#SustainableFriday: Interview with Tabea Leukhardt from the Institut für Zukunftskultur

27.05.2022 - The expert accompanies the re:publica on its way to more sustainability. In this interview, we talk to her about concrete measures and a sustainable future for the event industry.
Porträtfoto: Tabea Leukhardt vor einer Mauer mit dunkel- und hellroten Ziegelsteinen
Photo Credit

Tabea Leukhardt has been an expert on sustainable management in companies and organisations for more than 10 years. Together with the Kollektiv für Zukunftskultur, she supports cultural and media institutions in setting up sustainability strategies, analysing materiality and implementing individual measures (e.g. CO2 balance, sustainable event management, sustainability reports as proof for funding programmes). At the Academy for Future Culture, she trains as a "sustainability manager in culture and media", networks actors and invites dialogue. Since March 2022, Tabea has been advising the re:publica team on setting up a consolidated sustainability team and management. We are looking forward to a further inspiring collaboration and talked to Tabea in an interview about her work and what she sees as the biggest challenges and potentials in relation to sustainable events.

Who are you and what do you do?

Tabea: I am Tabea Leukhardt, former officer of the Sustainability Council with a focus on "sustainable management".
After my time at the Sustainability Council, I first went into field research with the desire to move from political reality to practice. I did renaturation, offered art courses for homeless people suffering from schizophrenia, designed media education. Above all, I listened a lot. And understood: Living culture, subculture, high culture - they are all mediators of values and processes of change. And we need that urgently: our society is facing a huge transformation this decade if we don't want to lose our natural habitats. But as is true in the private sector, the organisational management of cultural institutions is also far from sustainable in all dimensions. If we want to work credibly we have to initiate the change operationally as well. I founded the Institute for Future Culture to support organisations in their change and to help shape it politically. We accompany processes, measure and manage sustainability concepts and train sustainability managers in the Academy for Future Culture.

What is the demand in the event industry and where do you see the biggest challenges in terms of sustainability?

Tabea: The cultural sector is committed, has a growing awareness of individual sustainability issues, such as diversity, inclusion, and increasingly also climate protection. But if we take a closer look at the organisations, we see that we are dealing with individuals who implement sustainable measures on top of their actual tasks. There is a lack of strategic approaches (budget, capacities, targets), of structural support (funding programmes, networks, political opportunities) - of everything that makes sustainability a professional and meaningful undertaking. Here we need a clear political mandate, concepts for financing knowledge transfer, process support and exchange.

From a uniform understanding of sustainability to implementation: professional sustainability management means taking all dimensions of sustainability (social, ecological, economic) into account at the same time and implementing them according to materiality. Like other sectors, the event industry gets caught up in individual measures and discussions on "can't be done, can't be financed". However, this is the relevant decade if we still want to preserve our natural habitats. To do this, we must dare to look at the (ecological and social) effects of our actions with precision - that means, among other things, balancing CO2, evaluating social challenges honestly and transparently. And then act with determination and optimism.

In which areas do you see the most potential for the event industry to become more sustainable?

Tabea: Due to the ongoing pandemic, the event industry is constantly confronted with challenges of economic sustainability: Is our event even taking place? How well are we booked? Will we break even? This results in conflicting goals in the social sphere: precarious employment and fee conditions, staff shortages, additional measures such as workshops on accessibility and/or diversity. Where to tackle first? We know from the SME sector: Those who operate in risk mode can only initiate structural changes with great effort and make provisions beyond short-term planning.
In doing so, it is important to act quickly: The event industry has high CO2 emissions, especially in the areas of energy (electricity), heat, and the arrival and departure of visitors. Even if the legal obligations have not yet taken effect: Through the EU Green Deal and the Climate Protection Act, there is a clear political requirement to reduce CO2. Not to mention the social mandate.

Cooperation with re:publica: How do you support #rp22 in sustainability management and what does the cooperation with republica GmbH look like beyond that?

Tabea: We have been supporting the re:publica since March with sustainable event planning. In concrete terms, this means: together with the entire team, we have collected measures, utopias and obstacles and sorted them according to their significance. What can be optimised within our own system boundaries? How much budget and capacity do we need for the measures? Which measures are feasible and effective within our current framework? We quickly came up with about 180 measures. On the basis of the first workshop, we established a sustainability working group, evaluated measures and put them into practice. Now it's time to test the hypotheses that have been put forward, i.e. we'll be carrying out a CO2 balance of the re:publica as an event, evaluating potentials, entering into discourse with cooperation partners and service providers, and working on a climate strategy for rp23.

Thank you very much, Tabea, for the interview!

For more information on the sustainability concept for re:publica 22, please visit our info page here.