True Sustainability Requires a Proper Foundation

True Sustainability Requires a Proper Foundation

Sent Wednesday, September 15, 2010


I’m actually on my honeymoon right now, but my

wonderful newsletter team has been able to get this newsletter out

to you, even as I enjoy a well-deserved break. This month’s edition

talks about one of the subjects about which I am most passionate:

establishing a proper foundation for sustainability at your museum.

I hope you enjoy it!

Finally, remember that my new book, Sustainable Museums: Strategies

for the 21st Century, is now available in preview edition. If you

purchase the book during the Preview release, you can

*save over 20% on the published price (limited-time offer);

*access today – immediately – the initial chapters online in their

final draft – read, download or print out;

*receive a complimentary copy of the final paperback edition on


*receive each new chapter as soon as it’s available;

*provide feedback on the book’s content as it develops.


You can learn more about the book on our publisher’s website.



To your greener future,

Rachel Madan, Director of Greener Museums



Here’s what’s in this issue:


* True Sustainability Requires a Proper Foundation

* Upcoming Events

* About Rachel Madan



Best wishes,


Rachel Madan


True Sustainability Requires a Proper Foundation


Much like building a house, you can’t build a truly sustainable

museum on a shaky foundation. In order for sustainability to really

become embedded in every day practice and support not only the

environmental sustainability but also the financial and social

sustainability of your organization in the future, you must spend

time putting in place the structures which allow for what I call

“sustainable sustainability.”


A truly transformational sustainability program will be implemented

in many of the same ways as an organizational change program. But

they may also fail for the same reasons. Many organizations embark

on sustainability programs with the hopes that all problems can be

solved through technological innovation. Others charge ahead

without proper strategies, leadership or staff buy-in. Research

offers some grim statistics on the success rates of organizational



* A study found a 64% failure rate among new technological

innovations introduced into municipal public service program

* Change initiatives crucial to organizational success fail 70%

of the time

* Major corporate investments in technology are not used as

intended or abandoned within six months 80% of the time

* Of 100 companies that attempted to make fundamental changes

in the way they did business, only a few were very successful


The most important things to do early on are to ensure proper

leadership, and staff buy-in to put in place a rigorous

sustainability strategy. Taking these steps means opening up the

door to further opportunities down the line, or taking advantage of

opportunities right now which your museum might otherwise miss. At

Greener Museums, part of the work we do with our clients early on

is to teach them how to ensure that sustainability is built on a

proper foundation.


As part of our Greener Museums Sustainability Leadership Program,

we teach all of the participants how to do this. And even just

halfway through, this year’s cohort are having great success.


Jeff Cowton from the Wordsworth Trust says “The biggest benefit of

our participation so far is that eco-awareness is now an issue that

is filtered through the entire workforce, because we have a group

of people steering the Greener Museums course who can make

decisions and disseminate the information.”


And Pierrette Squires from the Bolton Museums and Archives comments

“Including the savings gained by not installing air conditioning in

Archives (I don’t know that I’d have had the confidence to push for

this without being on this course) we had approximately £50,000 in

capital savings plus at a guess at least £10,000 annual energy

savings on running costs.”


Pierrette and Jeff’s participation in the programme have been

funded by Renaissance North West.


I encourage you to really think about the foundation you are giving

to your sustainability journey. Is it strong, or is it shaky? We

will be running the Greener Museums Sustainability Leadership

Program again in 2011, so watch our newsletters for more



If you’re curious now, you can set up a sustainability strategy

session and find out just how strong your foundation is. You can do

this by setting up an appointment. If you can’t find a time that

suits you, contact us at and we will try

to find you a time that works.



Upcoming Events


Greener Museums – Image 1


Museums Association Conference and Exhibition

October 4-6, 2010, Manchester


I’ll be speaking on the panel, “Rip it up and start again:

sustainable displays and exhibitions”. This session looks at how

museums, curators, designers and contractors are responding to the

need to develop more sustainable exhibitions. You’ll hear insights

on how this can be achieved and be challenged to be more rigorous

in drawing up exhibition briefs. Find out about the display

materials, techniques and tools needed to develop sustainable