Climate disasters and alarming reports about climate change seem to follow each other at an increasingly rapid pace. Energy prices rose sharply in 2022. Expectations of the public and society are changing, and attention to the climate crisis in cultural policy is growing. For many reasons, sustainability will become an increasingly important theme for the cultural sector in the coming years. This data story explores that theme by addressing the questions of how the sector is working on sustainability, what role the climate crisis plays in the work of makers, and what the consequences of climate change may be for the sector.


Due to the climate crisis and high energy prices, sustainability is increasingly high on the agenda of the cultural sector and cultural policy. Research shows that many cultural organizations are already working on becoming more sustainable. However, there are still possibilities to do this more structurally and there are various bottlenecks that can stand in the way of further sustainability. A comparison with other industries also shows that companies within the 'Culture, sports and recreation' sector consider themselves the least sustainable and experience an above-average number of obstacles.

However, the role of the cultural sector in the climate crisis can include more than reducing its own climate impact. Many artists and cultural organizations pay attention to this theme in their work, or contribute to creative solutions or new ideas for a more sustainable society. In addition, the strength of designers and the historical knowledge and skills of (intangible) heritage can play an important role in climate adaptation. This is also a theme that the sector itself will have to think about in a timely manner, in order to be prepared for floods, drought, extreme weather conditions and other consequences of climate change.

Introduction and importance of the theme

De climate crisis presents the world with a colossal task. The increase in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is causing the Earth to continue to warm, and the consequences of this are becoming increasingly clear. Sea level rise is expected to threaten the habitat of 2100 million people by 410, and there are several (is)lands that are likely to become uninhabitable in the coming decades (Storer 2021, Ainge Roy 2019). Extreme weather events and climate disasters are becoming more frequent and severe, with the floods in Pakistan, drought and famine in Kenya, or the floods in the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany as just a few recent examples (NOS News 2022, Vos 2022). More than a million plant and animal species are at risk of extinction – and there are conceivable scenarios in which humans are one of them (Carrington 2022).

To limit these consequences as much as possible, almost 2015 countries agreed in 200 to try to limit the global temperature increase compared to the start of the Industrial Revolution to a maximum of 2, but ideally 1,5 degrees Celsius (National Government). This requires that global greenhouse gas emissions decrease as quickly and sharply as possible. The Netherlands has the ambition to reduce CO2030 by 60 percent by XNUMX2 than in 1990, and to be climate neutral by 2050 (VVD et al. 2021). However, a lot still needs to be done for this: in 2021 the CO2emissions 14 percent lower than in 1990 (CBS).

CO2emissions and temperature rise

This visualization shows how CO emissions2 (due to the combustion of fossil fuels) has grown worldwide and in the Netherlands since 1850, and how the average temperature worldwide and in the Netherlands has increased since 1907. You can switch between both graphs via the tabs above the visualization.

Index figures with 1850 as base year
°C, with 1907 as base year

Sources: Ritchie et al. 2020, Compendium for the Living Environment 2020, Haustein et al. zj

Realizing such a large CO2reduction is a challenge for everyone, and it will also become increasingly important for the cultural sector in the coming years to make buildings, programs and productions more sustainable. This is required not only by the climate crisis itself, but also by future legislation and regulations and changing expectations of the public and society. The substantive role that the cultural sector can play is equally important. Art and culture can play a major role in raising awareness about the climate crisis. They can disrupt and activate, and contribute to the creative ideas and solutions needed to tackle the climate crisis.

Research in 2019 showed that a large part of the cultural sector is already making itself more sustainable to some extent, although in most organizations - with the exception of several inspiring frontrunners - this was more incidental than structural (Schrijen 2019). However, the momentum currently appears to be increasing to strengthen and accelerate the sustainability of the sector. Firstly, high energy prices have led to calls for accelerated sustainability. In addition, attention to sustainability within (national) cultural policy is increasing. For example, the Council for Culture is working on advice on this theme (Council for Culture 2022), State Secretary Uslu announced in her Multi-year letter to free up resources to make monuments and museums more sustainable (Uslu 2022a), and a new Sustainability Team has started working within the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science.

Given the very high urgency of the climate crisis, the increasing importance for the cultural sector and the growing policy commitment to this, sustainability is one of the themes that are monitored in the Culture Monitor. To this end, this page addresses three topics in turn: the extent to which and the way in which the cultural sector itself is becoming more sustainable ('Climate impact'), the role that the climate crisis plays in the work of makers ('Climate shadow') and the consequences of climate change for the cultural sector ('Climate adaptation'). The most important sources are the studies into sustainability in the cultural sector that the Boekman Foundation and Bureau 8080 have been conducting since 2019 (Schrijen 2019, Schrijen 2020, Schrijen et al. 2022, Schrijen et al. 2023).

