The Debate:

Striving for a sustainable world is a concern that should occupy everyone and we believe that the art, design and creative sectors have a unique role in support of this. 

University of the Arts debate series on 15 May 2013 explored what kinds of future await our graduates and how they might contribute to creating a more sustainable future. The debate provided a space for conversation on the subject; to explore the link between enterprise and sustainability but also the relationship to art and design.

A sustainable future is one where people can meet their needs without compromising the ability of people to do so in the future. Sustainability is a compound concept and provokes new questions around ecologic, economic and social issues and also the cross overs of these areas.

Presently, we find ourselves in the position where we are threatening our own ability to enjoy our own future. The journey to a sustainable future is a creative and inspiring act. As a society we all learn, use this learning for insights and turn these insights into action.

Sustainability issues are shaping the context of which businesses will have to make money; therefore it is in the long-term interest of enterprise to address issues of sustainability. Doing nothing presents real risks and doing something opens opportunities.

Artists and designers need to understand human behaviour; the key tool is empathy. A deep understanding and respect of your audience and the people you are trying to communicate with to increase and affect people’s willingness and ability to change.

Sustainability needs storytellers & problem solvers to design for human behaviour. Through storytelling we can make behaviour seem normal and enable change through infrastructure with design interventions that affect people’s willingness and ability to act.

  • Through the arts we can make sense of complexity.
  • Through media, culture, advertising we can shape expectations.
  • Through design, architecture, product and service innovation make it easier to act.

There is a massive opportunity and need for the creative economy to respond. Enterprise can shape the context, the system so we are on the path to a sustainable future.  Enterprise can also innovate so we can win on that path.


Professor Jeremy Till


Jeremy Till is an architect, educator and writer. He is Head of Central Saint Martins College of Arts and Design and Pro Vice-Chancellor, University of the Arts London. His extensive written work includes Flexible Housing (with Tatjana Schneider, 2007), Architecture Depends (2009) and Spatial Agency (with Nishat Awan and Tatjana Schneider, 2011). All three of these won the RIBA President’s Award for Outstanding Research, an unprecedented sequence of success in this prestigious prize. As an architect, he worked with Sarah Wigglesworth Architects on their pioneering building, 9 Stock Orchard Street, which won the RIBA Sustainability Prize. He curated the British Pavilion at the 2006 Venice Architecture Biennale. 


“What do we mean by a sustainable future for a creative economy?”

Deputy Director, Sustainable Business, Forum for the Future

David leads advisory work on business at Forum for the Future, the sustainability non-profit that works globally with government, business and others to solve tricky challenges. Working with pioneering partners, Forum transforms the essential systems of food, energy and finance to secure a more fulfilling life for us and future generations.

David directs change projects in businesses that deliver results, both for companies themselves and for the critical systems we all depend on. Recent examples include: Balfour Beatty’s sustainability vision; innovation with eBay Europe, and embedding change at O2 UK. He runs the Sustainable Business Models Group, a network of leading businesses working together how to create step-change. He is responsible for keeping Forum at the cutting edge of sustainable business, running a specialist team, and raising Forum’s profile. David has written about breakthrough innovation, sustainable business models, and the business case. David served on the Corporate Responsibility Advisory Group of the ICAEW (the world’s largest accounting institute) from 2006-12, was a tutor for the University of Cambridge on sustainable business and has been a judge for SuperBrands.

Professor, University of the Arts London

Becky Earley is a textile/fashion designer and academic whose research work and creative practice has sought to develop strategies for the designer to employ in seeking to reduce the environmental impact of textile production, consumption and disposal. Becky’s core approach is based on learning through practice – making textile work in order to realize new ideas that will drive the reflection and resulting theory and models for positive change.

Becky’s research is driven by collaboration and her projects like MISTRA Future Fashion – - further develops this way of working, by bringing the participating designers together with scientists and fashion brands, through this innovative Swedish research consortium.

Reader, University of the Arts London

David Cross is a Reader at the University of the Arts, London. Informing his research, practice and teaching is a critical engagement with the relationship between visual culture and the contested ideal of ‘sustainable’ development. David sees art practice as a way to resist the monoculture of thought. For him, the future depends on our ability to envision alternative possibilities, and to choose from amongst them as an act of free will.

As an artist, he has collaborated with Matthew Cornford since 1991. Because Cornford & Cross respond to the intrinsic problems of particular contexts and situations, each of their projects has been different in form and content. The involvement of a wide range of people is central to their projects’ realization, which aim to stimulate discussion and debate on issues of public concern, including environment, development and social justice. 

Director of Development, World Wide Fund

Anthony Bennett is Director of Development for WWF, responsible for annual income of over £17m worth of financing from philanthropy and government partnerships, with a career across arts and environmental organisations including The National Art Collections Fund and English National Opera. Anthony is a graduate of Chelsea School of Art and Glasgow School of Art, where he took his first degree in Environmental Art; and is a fellow of the RSA.


“As practitioners in art and design, how can we change behaviours for a more sustainable future?”

Creative Director, Futerra

Futerra Sustainability Communications is one of the world’s only communications consultancies to specialise solely in sustainable development and corporate social responsibility. Henry oversees the creative for many of Futerra's biggest clients. He has wide experience of internal communications, whether telling an organisation's sustainability story or designing behaviour change campaigns and holds a Masters Degree in Leadership for Sustainable Development.Henry’s recent clients include AkzoNobel, WWF, Nando's and Hammerson.

