This article explores a few terrific recent examples of how sustainability is making its way into the arts. I am always excited to see case studies that cross these topics: sustainability is a professional passion, and art is a personal one. Here, Sydney Opera House, Disney and Transylvania’s Untold Music Festival demonstrate leadership in green buildings, funding conservation and consumer behaviour change.

But I cannot get into these great stories before showboating the great work of Splendour In The Grass and Falls Festival, two big concert festival clients of my current employer Climate Friendly. These events both have highly successful carbon offset ticket programs. The key performance indicator is the uptake rate. Five percent is a standard ballpark for offset option products like airline tickets, but these festivals attract a significantly higher uptake rate. They have achieved this by simply (a) requiring punters to make a selection to buy their ticket, and/or (b) making the offset option opt-out rather than opt-in. A high uptake means a higher impact and a larger community, creating flow-on positives in the form of promotion and attendee engagement. Excellent sustainability communications.

OK, Plug over.

GBCA's June 2015 site tour of the Sydney Opera House (original photo)
GBCA’s June 2015 site tour of the Sydney Opera House (original photo)

Greening The House

The Sydney Opera House is a client too – offsetting VIVID Live this year – but this story is bigger. Australia’s iconic arts venue was recently granted a 4 star rating under the Green Building Council of Australia’s (GBCA) Green Star – Performance rating. Having visited a few months ago, I heard straight from the House’s mouth about the major challenges to deal with. They explained that it’s one of the few world heritage listed buildings to gain a green certification, it is also one of maybe 10 percent of Green Star ratings that are for existing buildings. The Fifth Estate in August wrote, with quotes from GBCA boss Romilly Madew:

This would really have to be the most challenging of all those buildings that have achieved a rating.

[Ms Madew] said that there was a view that it was “too hard” to upgrade existing buildings, but the Opera House had shown that is was possible.

“If you can green the Opera House, you can green anything,” Ms Madew said.

Connecting children and families with nature at Disney

From “green anything” to “green everything”, Disney proudly announced last month that it has protected 400 species and 3,600 miles of habitat area in the last 20 years of the Disney Conservation Fund.

"Disney's Human Element - The Divine Miss DiVine" by Scott Smith on Flickr
“Disney’s Human Element – The Divine Miss DiVine” by Scott Smith on Flickr

Disney already has an excellent reputation for its corporate citizenship efforts, with carbon neutrality one of its hallmarks. This Fund is an inspiring example of creating shared value involving their target customer (kids), the forests, developing countries, exotic endangered species and millions of dollars. The program focuses on protecting wildlife and connecting kids and families with nature. The news release highlighted 104 projects supported with over $3 million spent. An example of a project is the “Cheetah Conservation Botswana: Community Education for Carnivore Conservation”.

The cheetah is Africa’s most threatened large cat due to habitat loss, declining food availability and human-wildlife conflict.  Cheetah Conservation Botswana is working to reduce human-cheetah conflict by training farmers to use livestock guarding dogs. This minimizes the loss of farmers’ livestock, and consequently the killing of cheetah in retaliation.

This year’s expense tipped the Fund’s total outgoings passed the $30 million mark in its 20 year anniversary. Great results.

Transylvania concert encouraging blood donations

A similarly great result was achieved on a smaller, but no less impressive scale in Transylvania, Romania. Last month, Springwise reported a genius initiative from the Transylvanian Untold Music Festival. In order to improve the frequency of blood donations in the country, which currently drags below 2 percent, it offered discount tickets to donors. The concept was simple but brilliant: playing on the cultural icon that is Dracula and vampires and turning it into a fun humanitarian program. It raised the volume of blood donated, and made donating “cool” for their target demographic. Being the concert’s first year, this crafty promotion apparently played a role in helping grow its profile for artists and event-goers alike.

Untold Festival (web screenshot)
Untold Festival (web screenshot)


The arts are a powerful medium to communicate meaning, and sustainability is an important message to send. These three examples, plus the two Climate Friendly cases, indicate that the arts showcase sustainability in different ways. Sydney Opera House focus on place or environment, Disney do sponsorship or financial support, and the three music festivals do engagement or campaigning. Aside from the common issue of carbon, organisations align to social issues that closest relate to the event and elicit the most attractive story.


This article originally appeared here on this blog, but also appears now on the Climate Friendly blog.

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