Campaigns & Research

Latest: Formal complaint and new report on BP’s human rights record

Ahead of the announcement of the BP Portrait Award on Tuesday 20th June, we issued a formal complaint to the National Portrait Gallery, alleging BP’s human rights record breaches the Gallery’s own ethics rules.

  • On the eve of the BP Portrait Award announcement, we made the Gallery’s Ethical Fundraising Policy public for the first time
  • We published a new report which shines a spotlight on BP’s close ties to rights violating regimes around the world including Azerbaijan, Egypt, Indonesia and Mexico
  • The formal complaint sets out how the recent BP sponsorship deal breaches the Gallery’s clause on human rights and calls for BP to be dropped

You can get the full details of the formal complaint and view our report, ‘Bad Company – BP, human rights and corporate crimes’ here.

You can also read coverage of the developments on Desmog, Artnet, Artlyst, Hyperallergic and the Guardian.

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Our campaigns and research work

Our current research work focuses on three main areas:

  • Investigating the nature and scale of relationships that exist between fossil fuel companies and cultural institutions in the UK
  • Exploring the ways in which those relationships conflict with the values of cultural institutions or breach internal and/or external governance and ethics policies and standards
  • Researching and collating new information on the impacts of the fossil fuel companies that sponsor museums and galleries and building links with communities and organisations working on those impacts

This research informs our campaigns work which has included:

  • Developing and mobilising networks of cultural, scientific, academic and political figures to speak out in favour of ending oil sponsorship
  • Exposing how the values of fossil fuel companies and cultural institutions are not aligned, and bringing ethical scrutiny to bear on oil sponsorship deals
  • Highlighting “the bigger picture” and how a sustainable arts sector is possible without fossil fuel funding


Recent work

On the 31st May, we launched Fossil Free £5 Tickets, an ethical crowd-funded alternative to the Royal Shakespeare Company’s BP-sponsored £5 ticket scheme for 16-25 year olds. Backed by over 30 leading figures from the theatre sector, it demonstrates the strength of feeling against BP’s sponsorship of the RSC and highlights that alternative ways of funding discounted tickets exist.




In May 2017 we collaborated with Oil Change International to research and commission a new infographic, Who really pays for BP’s sponsorship? The infographic compares and contrasts the scale of BP’s payments to the arts and the contribution of the taxpayer to the institutions that BP sponsors, both of which are dwarfed by the £210 million of taxpayers’ money BP received in the form of government subsidies in 2015.


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Work on behalf of Art Not Oil

Prior to the formation of Culture Unstained, we undertook research and campaigns work on behalf of the Art Not Oil coalition which has significantly shaped the debate around oil sponsorship of the arts.

In April 2016, nearly 100 actors, artists, scientists and policy-makers signed a letter calling on the British Museum’s new director, Hartwig Fischer, to abandon the museum’s relationship with BP. The letter was published in The Guardian as part of a full-page article on the wider debate on oil sponsorship. The signatories included Oscar winning actor and director, Mark Rylance, former Chief Scientific Advisor the President of the European Commission, Professor Anne Glover, and bestselling author, Margaret Atwood.

  • Key coverage: The Guardian, The Times, The Telegraph

BP’s Cultural Sponsorship: A Corrupting Influence was an extensive report published in May 2016 which drew upon hundreds of documents disclosed under the Freedom of Information Act. It outlined the numerous ways in which BP had sought to influence the museums and galleries it sponsors and use its sponsorship deals as a strategic tool for advancing its business interests, primarily the continued extraction of fossil fuels.

  • Key coverage: The Guardian, BBC World Business Report

Did the British Museum break its own rules in renewing BP deal?  was published in September 2016 and laid out the flaws in the British Museum’s decision-making process which led to the approval of a new sponsorship deal with BP. Specifically, it highlighted the lack of involvement by the museum’s trustees in that decision and how this ran counter to the decision-making process described to staff by the museum’s outgoing director, Neil MacGregor.

  • Key coverage: The Independent, Arts Professional