth’) or commons. The process of evolution that the CASCO Art Institute has undergone is an example rich in inspiring tools and methods of work and cooperation. Interview with CASCO director Binna Choi.
When you have gathered and agreed with your team on the recommendations and needs regarding the present and future role and mission of the institution, it is time to have a thorough look at the whole institutional body. It is time to create systemic solutions for internal work, creating a network of mutual support with other entities, implementing changes in the way work is organised and determining a broader impact. It is best to do it in an open working group specially set up for this task.
Creating systemic solutions on which the work of the institution will be based is worth doing for practical and unifying purposes. Operational documents, procedures or checklists with ecological behaviour indicators developed by the whole team will make work easier. In this process, it is good to maintain the bottom-up approach, i.e. to collect the solutions used in individual activities and by teams, and to collect the needs that employees notice. It is worth discussing proposals for implementing new practices and allocating time to check how they work and how to improve them. The strength of grassroot activities lies in the fact that we get to know, understand and implement certain behaviours through our own practices. We understand them and we see the need to introduce systemic solutions. This is important, especially when you are introducing new practices. Take a holistic view i.e. pay attention to the fact that the work of individual departments and teams affects each other. Treat the institution as an organism dependent on the outside world. In the texts from individual areas, we present a number of possible solutions whose prime function is to be useful. Treat them as a useful map, adjusting to your own specificity and needs.
Mutual support in finding solutions for climate
It is worth sharing knowledge, experiences, and the challenges we face. Applying the optics of the commons policy, including noticing natural and biological degradation and agreeing to react, frees us from logic focused on scarcity or exclusion! Sharing the knowledge we acquire or the solutions we implement does not weaken their impact, this knowledge grows through the exchange of thoughts, ideas and possibilities. That is why it is important to create exchange and discussion networks and support one another in reaching solutions adapted to various institutional requirements. Initiate regular, e.g. monthly mornings/ breakfasts/ afternoons for the climate – meetings for a wide group of representatives of institutions, organisations and individuals. Such networks in other areas function successfully and facilitate cooperation, e.g. the ADESTE network around the topic of audience development or ‘Breakfasts and Talks’ organised by NGO Stocznia. Make sure that the team representation is rotational and consists of several people. Rotation and equal access to meetings for all departments prevents knowledge from being ‘locked’ within one specialisation, e.g. educators. Knowledge, as well as motivation and commitment will ‘spread’ throughout the team, irrespective of the type of work performed. Be meticulous in this regard. Different competences and professional experiences mean different perspectives and sensitivities.
In the climate movement, one of the roles that cultural institutions can take on is talking about changes in practices and daily habits in order to make them universally acceptable and bearable, so that they become the new norm. This could take the form of including information about the practices we implement in press releases. If, when organising a specific event, the institution purchased less materials because it uses an exchange system, include this information in the promotion. If you change your communication and promotion strategy to minimise the use of platforms such as Facebook and Instagram, because you develop other forms of promotion, clearly communicate it. Information about changes in practices with a short justification will popularise them (see: COMMUNICATION AND PROMOTION).
An equally important form of building a narrative about the necessary changes is taking up this topic in the programme activities, e.g. exhibition, educational programme, performance. Search for words and build stories to promote new values. It is better to incorporate individual practices into the programme, rather than creating dedicated projects for them. The point is not to follow the fashion on specific topics, but to include them in the way you think about the content of your programme and to convey the values behind them. Speak directly about the sense of responsibility we face as humanity and which we assume as an institution. (see: PROGRAMMING)
The method and type of fundraising used by the institution should responsibly follow the direction of the challenges faced. Climate protection and taking care to radically reduce the rate of extinction of yet more species of animals, plants and fungi, as well as the depletion and pollution of natural resources, requires bold actions from us. This means the need to revise and discontinue sources of financing if there is evidence of environmental abuse. Pay special attention to financing from large or mega corporations. It is worth investigating the sources of income generated by these companies. Keep in mind the legacy of environmental movements calling for fossil-free arts and culture such as Liberate Tate, Fossil Free Culture, BP or not BP. We describe this topic extensively in a separate text. (see: FINANCES)
Teamwork based on an inclusive process of collecting and exchanging knowledge and spreading awareness about the Climate Emergency, will help to develop broad support for introducing changes to the institution. It is worth remembering at least two directions of action: inside and outside. The internal dimension should be defined by adopting an eco-strategy. Support for change will not be purely theoretical, but will take the form of a specific implementation plan. The external dimension is the space for cooperation and advocacy. In many places of the Guide, we emphasise the need for cooperation and encourage you to create coalitions. Two-way optics is especially important because we know that it is necessary to start changes ourselves and create networks in parallel to influence systemic changes. These are the basic two directions, and without supporting them, little can be done.
