Our overarching ambition is to enable people, through art, design and performance, to contribute to a thriving planet and shape sustainable futures.
The V&A was founded in a time of optimistic belief in the power of industry, a point in history which we now know has had devastating consequences for our planet. At this current time of climate and biodiversity crisis, we must bring together art and science, and use our ingenuity and imagination, to avoid catastrophe and build a sustainable future for all.
We are only the trustees for those who come after us.
We have devised a plan for our sustainability action guided by Place, People and Programme. We will develop regular monitoring and clear annual reporting on a wider range of sustainability measures. Progress of this plan will be reviewed annually.
We will reduce the negative environmental impact of how we deliver our activities and operate our buildings, targeting net zero emissions by 2035 for Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions. We have developed a 2019/20 baseline of our organisation's emissions and are refining a decarbonisation pathway.
Energy and carbon
- In line with the science and goals of the Paris Agreement on climate change of limiting temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius, we are aiming for a 63% absolute reduction in Scope 1 and 2 emissions across our estate (excluding purchased renewable energy supplies). These are direct emissions from onsite combustion of gas and oil, fuel use by company vehicles and indirect emissions from purchased electricity, steam, heat and cooling. Our Scope 1 and 2 emissions for 2019/20 were calculated to be 3,984 tonnes CO2e.
- Our South Kensington site is provided with heat, cooling and power by the Natural History Museum's combined heat and power energy centre. Although the energy centre currently burns natural gas, it uses the fuel efficiently and there are plans to decarbonise the energy centre by 2035. All additional electricity that we purchase is from renewable sources.
- We incorporate energy efficiency into any refurbishments and upgrades of our buildings and are undertaking an LED replacement programme for lighting.
- As well as energy use, scope 3 emissions arise from diverse additional sources including waste, the purchase of goods and services, and travel. Our Scope 3 emissions for 2019/20 were calculated to be 33,000 tonnes CO2e, and 23,000 tonnes CO2e in 2020/21. This does not include emissions associated with construction of any new building or renovation which will now be included in the practical completion year. We are working to obtain a greater understanding of our Scope 3 emissions, establish consistent monitoring, and set a reduction trajectory. We have also started to engage with our suppliers on the issue.
- Business travel by air within Great Britain or between Great Britain and any city directly served by Eurostar is not permitted. In recognition of the environmental impact of air travel that we do undertake, an internal carbon compensation scheme has been set up to fund further energy efficiency measures in our buildings.
- We are working to close material loops, focusing on re-use, designing out waste and maximising resource value.
- There is a continued drive to reduce and reuse materials from exhibitions, with many items being reused internally or donated externally. We will produce and implement comprehensive sustainability guidelines for design, events and exhibitions to empower employees to make more environmentally and socially sustainable decisions.
- We follow a waste hierarchy of reduce, reuse, recycle, dispose, and over the last four years we have increased our recycling from 40% to 60% of the organisation's total tonnage with none of our operational waste going to landfill, and closed loop recycling where possible. This includes recycling of Kimtech disposable gloves.
- We aim to procure goods and services responsibly to maximise social, environmental and financial value. Currently we are including additional sustainability criteria into specifications, briefs and tenders. We will engage with 10 key suppliers each year to understand their plans for decarbonisation and wider sustainability issues.
- We have switched all packaging for online orders to sustainable, FSC approved, paper alternatives and only use 100% recyclable bubble wrap when necessary.
- We have switched our regular plastic bags to an alternative sustainable material called Paptic and provide paper bags for smaller items.
- Our prints are all produced in the UK using FSC approved paper sourced from a UK paper mill.
- Working with our catering partner Benugo, palm oil has been eliminated from all bakery items and alternative milks are served free of charges. Fresh meat and cooked chicken is from the UK and Red Tractor approved, we only use MSC (Marine Stewardship Council) approved fish and our fresh eggs are free range.
- We are looking into how we can adapt our buildings so they are fit for future climate scenarios, safeguarding appropriate environments for people and objects.
- We are currently developing operational performance criteria to incorporate into all construction projects. This will help us to focus even further on the efficient operation of our buildings.