Climate impact – How is the cultural sector working on sustainability?

From the power needed to light a stage to the water used to flush museum toilets, and from the metals in a game console to the pages of a new novel: the cultural sector uses energy and raw materials in many different ways. This means that the sector has impact on the climate. However, it is difficult (at the moment) to say how big that impact will be exactly is. Although CBS publishes figures on the composite sectors 'Culture, sport and recreation' and 'Culture, recreation and other services', these figures only overlap partly with the cultural sector, and also only concern the direct energy consumption of organizations in the sector itself (CBS 2022a, CBS 2022c). A large part of the climate impact of the cultural sector, however, arises indirectly: for example through productions, catering or travel movements of makers and audiences.

Energy consumption and CO2-emissions 'Culture, sport and recreation'

Although for the above reasons the CBS figures on energy consumption and CO2emissions of the 'Culture, sport and recreation' sector can only provide a very global estimate of the climate impact of the cultural sector, they are included in the visualizations below as an indication. You can switch between the different graphs via the tabs above the visualization.


Sources: CBS 2022a, 2022c

Although the climate impact of the cultural sector relatively will be small compared to the total Dutch climate impact, this will also ultimately have to be reduced to contribute to the Dutch climate ambitions, to comply with (future) legislation and regulations and to continue to meet the changing expectations of partners, the public and grant providers. There are many possibilities in which cultural organizations can become more sustainable, and in practice there are many good, creative and inspiring ways in which organizations do this. So are in the domain Music festivals are becoming leaders in the field of sustainability and circularity within the domain Audiovisual a lot of thought has been given to making productions more sustainable (see, for example, Dutch Film Fund 2022), and within the domain Letters experimented with new ways to print and distribute books more sustainably (see for example Klein Lankforst 2019, Dessing 2022) – with which only some of many examples have been mentioned.

A sector-wide inventory of how cultural organizations are working on sustainability also provides survey research that the Boekman Foundation and Bureau 8080 conducted among approximately 2019 cultural organizations in 2022 and 200 (Schrijen 2019, Schrijen et al. 2022). Although the results of this study not as representative can be assumed, they are based on a sample that does justice to the diversity of organizations in the cultural sector, both in terms of type of cultural organization, size and housing situation.

First of all, the results show that the motivation to become more sustainable is high. The importance of sustainability will be rated by respondents in 2022 - for both their own organization and the cultural sector as a whole - with an 8,8 on a scale from 1 ('very unimportant') to 10 ('very important'). This high motivation mainly arises from intrinsic reasons ('because we find this important as an organization', 'because we see this as our responsibility', 'because we want to convey the importance of sustainability to our visitors'), followed by reasons that are too have to do with the interests of their own organization ('to be prepared for future developments or regulations', 'because it is good for our image', 'because of the high energy prices').

Almost all respondents are already working on sustainability in practice, with the extent to which this is happening on average estimated at 6,2 on a scale from 0 ('not at all active') to 10 ('very active'). This is somewhat similar to the situation in 2019, when most respondents classified themselves as 'somewhat active' or 'fairly active'. The ways in which organizations work on sustainability vary greatly, but the three activities most often mentioned by respondents concern separating (at least three types of) waste, paying attention to the climate in programming and encouraging employees to work with to travel by public transport.

Motivation and activity in the field of sustainability

The figures below show how important organizations in the cultural sector surveyed consider sustainability to be, and how active they themselves are in this regard. You can switch between the different graphs via the tabs above the visualization.

Average of all respondents
% of all respondents
% of all respondents

Sources: Schrijen 2019, Schrijen et al. 2022

The above comparison between 2019 and 2022 already shows that the motivation to become more sustainable and the extent to which this happens has remained virtually the same during this period. This also applies to the extent to which sustainability is a structural part of the business operations of the organizations surveyed. In 2019, 27,4 percent of the organizations surveyed had recorded sustainability efforts in a plan, 39,4 percent had made people responsible for carrying out these efforts, and 14,9 percent monitored (numerically) the progress made. In 2022, these percentages will be slightly higher (36,1, 42,6 and 17,7 percent respectively), but they still concern a minority of organizations.

Sustainability within organizations

The first graph in the visualization below shows various ways in which sustainability can be structurally invested, and the share of the organizations surveyed to which these methods apply. The second graph provides insight into the support for sustainability within the organizations surveyed. You can switch between the different graphs via the tabs above the visualization.

