Arcual and the Environment: Our Responsibility

It is an undeniable fact that the world is facing a series of connected environmental crises. When working with technology, one can be removed from the impact our actions have on the environment. However, it is crucial that all companies acknowledge and commit to making improvements. Servers require electricity, and often, this energy is not from the most sustainable sources.

Without urgent action from across society, these problems will rapidly escalate. Specifically, in October 2022, the UN warned that the world’s governments are not yet on track to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees celsius, and the window for action is rapidly closing. In March 2023, the UN Chief mentioned it is imperative to “delivery the sustainable future that our climate needs, and our children and grandchildren deserve”. We are already seeing the impact of existing climate change through devastating droughts, storms, and floods across the world. Related crises include collapsing biodiversity, dangerous levels of air pollution, and plastic contamination in our rivers and oceans. 

The art world has an important role to play. Arts organisations – particularly in the Global North – can have a disproportionately large impact on the environment, mainly through international travel, shipping, and the high use of energy and materials. Arcual is committed to playing our part in helping reduce these impacts in line with what science is telling us. In this Environmental Responsibility Statement, we will set out how we intend to use our public platform and cultural influence as a company, to set a positive example about best energy practices, encouraging and supporting others in the art ecosystem to take action and help shift the public debate.

First of all, sustainability comes in many guises. Besides the environmental concerns, there are important societal changes that need to take place. At Arcual, we provide artists, collectors, and galleries with customisable, empowering digital tools and integrations which can help ensure verified transactions, digital authenticity, royalty sharing, and secure international payments for physical artworks, aligning with our mission to create a more equal art ecosystem. 

Moreover, to fulfil a mission of sustainable progress, we need to take urgent environmental action. Art, and the artists who create works of art, are threatened across the world by the climate crisis; those from marginalised communities and cultures are most at risk, whilst also holding many of the most effective solutions to the climate crisis. The increased use of technology can be a solution as well as a hindrance to our environmental goals.

As an organisation, we know that our main direct environmental impacts include flights to art fairs and events. We have committed to tackling these impacts by: 

  • Joining the Gallery Climate Coalition
  • Pledging to cut our carbon emissions by more than half by 2030, in comparison with a 2023 baseline emission per employee. 
  • Regularly calculating the carbon footprint of our operations, to track progress towards this target, including technical infrastructure carbon emissions where possible. 
  • Setting specific targets for the major parts of our footprint, including: 
  • Reducing staff flights in favour of other transports (such as trains) where possible. 
  • Ensuring all our advertising materials are reusable or curbside recyclable by 2026, as a step towards zero-waste operations by 2030.
  • Create awareness of our sustainability efforts and provide the team with the possibility to volunteer with environmental causes.
  • Ensuring that our software and digital infrastructure is as sustainable as possible:

The categorised actions we are taking to meet these targets include: 

Travel and Events

  • Planning our exhibitions and events in a way that minimises the need for air travel. 
  • Reviewing staff travel policies and practices, and planning our attendance at international art fairs to reduce the need for air travel. 
  • Using other means of transport (i.e. train), when possible, especially when travelling within Europe.
  • Avoiding waste related to our activities by organising the donation of food and merchandising to charities, as part of the planning of each event that involves catering and/or gifting. 

Energy Consumption

  • Carrying out an energy audit of our buildings to locate energy reduction and renewable generation opportunities. 
  • Educating our internal teams on good practices around energy saving, linked to our devices. 
  • Encouraging employees to adopt energy-saving practices in the workspace and at home.
  • Speaking to our suppliers and service providers about their carbon footprint, seeking opportunities to encourage them to take action, or switching to alternatives where appropriate.
  • Choosing energy-efficient hardware to help reduce energy consumption.
  • Implementing power management features such as sleep mode and automatic shut-off, to help reduce energy consumption.

Sustainable Initiatives

  • Working with other GCC members on projects to help develop more sustainable solutions for the whole sector. 
  • Maintaining a Green Team with representatives from different parts of the organisation, that meets to track progress on all of these targets and actions at least once a month.
  • Joining volunteering projects, as part of our internal team activities, that contribute to sustainability practices.
  • Improving our product to include information about sustainable art materials used by artists and encourage collectors to buy “greener” works

Blockchain and Tech

  • Creating guidelines for the deployment of nodes of our blockchain, to support minimising the environmental impact of the network.
  • Design our blockchain solutions in the most efficient and sustainable way possible, and avoid configurations that are known to have an outsized impact on energy usage, like proof-of-work consensus.
  • Monitoring the climate impact of all of our digital infrastructure and reducing it where possible.
  • Prioritising efficiency and performance of our software and infrastructure, and limiting the size of our infrastructure to only what is necessary.
  • Avoiding using techniques and practices that are known to have an outsized energy impact, such as proof-of-work consensus blockchain technology
  • Measuring the climate impact of our infrastructure regularly and reducing it where possible

In order to take full responsibility for our emissions, at the end of each financial year, we also plan to set aside a specific amount per tonne of CO2e to a Strategic Climate Fund, rather than purchasing carbon offsets. (Details of Arcual’s exact quantity will be published later this year, once we have reviewed the 2023 baseline). Following guidance from the Gallery Climate Coalition, this money will be spent on measures to accelerate our emissions reductions and support frontline climate solutions around the world that are making an immediate difference. We will report on how we have spent this money at the end of each financial year. We aim to take action in line with the principles of climate justice, recognising the connections between the climate crisis and other global injustices. We want our environmental actions to support - rather than undermine or ignore - the needs of people on the frontlines of marginalisation and injustice.

We have set these targets and are taking action knowing that we aren’t yet doing everything right. We still have a great deal to do and much to learn. We welcome feedback from our artists, galleries, audiences and stakeholders on these targets and our plans for action.