- The museum's roof is home to four beehives, which have been on site since 2013 and produce delicious honey which is available to staff. We will identify how we further can support natural biodiversity across our sites.
Air and water
- We are working on consolidating deliveries to our sites in order to reduce vehicle movements and associated air pollution.
- In 2019/20 we used 49,080 m3 of water. We monitor our water consumption closely, implementing reduction measures and including water efficiency improvements as part of refurbishment projects.
We support our people, partners and sector to embed sustainable decision-making and practices, and to share knowledge and skills.
Governance and leadership
- Clear leadership and coordination is essential to integrate principles and practices of sustainability in the organisation. Our high-level Sustainability Steering Group provides oversight and challenge, reporting to the V&A's Executive Board. Sustainability-related data is included in our Annual Report.
Staff and volunteers
- We are harnessing the enthusiasm, creativity and expertise of our staff and volunteers to embed sustainable practices across the organisation. We support a thriving network of departmental staff Sustainability Coordinators, and ongoing learning and development opportunities are provided, including certified Carbon Literacy training.
- We will continue to collaborate across departments and sites, building productive relationships with each other, our partners, funders and audiences. This includes engaging with five key partnerships each year to assess alignment with our sustainability ambition.
- We are keen to share our knowledge, skills and experience with the cultural and heritage sectors and beyond, locally, globally and nationally. This includes actively participating in networks such as Culture in Crisis and the Bizot museum group, and collaborating with peers to generate insight and innovation in museums practice.
We will take a bold approach to engaging our audiences in issues of planetary limits and climate justice, focusing on people’s agency to take positive action.
- We actively use our collections to explore and respond to audience aspirations around climate change and planetary limits. The new Design 1900 – Now galleries include a dedicated 'Sustainability and Subversion' section, exploring how designed things prompt us to ask questions of our past, present and future.
- Our Rapid Response collecting programme enables the acquisition and immediate display of design objects that address questions of social, political, technological and economic change. Objects include those given by the Extinction Rebellion Arts Group – a coalition of graphic designers, artists and activists responsible for XR's Design Programme – which reveal how XR has used open-source design to create a collaborative 'do-it-together' movement recognisable across the globe.
Learning and public programmes
- We deliver learning activities that critically address and build understanding around local and global issues of climate change. These include talks for secondary school teachers on design for sustainable development as part of our Innovate programme, and family-friendly activities at the Museum of Childhood empowering children to take action on climate change.
Research and higher education
- We undertake and disseminate research, teaching and learning related to sustainability issues. This includes residencies for artists, designers and makers in sustainable fashion, exploring the circular economy and in engineering.
- The subject of the Anthropocene continues to be part of ongoing curatorial research for V&A East who in collaboration with the V&A Research Institute (VARI), host cross-disciplinary specialists to support ongoing research into V&A collections with an environmental lens.
Galleries and exhibitions
We are always looking for ways to highlight sustainability in the content and delivery of galleries, temporary exhibitions and displays.
- Our Fashioned from Nature exhibition explored the complex and often controversial relationship between fashion and nature, taking visitors through centuries of fashion that have drawn inspiration from, and plundered the natural world – through to the contemporary innovators who are directly addressing the issues caused by the industry.
- The exhibition FOOD: Bigger than the Plate explored how innovative individuals, communities and organisations are radically re-inventing how we grow, distribute and experience food. Visitors were invited to participate in a sensory journey through the food cycle from compost to table and to discover how the collective choices we make can lead to a more sustainable, just and delicious food future.
- We host the Prix Pictet, a global prize that aims to highlight sustainability and environmental issues through photography.
Every day we're making progress on our sustainability journey. From tending our honey bees, to reusing exhibition materials, find out how we're embedding sustainability in daily museum life on our dedicated blog.
Want to play your part? By learning some new skills, from making your own clothes to repairing fabric, you can help proactively effect change. Take a look at our practical resources for sustainable living.
If you'd like to get in touch, please email our Sustainability Lead: firstname.lastname@example.org