A document in which you write down goals, define working methods, divide the work into specific stages corresponding to the resources and capabilities of the team and budget and set a time horizon is, first and foremost, a practical and useful document. You don’t have to call it ‘eco-strategy’ if the name seems overwhelming to you. What matters most is its usefulness: such a document allows you to embed all practice, knowledge and plans for the present and future. Make sure to gather knowledge and practice from all areas of the institution’s work. Let this material be shared and discussed widely. Look at your own experiences cross-sectionally, find out what was possible to implement and where you encountered obstacles. Define priority areas of work appropriate to the specificity of your team and institution. Point out both easy and difficult tasks. Take care of a sense of agency, do not set only the demanding, difficult to achieve goals. Seek balance and satisfaction. Schedule time for checking, summing up and possible revisions in action plans. Be understanding with each other. We need radical changes which concern not only goals, but also radical changes in working methods. When defining an eco-strategy, take into account the team’s capabilities and external conditions. Share the goals and working methods set out in your eco-strategy with other organisations, as this knowledge comes under the commons protocol and will grow as it is disseminated.
Ecological ethics included in the institution’s mission
Creating a set of universally advocated values is as important as defining an eco-strategy action plan. The ecological nature of an institution obliges it to focus on community, common resources, intersectional wellbeing, lowering carbon and employee footprints* as core considerations (for an explanation of the concept of employee footprint, see: EMPLOYEES). This is about showing respect to all employees, regardless of employment form. This is about applying moderation in programming and production. Supporting and promoting entities of the social and solidarity economy. Taking responsibility for non-human neighbours, through supportive care over ecosystems, ensuring good living conditions for the natural, animate and inanimate world. Go beyond the usual pattern of promotion and contact with the public focusing on energy-intensive and ethically or politically questionable social networks. Create new forms of relationships and cooperation with recipients of your activities and with local communities. An interesting and strong example comes from the National Theatre of Wales, which invites residents of Cardiff to join its programme council and adheres to the principle that all of Wales is the stage of the national theatre.
Allied lobbying in the cultural sector
Eco-ethics permeates the whole body of an institution: its educational and core work, administrative, production and communication aspects, as well as its external impact. Therefore, you should share systemic solutions with other institutions and support each other in frank and kind discussion. Create coalitions and lobby for change, bearing in mind that the perceptions and practices organising the work and function of culture must radically change. We are in this together! Signing the Declaration and joining the Culture for Climate initiative may be the first step to creating a network of people and entities involved in joint advocacy for the changes in the realm of culture (see: DECLARATION).
Movement for climate
Arts and cultural institutions enjoy social authority and have a wide range of influence, so it is important for them to join the climate movement. It is good to look for partnerships with local ecological activist groups and support the national and global ones. Publicly expressing support for specific movements will give them a symbolic reinforcement and will have tangible effects in publicising the cause and demanding a political response. You can also offer cooperation, find out what needs groups have, what they need support for, find ways to join in with a specific issue. The climate crisis requires everyone to set ambitious goals. The cultural community can organise itself to participate in the creation of climate policy at local, national and global levels and work together with environmental organisations and the activist community.