% of all respondents
% of all respondents that (strongly) agree with the stated statements

Sources: Schrijen 2019, Schrijen et al. 2022

Structural anchoring within business operations can therefore be an important step for many organizations to become more sustainable - something that more than 80 percent of organizations indicate they want to do in the coming years. However, a large number of respondents experience bottlenecks, with a lack of financial resources, dependence on other parties and a higher priority for other subjects being the most frequently mentioned. The needs that exist follow logically from these bottlenecks: money, guidance and support, information and inspiration, cooperation from other parties (such as a landlord) and policy (for example for clear guidelines, financial support or an obligation as a stick behind the door). .

Future ambitions and bottlenecks

The graphs below show what percentage of cultural organizations want to actively become more sustainable in the future, and which bottlenecks (could) stand in the way. You can switch between the different graphs via the tabs above the visualization.

% of all respondents
% of all respondents for whom the aforementioned bottleneck plays a (fairly) significant role

Sources: Schrijen 2019, Schrijen et al. 2022

Finally, interesting in this context is research that CBS conducted in 2022 into sustainability in various industries. This shows that 76 percent of the companies surveyed in the 'Culture, sports and recreation' sector have taken measures to become more sustainable in 2022 – this is 79 percent among all companies. What is particularly striking, however, is that the companies in 'Culture, sports and recreation' consider themselves the least sustainable of all companies, and that after the catering industry, they also experience the most obstacles to further sustainability. These are mainly financial obstacles: 30 percent of the companies in 'Culture, sports and recreation' mention a shortage of financial resources, while this applies to 13 percent of all companies (CBS 2022b).

Sustainability in 'Culture, sports and recreation' compared to other industries

The figures below show figures on sustainability in the 'Culture, sports and recreation' industry compared to the average of companies in the entire Dutch economy. You can switch between the different graphs via the tabs above the visualization.

% of all respondents
% of all respondents
% of all respondents

Source: CBS 2022

Climate Shadow – What role does the climate crisis play in the work of makers?

Although it is important that the cultural sector becomes more sustainable, the role that art and culture can play in the climate crisis extends beyond just its own climate impact. While climate reports and news items mainly communicate with the mind, art can also reach people's feelings. Art can be activist and get people moving. It can disrupt, and help reveal and break ingrained thinking patterns that have led to the climate crisis. Art can offer future scenarios and perspectives for action, and show what is lost if no action is taken (Schrijen et al. 2022; see for example Boeckel 2022, Jans 2022). An interesting way to distinguish this more substantive role in the climate crisis from the climate impact of the sector is through the concept 'climate shadow'.

In practice, there are many – and apparently more and more – artists and cultural organizations that fulfill this role with (part of) their work. Exhibitions, theater performances, songs, poetry collections, novels, films, visual works of art, games: within each discipline there are examples of 'climate art' are numerous. In addition, there is an increasing call for artists and creative makers to be directly involved more often in shaping and devising solutions for the climate crisis. State Secretary Uslu wrote in her at the end of 2022 Multi-year letter for the period 2023-2025 that 'we need artists, designers and other creative professionals to tackle complex transitions', because they 'have the tools to deal with the changes and (...) new [be able to] explore and imagine futures' (Uslu 2022a). Especially in the domains Architecture en Design many makers are already actively working on this.

Although it is difficult to determine exactly to what extent makers and cultural organizations are concerned with the climate crisis in their work (and whether this is increasing or decreasing over the years), research by the Boekman Foundation and Bureau 8080 does provide an indication. Part of a survey that was launched within the cultural sector in 2022 was a question about the share that climate-related work occupies within the entire production or programming. Although this question various restrictions know, the results show that 59 percent of the organizations surveyed have done work in the past five years in which the climate crisis played an important role, and that 53 percent of organizations are already certain that they will do so in the next two years ( Schrijen et al. 2022). Previous research also showed that in 2017, climate-related activities were mentioned in 24 percent of the annual reports of institutions in the basic cultural infrastructure (BIS). This share increased up to 30 percent in 2018 and 55 percent in 2019 (Schrijen 2020).

Climate-related work in the production and/or programming of cultural organizations

The figures in the visualization below show what share of cultural organizations' production and/or programming in the past five years was dedicated to the climate crisis, and what share is expected to be devoted to the climate crisis in the next two years. You can switch between the different graphs via the tabs above the visualization.

% of all respondents
% of all respondents

Source: Schrijen et al. 2022

Climate adaptation – What are the consequences of the climate crisis for the sector?

The foregoing discussed how the cultural sector influences or can influence the climate through its own climate impact and climate shadow. However, the reverse is also the case: climate change may also have an impact on the cultural sector.

