Oil and gas giant Shell will end its partnerships with the Southbank Centre and BFI later this year, as the two arts organisations become the latest to announce an end to their deals with fossil fuel companies.
The Southbank and BFI, both based in London, will no longer accept money from Shell when their existing partnerships come up for renewal at the end of this year. The Southbank Centre’s deal has been in place for 14 years.
It is understood that the decision to not renew the partnerships was taken by Shell. However, the news comes after growing pressure to reject arts sponsorship by fossil fuel companies and follows major organisations including the National Theatre and the RSC turning their backs on money from Shell and BP respectively.
Chris Garrard, co-director of campaign group Culture Unstained, said: “From its HQ on the South Bank, Shell has pursued a business plan that has trampled indigenous peoples’ rights and pushed the world deeper into climate crisis while sponsoring its cultural neighbours in a cynical attempt to deflect attention from the damage it was causing.
“But with mounting pressure from artists, workers and the public, these partnerships have stopped helping Shell launder its image and instead shone a spotlight on its climate-crashing activities.”
Shell said the decision to end its relationship – worth about £20,000 in total – with the Southbank and BFI had been mutually agreed between itself and the two organisations last year.
BFI head of external affairs Harriet Finney said: “The BFI is committed to supporting a sustainable future, and we are in the process of reviewing the impact of our own activities across all our sites; how we can better support the UK’s screen industries to move towards sustainable practice and how we respond culturally to the climate and ecological emergency.”
A statement from the Southbank Centre said: “The Royal Festival Hall is a grade I-listed building and this poses unique challenges for us to achieve our sustainability ambitions in an older and complex building. Only 37% of our income comes from public funding and all of this funding goes towards simply keeping the buildings open, it does not provide the significant resources we need to deliver our sustainability plans let alone to present our arts and education programme.
“However, we’re committed to becoming a net zero carbon organisation by 2050 at the latest and we are currently developing an action plan to achieve this goal, working with specialist consultants Bioregional. Securing the funding necessary to deliver our sustainability targets is something we will be raising with DCMS as a matter of urgency.”
Last year, the RSC ended a long-held partnership with BP after mounting pressure from campaigners and young people, who threatened to boycott the Stratford-upon-Avon venue if it did not stop taking BP’s sponsorship.
Similarly, the National Theatre closed off a sponsorship deal with Shell as it declared a climate emergency and pledged to become “part of the solution”.
Organisations that continue to accept money from fossil fuel companies include the Royal Opera House and the British Museum.