Fine Art and Sustainability

Fine Art and Sustainability

Authored by AXA XL Global Practicee Leader, Fine Art Insurance, Jennifer Schipf

Jennifer Schipf, Chief Global Underwriting Officer, Fine Art & Specie leads a team of fine art insurance experts who are putting climate change and sustainability at the center of their practice.

According to the AXA Future Risks Report 2022, climate change topped the risk rankings for risk experts in every geography for the first time since the report has been compiled. Despite a war in Europe, climate change still ranked as the most pressing risk for risk professionals in every region.

In the same report, the general public also rated climate risk as their most pressing concern. Both experts and the public agree: physical risks associated with climate change, such as floods, droughts, rising sea levels and more severe storms are of utmost concern.

The changes are already evident. Multiple areas of our climate system have been impacted – sea levels, the atmosphere, oceans, the cryosphere and carbon and other biochemical processes. Physical risks are compounding, from chronic risks (sea levels) to acute exposures (extreme weather events).

For the fine art and specie industry, climate change is no less threatening. Wildfires, flood events, and heat waves are a few of the climate-related issues that impact the industry and are increasing threats as weather events become more frequent and severe.

The art world is beginning to take notice – according to the Art Market Reports 2019-2022, ‘sustainability and the carbon footprint of the art market and its related activities’ was not a top-five priority for the industry but was listed within the top ten concerns among dealers and collectors.

In fact, 70 percent of high net-worth collectors are reporting their own tendencies toward more sustainable options in the buying and maintaining of their collections, according the 2022 Art Basel Report – a 12-point increase over 2019. Sustainability is also something collectors are embracing in their own actions – 64 percent are concerned with reducing their personal travel to art-related events and 68 percent are open to employing more environmentally conscious delivery methods when shipping pieces of art, the Report found.

It is a noticeable shift in perspective by collectors, whose concerns in 2019 were how to reduce their travel-related carbon footprint. Today, collectors are prioritizing a reduction in travel to art events and how to utilize alternative delivery methods.

AXA XL’s Fine Art & Specie underwriting team has invested time to examine climate, sustainability and ESG within the Fine Art sector with the hope of inspiring our partners across the industry to embrace sustainable practices.

Building sustainability

Getting to net zero – reducing emissions of all greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, methane or sulfur dioxide and balancing the remaining residual emissions through carbon removal credits – is the goal. Yet it is a challenging one. The visual arts sector will need to reduce emissions by at least half by 2030, preferably more, to come even close to aligning to the global goal of limiting warming to 1.5° C.

Still, the industry can take action today that can instill better sustainability practices and map a path toward net zero. They include:

Reducing travel emissions: While emissions coming from people traveling to and from art events will be an ongoing challenge, the art industry can adopt more innovative operations that can do plenty to control travel-related emissions: increase the use of digital communications to avoid business travel and improve digital capabilities to deliver more online exhibitions and sales opportunities.

Alternative artwork transportation: The art world can implement green delivery methods by working with green logistics suppliers, coordinating shipments with other galleries to combine shipments, and finding alternative packing material that reduces both volume and weight of artwork packaging.

Improving building energy: There are plenty of ways in which buildings can reduce energy use and more effectively manage energy consumption. These include improving the controls and settings of heating, cooling, and lighting systems; upgrading to energy efficient equipment; installing low carbon technologies; procuring renewable energy and generating your own energy onsite wherever possible.

Establishing greener procurement methods: Organizations should work with local contractors and partners who have invested in circular design principles for installations and material sourcing. Encourage and support partners and suppliers who commit to environmental policies and reporting, skills training, information resources, and the use of digital technologies.

Develop and implement better ESG policies: Your organization should define what it means for you to be a good corporate citizen. What thought leadership, advocacy, reporting and regulatory compliance measures will you put into place? How will you engage colleagues on sustainability practices? How will your sustainability strategy maximize your positive impact and minimize your negative impact on the environment and communities?

Art World Sustainability Initiatives

There are several climate-related initiatives for those in the art industry to utilize. Partners for Arts and Climate Targets, or PACT, is an international coalition of organizations that are promoting broad adoption of collective climate action. PACT members recommend focusing on the following action items:

1. Continuous Greenhouse Gas Emission Reduction

2. Transitioning to a Zero Waste Sector

3. Unifying Visions and Shared Knowledge for Climate Action

4. Centering Intersectional Environmentalism

Getting to Net Zero

Like every industry, the art world has inherited climate-related challenges. Combatting climate change is an issue that will continue to impact the sector and grow in scope the longer climate-related challenges are left unchecked.

Through our sustainability reports and training guides as well as our community-wide involvement in addressing the immediate needs that climate change has caused, at AXA XL we are committed to working with our partners, clients and everyone in the art world to build better sustainability practices.

Net zero is more than a goal – it is an active process by which the art industry can contribute positively to the efforts to reduce global emissions. By creating a framework that supports a more sustainable way to conduct business, art can lead the way toward a cleaner, more secure environment.