How ArtLifting Puts the S in ESG with Inclusive Art Strategies

Image: ArtLifting artist Yvette gestures to one of her artworks installed at a Wells Fargo office. Photo by Michael Dambrosia.

Social enterprises like ArtLifting are transforming blank walls into powerful agents of positive social impact by connecting artists impacted by disabilities and housing insecurity with building owners and operators seeking to invest in measurable and scalable solutions.

In the world of ESG (Environment, Social, Governance), social initiatives have taken a backseat to environmental and governance efforts. While ESG has played a vital role in establishing standards for implementing and measuring environmental sustainability and corporate governance, the “S” remains underemphasized.

The built environment offers a unique and largely untapped avenue for generating social impact. Regardless of the industry or use, buildings can serve as a catalyst for creating meaningful social change through intentional art strategies and inclusive design practices.

Art is a Medium for Social Impact

Art has the power to convey messages, emotions, and stories in a universally understood language. In the built environment, art doesn’t only serve as decoration; it communicates, unites, and inspires.

The built environment is rich with opportunities to harness the transformative potential of art. From housing and workspaces to hospitals and schools, art can turn these spaces into welcoming and inspiring environments for their occupants. More than just decor, art fosters a sense of cultural identity, connection, and emotional resonance.

When artwork presented in spaces is created by artists from diverse backgrounds and lived experiences, barriers to inclusion and understanding begin to break down. Better yet, artists with disabilities – who face barriers to participation in the workforce and art world –  access professional opportunities and earn income, creating significant emotional and fiscal impacts.

ArtLifting details the power of these partnerships in an Annual Impact Report, painting a picture of the value of corporate social impact with qualitative and quantitative data.

Integrating art into the built environment can contribute to social responsibility and corporate ESG efforts while simultaneously making art more accessible to a broader audience. Building owners and operators can create spaces that leave a lasting impact on tenants, teams and visitors, all while supporting working artists. Art strategies that deliver both visual and social impact put the “S” into ESG in ways that benefit all stakeholders while beautifying environments.

Taking Action: Integrating and Scaling Social Impact

One of the biggest ways to make large and long-lasting ESG impacts is to focus on operations. Philanthropy, volunteerism, and traditional avenues of corporate social responsibility require a lot of management and programmatic overhead – making them hard to enact at scale.

Companies are not alone in building out social impact strategies to support ESG. Trusted partners like ArtLifting can help relieve these bottlenecks through repeatable strategies, drawing on a growing community of diverse creatives around the United States.

Here are a few ways ArtLifting partners build scalable and measurable social impact strategies through art:

Image: A collection of ArtLifting prints in the Rapid7 offices in Boston. Photo courtesy ArtLifting.
  • Invest in rotation programs that activate spaces and engage communities. Print rotations are a popular and powerful way to keep spaces engaging without committing to permanent installations. With every rotation, ArtLifting artists impacted by disabilities and housing insecurity earn income while sharing their stories and talent. Rotations can be themed around cultural moments, community connections, or localities – tying social impact to placemaking and engagement efforts. Boston-based cyber security firm, Rapid7, creates a culture of inclusion and belonging with print rotations in their workplace – contributing to their DEI and employee engagement efforts which are part of their holistic ESG strategies.
  • Create brand and building standards that specify inclusive art requirements. Many municipalities have requirements around including art from local communities in new developments. Companies can take this beyond the bare minimum and incorporate this into their ESG strategies, by creating building standards before any design begins – making inclusive and socially-impactful art strategies become an operational norm.Companies like Bank of America have committed publicly to efficiently leveraging their walls for social value by scaling an ArtLifting art program to over 2000 locations nationwide.
Image: Electrical box in front of a Chase financial center wrapped in art by Madison Elyse Rubenstein, located near Minneapolis, Minnesota. Photo courtesy Madison Elyse Rubenstein.
  • Think outside the frame to infuse social value into other architectural treatments and features with art. Art can be applied to solutions like wallcoverings, hanging chain, and even acoustic paneling. A Chase financial center in Minnesota, recently wrapped an unsightly but necessary electrical box in artwork by local ArtLifting artist Madison Elyse Rubenstein, creating an impactful destination while supporting a local neurodivergent artist in their community.
  • Procure and display local art, sustainable art, and art featuring recycled materials. Shopping for art locally is an easy way to minimize the environmental impact of purchases. Better yet, partnering with artists that use recycled materials in their work reduces consumption while visibly representing the commitment to eco-friendly practices. Artists like Erik Jensen utilizes reclaimed keyboard keys to create dazzling murals and site-specific work. Painter Jacob Brown incorporates old paints, varnishes, resins, and chemical waste bound for the dump into his rich and evocative abstract works.
  • Specify essential amenities with purpose. Mohawk Group, a global flooring manufacturer leading the industry in sustainability, partners with ArtLifting to create award-winning lines of flooring, delivering social impact to a wide range of applications that go beyond walls. Many companies offer products that benefit causes and communities. Make every amenity an opportunity for creating social impact.

Reporting and Measurement: Telling the Story of Social Impact

Making a social impact starts with intent and recognizing the power of choice. ArtLifting is dedicated to making the “S” in ESG a central focus by delivering impact-driven solutions to a range of corporate clients, including industry giants like Amazon, Google, Bank of America and State Street.

ArtLifting’s clients have moved beyond good intentions into measurable action. Here are some ways ArtLifting clients have ensured their social impacts contribute to enterprise-level ESG reporting:

  • Make a financial social impact commitment to fund placemaking efforts, art programs, and artist’s careers before projects are planned
  • Create community-engaging art programs to contribute to annual ESG reporting agencies like GRESB
  • License artwork and artist stories for ESG reports, white papers, and storytelling efforts related to social impact and DEI
  • Include artist impact data and supplier diversity metrics in operational reporting
  • Contribute to building certifications like WELL and FitWel with healthy art features that encourage movement or incorporate nature
  • Surveying teams and tenants to understand benefits of art and intentional design on their environment, productivity, and wellness

When it comes to measuring and understanding impact, ArtLifting starts with the artists. The ArtLifting team partners closely with artists to collect and share data with clients. This customized reporting approach helps clients to better understand and contextualize their social impact.

Often, these custom impact reports inform and support a host of business activities under the ESG umbrella, including: talent acquisition and recruitment, DEI (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion) efforts, workplace culture and wellness initiatives, activating ERGs and BRGs, celebrating cultural moments, and educating communities about disability and other intersectional identities.

ArtLifting is moving the ESG conversation from net zero to net impact through visible and scalable art strategies with social impact. These intentional and inclusive art strategies have a wide range of socially-impactful outcomes that benefit all stakeholders. By integrating art and social impact into built environments, we can elevate the “S” in ESG. Intentional design and art strategies empower building owners and operators to create visible, measurable, and expansive social impacts while contributing to a building’s cultural aesthetic and corporate image.

(posted 11/16/23)

About the Author

Michael Korcek is the Marketing Director at ArtLifting, where he creates opportunities for disabled artists through socially-impactful corporate partnerships. He has a background crafting meaningful customer experiences and forging innovative creative partnerships with brands like LinkedIn, Mohawk Group, MillerKnoll, and Dropbox. He is passionate about art world accessibility and supporting art centers for developmentally disabled artists.

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