How to promote sustainability with art

In the wake of environmental urgency, an increasing number of businesses strive to create more sustainable business strategies. Sustainability is a word we repeatedly hear, an umbrella term for a myriad of meanings and processes. At Artboost, we consider art as one of those. Yet, when most think about corporate sustainability, art very rarely comes to mind. 

Art is an expressive reflection of the artist's soul and the society it stems from. Over the past decades, it has often been used as an empathetic carrier of sustainable consciousness. 

It can be used the same way by businesses to combine their environmental commitments with communicative and transformative office art.  

Corporate art and sustainability

As Leclair and Gordon have stated in 2000, artwork and artistic strategies can be considered part of integrated CSR policies. A more recent academic paper, backs their claim: 

"As aesthetic artefacts fulfill CSR objectives, they transcend decorative purposes and align with business strategy and marketing objectives."

— Angela Bargenda, associate professor at ESCE International Business School

On top of being linked with reputational and image-related benefits, office art may help to raise and sustain the various stakeholders' awareness about your company's social commitments. It is also an invitation for artists and employees to steer up their creativity in a meaningful way. Our commissioned projects helped us explore and realize this. 

One form, reborn by Thomas Dambo

For LEGO®, we curated a project involving Thomas Dambo, a Danish recycle art activist. Thomas's practice consists of making art out of what he finds around city dumpsters. In collaboration with the LEGO facility department, he playfully interpreted and upscaled the iconic LEGO minifigures, now displayed on the office walls. The minifigures are made from selected waste materials from various LEGO sites in Billund, Denmark. 

This recycled office art Thomas' practice: give a novel life to waste by turning it into something beautiful. And it works. We've gotten feedback that employees are encouraged daily to review their use of materials and lessen their environmental footprint. Thomas's work is significant regarding the LEGO group's main environmental focus areas. It mirrors their Zero Waste to Landfill target ambition for 2025. 

Here, you get 2 for 1: recycling waste and re-wiring mindsets. 

Close-up of one of the minifigures made from old pallet by Thomas Dambo.
View of the entire 'One form, reborn.' installation.

Sensitive fragments by Maria Viftrup

You don't need to have vast amounts of waste to give a new, embellished, and more conscious life to your surroundings. 

Maria Viftrup often finds inspiration in invalued waste and translates this into her artistic practice of co-creative installations, happenings, assemblage, material explorations, drawing or photography. Just a room and some time to dwell in it is enough for her to interpret the tangible aspects of daily experiences through material storytelling. 

For Banegaarden, the Aarhus-based experimental artist collected hundreds of hidden fragments found at the location through 5 months of reconstruction work. The site, formerly used by the Danish train company DSB was restored and used for an organic food market, restaurant, and cultural center. 

The piece unveils the unfound story of the place to initiate present questions and conversations that fit its new purpose of the location. It is a subtle yet engaging way to connect human temporality with more-than-human worlds, ecology, resources, value, and waste. 

Conclusion

The above-mentioned commissioned projects portray how office art can be a cost-effective, co-creative, and participative way to ally beauty, functionality, and environmental consciousness. They point towards concrete ways to bound the decorative and iconographic functions of art with deeper-seeded societal objectives.

Beyond just evoking your organization's commitments, art can serve as their active realization. It can take you to embody those by using artifacts that are part of your everyday work life and processes and fostering employee engagement. In other words, art can help mobilize the heart of your organization towards more sustainable ends. Beyond fancy words, recycling through art is the most direct way to incarnate the old saying: "one man's trash is another man's treasure." 

Your company's trash could become your treasure. Actually, it's even better: your trash is already a treasure. You just need to explore how. 

References

  • Bargenda A. (2019). ‘Aesthetic CSR Communication: A Global Perspective on Organizational Art Collections’ In: Bartoli, A., Guerrero, J. L., & Hermel, P. (eds). Responsible Organizations in the Global Context. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.
  • Leclair, M. S., & Gordon, K. (2000). Corporate Support for Artistic and Cultural Activities: What Determines the Distribution of Corporate Giving? Journal of Cultural Economics, 24(3), 225–241.
  • Maria Viftrup. (2020). ‘Sensitive fragments’. Banegaarden, Copenhagen. 
    https://viftrup.com/sensitive-fragments
     
  • The Art Story. (2018). ‘Environmental Art Movement Overview’.
    https://www.theartstory.org/movement/environmental-art/

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