This week on ArtEvolve we were joined by James Quirk, Lead Marketing Manager at Queen’s Fine Art. We discussed the environmental footprint of art organizations, and James talked us through the process Queen’s followed to complete an environmental audit and subsequent carbon reduction plan.
How to begin
James started the process by talking to four or five organizations, not art-industry specific, to gather more information about carbon audits. The costs involved with outsourcing the audit to another company were prohibitive for Queen’s but it became apparent this was a task they’d be able to do themselves if they were able to dedicate the time to it.
With the guidance of the Gallery Climate Coalition – an international charity and membership organisation providing environmental sustainability guidelines for the art sector – Queen’s completed their carbon audit completely in-house.
The next step was to gather information about the business’ use of resources. The typical advice is not use data from the pandemic period as this wouldn’t be an accurate reflection of consumption for many organizations. However, Queen’s has grown quickly over the last few years, a trend that continued even during the pandemic, and so they decided to use a 3-month sample of data, that more accurately reflected growth, and apply this to the year as a whole.
As a logistics company, they already had data about art shipments on file, including locations, weights, and methods of each shipment. Rather than estimating the carbon footprint of each move – a very challenging and labor intensive task – they opted to create a template of assumptions and estimate what small, medium, and large shipments would entail for various types of move, e.g. painting or sculpture.
Additional data was gathered from other sources, such as fuel and utility bills and suppliers, waste contractors, and other partners.
The data was then input into Gallery Climate Coalition’s carbon calculator.
What was learnt?
For Queen’s, the learnings from the carbon audit included:
- 95% of emissions were generated from international and domestic shipments and the packaging required to ship these works safely and securely (hardly surprising for a logistics company!)
- Queen’s storage facility generates only 1.99% of total emissions.
- Packaging needed work to become more environmentally friendly – a huge amount of material was being pumped into the industry.
From the learnings of the audit, Queen’s created a carbon reduction plan and committed to a number of actions, including:
- Reviewing packaging
- Monitoring carbon emissions
- Promoting more environmentally friendly shipping options
- Fostering a greener culture in office
- Funding systemic change with Client Earth
After in-depth research and further conversations with the Gallery Climate Coalition, Queen’s made the decision not to offset emissions from shipments, which may surprise some people. Offsetting takes a long time to have any effect and to avoid climate breakdown we need rapid reductions in emissions in the next 5-10 years, something that no standard offsetting project can provide.
Instead Queen’s supports systemic change by donating to Client Earth, an environmental organization that lobbies for climate-friendly laws, policies, and practices.
What happens next?
An environmental review is the starting point for enacting change and, as such, should be a working document that is continually referred to and updated as time passes. Completing a new review once a year might be feasible for some organizations and the scope and depth of each review can change depending on how much resource you can dedicate to it. The important thing is to start!
Thank you to our guest, James Quirk of Queen’s Fine Art, for joining us. For more information about their review process, you can consult their carbon reduction plan or contact firstname.lastname@example.org. The Gallery Climate Coalition also offers a wealth of free resources.