For example, cultural organizations and event organizers will have to take into account a climate in which more extreme weather conditions - such as storms, heavy precipitation or heat and drought - will occur more often. Floods and drought also pose major risks, especially for heritage (Klimaatadaptatie zja Knowledge Portal). The risk of flooding is obvious and is by no means a distant prospect. For example, a large part of the cultural heritage on Bonaire is threatened by climate change this century (Drayer 2022), and during the floods in 2021, three museums and 65 monuments in Limburg were affected by flooding (Welters 2022). Drought can also contribute to land subsidence, which can cause damage to (the foundations of) historic buildings or archaeological sites.

In September 2022, a report commissioned by the European Commission underlined the need to better protect heritage against these dangers and thus make it climate adaptive (Leissner et al. 2022). There is not yet a specific adaptation policy for heritage in the Netherlands (Climate Adaptation Knowledge Portal 2021), although there are examples of projects that work on making heritage climate-adaptive. There are also various things that monument owners or heritage institutions can do themselves to identify risks in a timely manner and be prepared for them (see, for example, Climate Adaptation Knowledge Portal zja and Welters 2022).

In addition to thinking about its own climate adaptation, the cultural sector can also play a role in the broader climate adaptation of the Netherlands. In this way, architects and designers work on designs that are prepared for the future, but based on the domain Heritage Ideas from the past are also increasingly being used for this purpose. (Intangible) heritage contains a lot of historical, local and specific knowledge and skills that can play a role in sustainability or climate adaptation. An example is the use of historic water mills to regulate the water level in times of drought. In addition, heritage can contribute to a feeling of connection with – and willingness to care for – each other and the environment (Klimaatadaptatie zjb knowledge portal, Bakels et al. 2021). The use of insights from the past for a sustainable and climate-adaptive future is stimulated by the Heritage deal, which was extended by State Secretary Uslu at the end of 2022 until the end of 2025 (Uslu 2022a).

In addition to the direct consequences of climate change, a more indirect consequence is that it is likely that climate change and the climate crisis will give the public, partners and subsidy providers more sustainable expectations. Research among more than 11.000 British cultural visitors already provides some insight into this, and shows that some expectations are shared by a large part of the public (see figures below) (Raines et al. 2022). The result could ultimately be that these expectations also influence the choices of the public and partners - although, for example, they are already being made actions waged against cultural organizations sponsored by the fossil fuel industry.

Expectations of British cultural visitors with regard to sustainability at cultural organizations

The figures below show the sustainable expectations that approximately 11.000 British cultural visitors have towards cultural organizations. The percentages show what percentage of respondents have a certain expectation. You can switch between the different graphs via the tabs above the visualization.

% of all respondents
% of all respondents
% of all respondents

Source: Raines et al. 2022


Sustainability will become an increasingly important theme for the cultural sector in the coming years. The need to become more sustainable is increasing for various reasons, as is the attention paid to the theme within national cultural policy. Various bottlenecks will have to be addressed in order to accelerate the sustainability of the cultural sector - although there are also various options in which cultural organizations themselves can embed sustainability more structurally within their business operations. However, the role of the cultural sector in the climate crisis can and probably will be greater. The creativity of artists can contribute significantly to awareness, change, new solutions and climate adaptation - and artists are increasingly being explicitly involved in this.

We will continue to monitor these developments within the Culture Monitor. Special attention will be paid to efforts to better map the climate impact of the cultural sector than is currently possible. This would make it possible to better monitor the sector's progress – and for policymakers to make adjustments where necessary.

Want to know more about the theme of Sustainability?

Sustainability is one of the three core themes of the Boekman Foundation in the period 2021-2024 (Boekman Foundation 2020). All publications that the Boekman Foundation itself publishes on this theme can be found via the online file Sustainability. In addition, the Knowledge base actively collects articles and (research) publications about sustainability in the cultural sector. At the time of writing, more than 650 titles are available.

A previous edition of the text on this theme page can be found here.


Ainge Roy, E. (2019) '“One day we'll disappear”: Tuvalu's sinking islands'. On:, May 16.

Arts Council England (2020) Sustaining great art and culture: environmental report 2018/19. Manchester: Arts Council England.

Bakels, J. and S. Elpers (2021) 'Working towards an ecologically and climate-robust future: intangible heritage as leverage'. On:

Boeckel, J. van (2022) 'How can art contribute to understanding sustainability?'. On:, May 18.

Boekman Foundation (2020) Inspiring by informing: Boekman Foundation activity plan 2021-2024. Amsterdam: Boekman Foundation.

