Professional associations have a duty to lead and reflect the successes of their distinct membership, and to set and support expectations for the overall field’s performance. Climate change mitigation, adaptation and response is now expected practice and charitable, educational, community-focused entities, the nation’s museums, zoos, gardens, aquariums, historic sites, and archives are taking climate action.
To meet this new level of performance, the sector needs a reset and an alignment rather than a new organization, or a performance checklist. Past approaches haven’t worked at the scale needed. They have stalled due to knowledge and resource limitations, are bogged down among concern over politics and appearances, or fizzled out from a lack of funding. Business as usual will not solve this problem. We expect that a realignment allows for a new and refreshed way forward.
For those new to this work, this alignment of nationwide effort is the first step in building greater confidence and resolve among leadership and membership to take action. For those ready to do more, this is where we build cooperative research, implementation, and funding approaches to scale change faster. Our goal is collective impact, so we are creating a mutual starting point from which the collective can begin designing that impact. The strength and creativity of the sector are the individual actions already underway; the power of the sector is in the alignment of those efforts through institutional intentions.
There are many individual organizations, and some actions and programs by associations, providing stellar examples of this work, but the action is uneven, and the approaches are disconnected. This will continue unless we give both clear permission and strong encouragement to association members. Accordingly, the associations must individually and collectively endorse and actively encourage climate action.
Alignment will encourage more climate action at individual sites, and increase the opportunities for:
- Partnerships with other sectors, and
- Accessing funding
Goals and Commitment
ECP will continue its work to broaden and strengthen the cultural sector’s capacity for climate action by:
- Building partnerships within the cultural sector and with other sectors (e.g., higher education).
- Pursuing funding to increase impact through building relationships, knowledge, skills, and resources.
- Creating and updating a public website with links to sector-wide climate initiatives and association work: https://ecprs.org/representation/us-culture-climate-collaboration/. Facilitating free climate mitigation, adaptation, and resilience summit convenings for cultural sector staff on topics specific to advancing critical areas of knowledge and action (e.g., making strategic energy management decisions, exhibition materials). Findings, recommendations, or resources will be publicly available.
- Addressing policies that impact or could affect individual institutions, the sector, and other sectors, that facilitate climate action (e.g., institutional policies, professional policy guidelines, and public policy approaches).
Our Ask: Sign and Act
- Sign the public agreement to commit to joining your members and peers in collaborative peer-lead advancement of the cultural sector’s climate mitigation, adaptation, and resilience work. View the Public Agreement and inaugural signees below.
- Share a link to your Association’s page of climate work and resources for ECP to post publicly.
- Begin/continue to apply actions in the Public Agreement starting with activities related to Energy (see below).
We agree that:
- Climate change is affecting all that we do, care for, and care about.
- As charitable, educational, community-focused institutions, cultural institutions are affected by climate change, and are resources for addressing and learning about climate change.
- We commit to joining our members and peers in actively advancing the full engagement of the cultural sector climate mitigation, adaptation, and resilience work.
We agree to:
- Continuously incorporate climate mitigation, adaptation, and resilience (as you define this work) into your existing and new resources, including programs and training, tools and assessments, and policies as appropriate for your organization.
- Encourage our membership and the field to pursue climate mitigation, adaptation, and resilience activities as appropriate.
- Be an active partner by cultivating a culture of cooperation and collaboration among association leaders, and to share, highlight, and promote resources, information, and funding opportunities to support our membership and our association peers in this work.
Signing the Public Agreement and sharing a URL of climate work is only the first step to climate collaboration by US cultural associations. Next is engaging associations and membership on sector-wide climate work.
Our first topic is ENERGY: increasing energy efficiency and clean-energy generation to decrease carbon emissions. Energy is at the top of many budgets of cultural organizations and is typically responsible for a large quantity of emissions.
ECP is working with partner, New Buildings Institute, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s ENERGY STAR® to create a ‘Museum’ category in Energy Star® Portfolio Manager®.
Creating the category means collecting enough quality energy use data from cultural institutions. Engaging associations will increase the reach of this work and allow the sector to understand the benefits (and challenges) of pursuing this work. This initiative stems from Culture Over Carbon: Understanding the Impact of Museums’ Energy Use and Carbon Inventory Project. Culture Over Carbon is an IMLS-funded National Leadership project in partnership between ECP, New Buildings Institute, and New England Museum Association. More information related to this initiative, EPA survey and participation will be shared this summer.
- Help create an energy benchmark of the cultural sector to continue the work begun by the Carbon Inventory Project.
- Museums can benchmark (compare) their energy consumption to other museums.
- Museums create the habit of monitoring their energy use to make strategic energy management decisions which could result in savings of money, energy use, and carbon emissions.
Upcoming Milestones and Ongoing Work
June 15: Host webinar on this effort for US culture associations
Hosting a webinar for regional and special interest cultural associations to present and discuss the goals of this effort, the Public Agreement, and hear how associations would like to engage in this work. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org if your association would like to attend or for more information.
June 16: Carbon Day
- Carbon Inventory Project report with estimated sector-wide carbon footprint is published.
- The webpage with links to sector-wide climate initiatives and association work goes live.
- Pursue funding and funding partnerships which increase climate work of associations and their members, and ultimately, the field.
- Begin to facilitate free climate mitigation, adaptation, and resilience summit convenings on sector-specific topics, including identifying and addressing policies related to these topics which impact the field.
What is ECP? Why is ECP leading this work?
ECP was co-founded in 2021 to mobilize the cultural sector in messaging and modeling climate action, and to work with other sectors and communities for climate action and resilience. Over the last 18 years, in varying capacities both CEO, Sarah Sutton and Managing Director, Stephanie Shapiro have worked with many association leaders, associations, and individual organizations on climate issues. Because of that role, many associations have recently asked us for direction and leadership in the sector to address the current untidy state of cultural climate action in the U.S. ECP believes in nurturing strengths and creativity, and in the power of partnerships. The strength and creativity of the sector are the individual actions already underway; the power of the sector is in the alignment of those efforts through institutional intentions. Our purpose is not to establish a new organization or to incorporate you within ECP. It is not to set standards, to compare performance, or to create association to-do lists.
Our purpose is to facilitate the alignment of the considerable knowledge, expertise, and commitment of the members of this sector in ways that will scale and expand climate action wherever and however it is appropriate to do so. Thus far, traditional approaches have not stymied climate change; the sector must change its tactics. This alignment of efforts, resources, and capacity among the sector’s professional leaders is a clear and powerful change. Learn more.
Signing a Public Agreement seems like virtue signaling instead of taking action that is transparent and accountable. How is this different?
Associations must individually and collectively endorse and actively encourage climate action. A shared statement of commitment demonstrates a sector-wide endorsement of the importance of this work and can encourage more cultural institutions to pursue climate-related activities. An aligned sector also strengthens potential partnerships with other sectors and opportunities for funding. This is the gateway to action for many and is our starting point.
The Public Agreement’s statements seem easy. Our association is already pursuing climate work and we think our membership would balk at our signing the Agreement.
Congratulations on already pursuing climate work. You have the opportunity to model and message this work to other associations since this work is self-defined, mutually reinforcing, and interconnected.
For those new to this work, this is the first step in building greater confidence and resolve among leadership and membership to take action. For those ready to do more, this is where we build cooperative research, implementation, and funding approaches to scale change faster. We need a reset and an alignment. Our goal is collective impact, so the Public Agreement allows for a mutual starting point so that the collective can begin designing that impact.
Email email@example.com with ideas and questions related to this work. We look forward to hearing from you.