Southbank Centre branch: Statement on Shell Corporate Membership

11 Mar 2020

We were pleased to read in the Guardian that Shell will not be renewing its corporate membership with Southbank Centre.

We stand in solidarity with the Art Not Oil Coalition and their efforts at ending oil industry sponsorship in the arts. We honour the legacy of activists such as Ken Saro-Wiwa and the Ogoni 9 and their campaigns against the pollution and repression caused by Shell in Nigeria.

Our branch voted unanimously at our AGM in February to support the various campaigns to end oil sponsorship in arts and cltural institutions across the UK. As a branch we have been proud to support the wider PCS Culture Group efforts highlighting the connection between supposedly generous corporate sponsorship and the culture of low pay, low hours and precarious contracts that are widespread across the culture sector. Members of our branch joined the protests by the school climate strikers in September 2019 alongside over 200 culture workers from Tate, British Library, and the National Theatre as well as arts workers from unions such as Equity and BECTU. We are proud that our union, PCS, was one of the first UK trade unions to declare a climate emergency.

In 2018 the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a stark analysis of the task facing us. In short, to avoid catastrophic climate change, we need to limit average global temperatures to 1.5C of warming by 2030. Whilst Southbank Centre has made significant progress in terms of energy supply and reducing plastic use, our branch believes there is more to do. We therefore reiterate our demand for the Southbank Centre to join other arts institutions such as Tate and declare a climate emergency whilst also committing to bring forward its carbon neutral target from 2050 to 2030. We call on DCMS and Arts Council England to provide proper funding and investment for our cultural institutions so they are not reliant on problematic corporate sponsorship.

A 2017 study identified Shell as the 9th most polluting company out of a list of 100 companies collectively responsible for 70% of global emissions. Despite supposedly progressive rhetoric on renewable energy, the global oil industry has so far pledged less than 1% of its spending on renewables; activity which is predicted to create temperature rises far beyond the Paris Climate Agreement. Companies such as Shell, BP and Equinor have used sponsorship and corporate membership of our cultural institutions to greenwash their image and present a socially acceptable face to the visitors and patrons who attend our venues. We are pleased that this will no longer be the case at Southbank Centre.

In Solidarity,

Gareth Spencer, Branch Secretary

Paul Valentine, Branch Chair

Anna Johnson, Green Rep


Twitter: @pcs_southbank

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