Bokhorst, JW van (2022) 'The climate impact of the cultural sector: the task is clear, time is running out, the route is still foggy'. In: Boekman, jrg. 34, no. 133, 37-41.

Carrington, D. (2022) 'Climate endgame: risk of human extinction “dangerously underexplored”'. On:, 1 August.

CBS (zj) 'How much are our greenhouse gas emissions?'. On:

CBS (2022a) 'Supply of natural gas, electricity via public grid; companies, SBI2008, region'. On:, October 7.

CBS (2022b)'8 in 10 companies are working on becoming more sustainable'. On:, October 13.

CBS (2022c)'Emissions to air by the Dutch economy; national accounts'. On:, December 5.

Compendium for the Living Environment (2020) 'Temperature in the Netherlands and globally, 1907-2019'. On:, 21th of April.

Dessing, M. (2022a) 'Sustainability at publishing houses: “It does not always make sense to set strict requirements”'. On:, 29th of June.

Drayer, D. (2022) '“Bonaire is the first Dutch municipality to notice the consequences of climate change”'. On:, October 25.

Ecotree (zj) 'How much CO2 does a tree absorb?' On:

Geelen, J. (2020) 'Trees are supposed to help the climate, but how many are there actually in the Netherlands?'. On:, 12th of June.

Haustein, K. et al. (n.d.) 'Global Warming Index'. On:

Jans, L. (2022) 'Blog | exploration of art and climate'. On:, November 30.

Climate Adaptation Knowledge Portal (zja) 'Threats to cultural heritage from climate change'. On:

Climate Adaptation Knowledge Portal (zjb) 'Opportunities of cultural heritage for climate adaptation'. On:

Climate Adaptation Knowledge Portal (2021) '“If you lose heritage, it is gone forever”'. On:, October 4.

Klein Lankforst, M. (2019) 'From forest to bookcase: this is how we make De Correspondent's books sustainable'. On:, May 20.

Arts '92 (2022) 'Taskforce: measures are now needed to keep the cultural sector open'. On:, September 14nd.

Leissner, J. et al. (2022) Strengthening cultural heritage resilience for climate change: where the European Green Deal meets cultural heritage. Brussels: European Union.

Dutch Film Fund (2022) 'Action plan to make the film and AV sector more sustainable'. On:, December 2.

NOS News (2022) 'Hundreds die in Pakistan from diseases after floods'. On:, September 21nd.

Oude Elferink, E. (2015) 'The Netherlands has 162 million trees'. On:, September 3nd.

Pattee, E. (2021) 'Forget your carbon footprint: let's talk about your climate shadow'. On:, December 10.

Council for Culture (2022) 'Making the cultural sector more sustainable is structurally on the agenda'. On:, October 6.

Raines, K. and F. Carr (2022) Act Green: understanding audience attitudes towards the role of cultural organizations in tackling the climate emergency. London: Indigo Ltd.

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National government (zj) 'Climate policy'. On:

Schrijen, B. (2019) Sustainability in the cultural sector: steppingstones for future sustainability policy. Amsterdam: Boekman Foundation and Bureau 8080.

Schrijen, B. (2020) Sustainability in the cultural sector: inspiration for future sustainability policy. Amsterdam: Boekman Foundation and Bureau 8080.

Schrijen, B. and S. Zwart (2022) Sustainability in the cultural sector: 2022 edition – Quantitative part. Amsterdam: Boekman Foundation and Bureau 8080.

Schrijen, B., S. Zwart and M. van den Hove (2023) Sustainability in the cultural sector: edition 2022/2023 – Qualitative part. Amsterdam: Boekman Foundation and Bureau 8080.

Storer, R. (2021) 'Up to 410 million people at risk from sea level rises – study'. On:, 29th of June.

Uslu, G. (2022a) The power of creativity: culture at the heart of society. The Hague: Ministry of Education, Culture and Science.

Uslu, G. (2022b) Answer to written questions from members Wuite (D66) and Westerveld (GroenLinks) (Answering parliamentary questions). The Hague: Ministry of Education, Culture and Science.

Vos, C. (2022) 'In the shadow of the Ukraine war, Kenya is starving'. On:, 24th of June.

VVD, D66, CDA and Christian Union (2021) Looking after each other, looking ahead to the future: coalition agreement 2021-2025. The Hague: VVD, D66, CDA and ChristenUnie.

Welters, S. (2022) 'A lot of water in a short time: what to do?'. In: Museum level, no. 59, 32-34.

Wuite, J. and L. Westerveld (2022) The consequences of rising gas prices for the cultural and creative sector (Parliamentary questions). The Hague: House of Representatives of the States General.

Accountability image

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