Changemaker Network (15 Dec 2022)

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Changemakers Network Meeting – December 2022


On 15 December, the Changemakers Network Meeting brought together Federation members from across the Creative Industries. Continuing to explore how we can promote a greener society and economy, this session specifically focused on the ways in which the Creative Industries can shape public behaviour and sentiment around the climate crisis.

Following a warm welcome to all members in attendance from the meeting co-chair’s, Laura Voak, Series Producer at Windfall Films and Sustainability Co-Lead at Argonon media group, and Rich Turner, Global Director of Communications at Argonon, the meeting opened with an update on their company’s environmental policy. The policy will be rolled out across Argonon’s nine production companies through 2023, and they have switched to a more environmentally friendly pension provider.

Gaby Hornsby, TV Lead for Sustainability at the BBC spoke about the importance of BBC suppliers joining the sustainability journey, ensuring that their values on-screen and off-screen are aligned and have a positive impact on the planet. Gaby spoke about navigating the tension of creating stories about the natural world without damaging the environment in the process.

The BBC recently launched its new Environmental Sustainability Topic Guide—an open-access resource for the creative sector designed to make the latest science and reports more digestible. The piece aims to empower people to discuss climate issues from a position of knowledge, lowering barriers to these types of important conversations.

Genevieve Marciniak, Consultant at BOP Consulting – a global research and consulting practice for culture and the creative economy – summarised key findings from a body of research recently published by BOP entitled Creatives Industries and the Climate Emergency: the Path to Net Zero. The report was commissioned by Creative Industries Policy and Evidence Centre (PEC) to scope the current state of readiness for Net Zero across the sector, identifying gaps and highlighting vital research. It provides the first environmental overview of all the UK’s Creative Industries, including interviews with 20+ sub-sector trade organisations such as Creative UK, Arts Council England, BFI and BAFTA. Overarching findings show that far more support is needed from government at both a local and national level because most change and climate leadership is happening from within the sector.

Mike Clewley, Senior Policy Officer for culture and tourism recovery at Greater London Authority, continued the network’s updates. He spoke about how, since Sadiq Khan’s appointment as Mayor of London, there has been far greater investment into arts and culture, which has enabled more embedding of arts and culture at a local level, as well as raising internal awareness through tourism work, programmes and forums. Mike gave an overview of what GLA has been working on in terms of supporting projects, events and initiatives around sustainable action. The new Museum of London, for example, will become the most sustainable museum in the world when it opens in 2026.

Suzie Tucker, Head of Strategy and Communications at National Museums Directors’ Council, shared updates from the museums sector. She spoke about the increased emphasis on making operations more sustainable, including the carbon emissions related to international tourism and audiences traveling to and from venues to visit exhibitions. Suzie also highlighted ongoing challenges around funding and how the sector needs more capital funding from government and investors to become more sustainable moving forward.

Following updates from the network, Laura then prompted the group in attendance to address the question: ‘How are the Creative Industries working editorially with audiences to change narratives and influence behaviour on the climate crisis?’.

Answering from the perspective of television, Laura suggested a two-pronged approach: explicit and subtle. Explicit manifests as ‘green’ storylines and special episodes, such as The Great British Bake Off’s ‘Vegan Week’. The more subtle strategy encompasses things like Love Island’s reusable water bottles, Grand Designs’s use of electric cars and background billboards designed to subconsciously engrain sustainable practices as part of viewers’ everyday lives. Gaby suggested these fringe references now need to be less subtle and “put more at the emotional heart” of TV programmes in order to accelerate the climate change journey.

The network discussed the UK’s huge opportunity to use our creative power for good, to influence international conversations and movements around climate change. The UK has the chance to be a trailblazer in global impact by spreading awareness, leading the way and sharing research and resources with the world. Whilst there is much progress to be made, the US and other territories are still far behind the UK. Yet UK cities aren’t moving at the same pace – Manchester and Leeds are examples of cities powering ahead, while London is still further behind. Mike believes this is an issue of awareness, as well as the drive to collaborate, cooperate and cluster funding to combine forces.

The network’s discussion shifted to the audience’s appetite to learn about climate change. Whilst dedicated content platforms like WaterBear suggests audiences are engaged with environmental content, the conversation noted that there is often a disconnect between what audiences describe as their values and what they do. All agreed that environmental content needs to be more integrated and embedded across the board, as opposed to often being siloed as its own subsection.

The discussion considered how we measure the impact of climate content beyond traditional benchmarks such as ratings and numbers, and how we can better articulate the social value and impact of climate content to stakeholders and government. The BBC’s Climate Creatives 2022 event exploring the social value attributed to The Green Planet, was recommended for viewing.

Members of the network agreed that, currently, there is a sustainability skills gap in younger generations entering the workforce – a finding highlighted in the aforementioned BOP Consulting report. Educators have a huge responsibility in enriching students’ awareness and knowledge on climate change. Whilst companies and organisations may be passionate about sustainability, if young people aren’t skilled-up from a grassroots level, it will be hard to hit Net Zero targets.

In general, the UK doesn’t currently have a workforce or supply chain that is sufficiently skilled to deliver major climate initiatives and this is something that educators can be instrumental in changing. Climate literacy is the perfect place to start and this can be addressed by sharing resources with academics and students more readily. After all, they are our future generations and have enormous potential to influence the future of our planet.

Following the group’s discussions, the network meeting concluded with one main action point: to form a small steering group ahead of the next session to shape next steps. This will be part of the preliminary work to start putting a bigger plan of action in place to effect change and make the UK Creative Industries more sustainable.

The steering group and subsequent plan will support the wider Changemakers Network in transitioning from a discovery phase into more solid and tangible action. The upcoming Changemakers Network meetings will therefore aim to focus on specific priority areas and how to start building partnerships that can make ideas happen. Evy Cauldwell French, Senior Development & Partnerships Manager at Creative UK stressed how important it is that this is a combined and united effort. We need representatives from across industry and sectors to work together to help the Creative Industries have a positive and proactive impact on climate change in 2023 and beyond.