Socially Responsive Design, University of the Arts London

Adam Thorpe is based at Central Saint Martins where he is Creative Director of the Socially Responsive Design and Innovation Hub and the Design Against Crime Research Centre and co-ordinator of the University of the Arts London’s (UAL) Design for Social Innovation and Sustainability (DESIS) Lab. His research activities are practice-based and explore the role of design in meeting societal goals and challenges. He has written extensively on design led open innovation approaches to generating social benefit and has contributed to the development of research methodologies that seek to maximize stakeholder value through application of open and participatory socially responsive processes. Adam has directed delivery of award winning practice based and practice led research projects that have been celebrated as exemplars of social impact, and have led to the licensing of designs and the creation of commercial and social enterprises.  As UAL DESIS Lab co-ordinator, Adam works with students and community groups to co-design products and services that promote sustainable ways of living and facilitate socially beneficial behaviour change.  He is also Co-founder of clothing brand Vexed Generation, and design consultancy Vexed Design (1993-present) pioneers in socially responsive clothing and product design, with a focus on ‘Urban Mobility’. 

Founder, Loowatt Ltd.

Virginia Gardiner founded Loowatt Ltd. in late 2009 after receiving seed funding and support from the Innovation RCA Incubator. The idea began as her masters’ degree project in Industrial Design Engineering at the Royal College of Art. Loowatt now employs an interdisciplinary team focused on design, research and business development. Loowatt Ltd. has developed a waterless toilet system that seals human waste into biodegradable polymer film for anaerobic digestion. The digester converts the waste into biogas and digestate, a nutrient-rich liquid that is further treated to be sold as fertilizer. The biogas is used for energy purposes, either burnt as fuel or converted to electricity. Loowatt has patented the toilet’s unique sealing unit and created intelligent and feasible distributive business models to support our waste to energy systems, making toilet operation a profitable enterprise. In 2011 Loowatt was awarded a Grand Challenges Explorations Phase 1 grant by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to “develop the next generation of sanitation technologies.” The company is now implementing a pilot system in Antananarivo, Madagascar, and exploring market opportunities in the U.K.

Paradigm Shifts:

“What is the greatest barrier and opportunity for creating a sustainable future?”

Chairman of EMA and CEO CMA

Lord Redesdale was the Energy Spokesman for the Liberal Democrats for the House of Lords 2000-2008 during which time he has introduced more private members bills in the area of energy and conservation than anyone else. As Vice Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Climate Change Group he has worked to spread the message about the carbon costs of energy especially computing.

In 2009 Lord Redesdale founded the Anaerobic Digestion and Biogas Association (ADBA) which now has over 260 member companies. In 2012 he was awarded the accolade of Environmental Parliamentarian of the year by the Chartered Institute of Water and Environmental Management.

Lord Redesdale is the Chairman of the Energy Managers Association (EMA) and CEO of the Carbon Management Association (CMA). The CMA will provide carbon training courses to all companies to reduce their energy and CRC bill. The EMA which Lord Redesdale also recently formed is the CMA’s sister organisation which aims to promote the development of energy management and the career structure of Energy Managers in the British economy.

MA Course Leader, Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design

Academic Researcher, Royal College of Art

Michaela Crimmin is a curator, co-director of Culture+Conflict, a course tutor on the Curating Contemporary Art masters programme at the Royal College of Art (RCA), and she is leading a new research project on art and conflict on behalf of the RCA in association with Index on Censorship.

She was Head of Arts at the RSA from 1997 to 2010, a role that included initiating and directing the Arts & Ecology Centre on behalf of the Royal Society of Arts (RSA) and Arts Council England. This five-year programme supported, promoted and debated artists’ responses to current environmental challenges through a range of activities including artists’ commissions and residencies in the UK, India and Afghanistan; a website; events in Europe, China, Ghana, India the United Emirates, and Canada; education pilots; and the development of an interdisciplinary network of interested individuals and organisations. She commissioned Land, ArtA Cultural Ecology Handbook edited by Max Andrews, a compendium of essays, dialogues and commissioned projects by artists, ecologists, cultural theorists, activists and curators. Arts & Ecology was the inspiration and experience that led to co-founding Culture+Conflict.

She lectures nationally and internationally. Previous work includes coordinating the first phase of the Fourth Plinth series in Trafalgar Square; directing the two million pound Art for Architecture award scheme; and commissioning artists for Public Art Development Trust’s pioneering work in the public domain. 

Lawrence Zeegen

Dean, University of the Arts London

Professor Lawrence Zeegen  is Vice-President of Icograda, the International Council for Communication Design, and is a board member for IDA, the International Design Alliance.  

Lawrence has practiced for over 20 years an illustrator, for clients that include Greenpeace, The Guardian, Friends of the Earth, Refugee Council, New Scientist and the Sunday Times. Lawrence has written for Creative Review, Grafik, Computer Arts and Varoom and has written six published books, translated into many languages, on contemporary illustration. Lawrence has lectured nationally and internationally including at events in Australia, China, India, Japan, Korea, Lithuania, New Zealand, Russia, Serbia, Singapore, South Africa and Russia.


A collaborative project funded and supported by Student Enterprise and Emploayability SEE and Centre for Learning and Teaching in Art and Design CLTAD

With special thanks to:

Colleagues at the UAL

Design Against Crime 

Forum for the Furture


Loowatt Ltd.

Lord Redesdale

World Wide Fund

Royal College of Art