GTA based entrepreneur, Oliver Osborne, makes business decisions through a sustainability lens .
For a company that, at face value, is not about sustainability, Main Street Arts Club is taking on a thorough approach to sustainable behind-the-scenes practices.
“I harken for an era where people aren’t having to wade through the greenwashing hype, because of course businesses are doing sustainable stuff. Where you don’t need to make a big song and dance about it. That’s just what you do.”
Oliver Osborne is the founder of Main Street Arts Club. We sat down to discuss the complexities of ethical business, and how his company does its part, in the face of the climate crisis and a post-pandemic world (hopefully).
It was September of 2021 when Oliver launched Main Street Arts Club which, at its core, “sells artwork and creates unique events,” he explained.
But where does sustainability intersect with the art and events world? It seems a little out of place at first thought.
Not at all, Oliver reassured us.
"I harken for an era where people aren't having to wade through the sustainability hype , because of course businesses are doing sustainable stuff."
“The sustainability component is something that has been on my mind. I used to be on a plane an average of five or six times a month for about five years playing gigs all around Asia. Coming back to Canada and staying in the same place for a long time, and doing a lot of reading on sustainability, I realized that lifestyle just wasn’t great for the environment at all. I wanted to start with sustainability being a core component of how we approach things at Main Street Arts Club. So straight off the bat, we were making all of the decisions from a sustainability standpoint.”
The company took shape after Oliver ventured to take a close look into the affluence within the Greater Toronto Area. He sought to infuse the culture beyond the inner city with art and community events.
“There is a sense that people living outside of Toronto are always eager for more cultural events within their neighborhoods. They may lack the options that exist in the city. So we decided to launch something that would be an online art gallery and a sales platform with an events component.”
On the tails of the pandemic, Oliver commented: “I think there’s a hunger now, a bit of a reshuffle. People aren’t getting locked back into that pattern of going to the same three restaurants each month. I’m generally sensing and hearing a lot more excitement about trying new things. And I think there’s this mentality that if we don’t do it now, we might not get to do it at all when it comes to events.”
Oliver wanted to shift the sterile gallery experience into something different: “creating something like an art gallery but demystifying the process, reducing the extent to which art experiences are elitist.”
We asked how exactly Main Street Arts Club embeds sustainability into their business and company culture. You would be surprised at just how many components there are to it.
“Just in the same way that you might make a press release, or you might take a casting call of potential actors and look at it through a kind of diversity and inclusion lens. It’s important that businesses approach sustainability in the same way. It’s not a separate process. It should be woven into how the business makes decisions at any level or area.”
Oliver makes it clear that Main Street Arts Club lives by these sentiments. They ensure business decisions are viewed through a sustainability lens when it comes to anything and everything from products, delivery, and events.
For an industry that relies heavily on materials – think paper, framing, glass, paint, water, etc., Main Street Arts Club zeroed in on each component to consider ways to make it more sustainable.
“Let’s take framing and production as an example,” Oliver continued. “I always knew I wanted to use, in part, pre-owned vintage frames. So I was sourcing frames from here, there, and everywhere. We were trying to work out whether we wanted to present our pieces with glass fronts or not.”
While Oliver remembered this was mainly a conversation about aesthetics, the team also raised the question of sustainability during these decision stages.
“If we have to replace glass that’s been broken or create glass for a frame that doesn’t initially have it, that’s a whole other process and a whole other supply chain linking back to the finished product. So we decided instead that if we found a frame we liked that didn’t have glass, we would go without.”
At the end of the day, sustainable business is a huge and complex endeavor. While many people might find the prospect of sustainability dissuasive, Oliver comments it is simultaneously intimidating and motivating.
“Main Street Arts Club is one tiny part of the movement towards sustainable business. But it’s important to understand that people look at sustainability in a very binary way. You’re either sustainable or you’re not. And that’s not really how it works.”
What I took away most from Oliver is that sustainability will never be ‘done’. There is no final sustainability box we have to tick. By incorporating sustainable practices into fundamental levels of business and community, we are making strides in the right direction.
Shai Butler, Contributing Author
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