On Sustainability

On Sustainability

It is almost a relief to see BADA (The British Antique Dealers’ Association) has become the first UK trade body to join the Gallery Climate Coalition (GCC).


I know we are not alone in feeling more than a little anxious over the impending global climate catastrophe: in a recent radio interview eminent scientist and environmentalist Vandana Shiva commented that the response by many has been to ‘go into permanent panic mode’. 


This reaction is as understandable as it is futile and therefore any practical guide which details effective ways to make real changes is welcome. It might also be useful to have an authoritative voice coming from outside an individual business to encourage any ‘eco-vague’ team members to adopt better practices. Having (as we do) a haphazard, notional list of sustainability do’s and don’ts is not at all the same as following a clear set of implementable action points.


As BADA points out, the fine art and antiques trade already has strong sustainability credentials but the key operational activities identified as requiring improvement in the ‘BADA Environmental Responsibility Statement’ certainly resonate with our own operational areas of concern. The four areas BADA lists are:


  • international air travel 
  • international shipment of art 
  • use of unsustainable packaging materials
  • energy consumption


Each business varies and likely everyone in this sector has considered these issues for some time: we’re generally an earth-loving group, as equally concerned with our planet’s future as we are with our roles as custodians of its human past. But the GCC has identified the fine art and antiques community as having a ‘disproportionate impact on the environment’ through the activities mentioned above. That is an unsettling reality to face particularly when we are more accustomed to thinking of our businesses as essentially pretty ‘green’.


Today we are urgently forced to address a plethora of questions about how we can reduce our negative impacts on the environment. We might stop flying, get an electric van and prune out the worst of our unsustainable activities, but will it be enough? 


If, as BADA urges, we need to cut our CO2e contributions by 50% before 2030 the ask is huge. But the alternative is undesirable enough to make this no matter of choice. BADA also emphasise: ‘As caretakers of human history and ingenuity, we have a unique opportunity to use our cultural influence to set a positive example and help to shift the public debate.’


So for 2023 and beyond Houlston will be looking carefully at its operational activities and using the very helpful BADA Environmental Responsibility Statement as its guide. We can’t get it all right all of the time but we can start to follow a clearer path leading in the right direction.

Published on: 20 January 2023