Our Sustainability Policy
Rupert Harris Conservation is a small, specialist firm employing up to 7 people. Established in 1982, we have built a reputation as the leading Conservators of metalwork and sculpture in the United Kingdom. Our work covers the full spectrum of objects from jewellery to monumental sculpture. We have a highly skilled and dedicated team of Conservators with extensive experience in the conservation of works of art in metal and other media. From our studios in east London we work on projects anywhere in the country and internationally. We work within a broadly defined international code of conservation ethics. We adhere to the principal that conservation is the safeguarding of cultural property for the future, by the prevention of deterioration with the most minimal intervention possible to the object.
In 1982 we were appointed Metalwork Conservation Advisor to the National Trust. We therefore have responsibility for the conservation and care of all metalwork within the National Trust's collections. Additionally, in 2003 we were appointed Architectural Metalwork Consultant to English Heritage (now Historic England), and we also act as consultants to many other national institutions. Other clients include the Royal Household and Historic Royal Palaces, as well as most major public museums, contemporary art galleries, city councils, architects, art dealers, auction houses and private collectors. Our processes use minimal quantities of materials and chemicals; approximately 50% of our work is workshop-based, 20% is carried out on site and 30% is consultancy.
Rupert Harris is a PACR Accredited Conservator-Restorer. We are not required to have a formal environmental policy under that professional accreditation organisation (PACR) or our professional body (ICON – the Institute of Conservation). However we already have an Environmental Policy and Equal Opportunities Policy, which have for many years been built into our work practices and staff contracts; these were later developed into this Sustainability Policy.
Rupert Harris is our appointed manager with accountability for sustainability and for the implementation of this policy, embedding its practices within our day-to-day work and encouraging staff understanding and adherence.
We are committed to uphold, and to regularly review and update this Sustainability Policy.
Part 1: Environmental Impact
Rupert Harris Conservation Ltd is committed to our company policy to ensure that we employ environmentally conscious systems and strategies and address environmental sustainability issues, wherever possible and practical. Our practice as Fine Art Conservators has remained consistent since 1982, therefore we are well versed in the standard operations of our activities, each of which has been identified, analysed and mitigated, as part of our Health & Safety Policy, for their effect on our operatives, the public, and upon the built and natural environment. Many of our techniques are traditional but we also employ new technical developments when appropriate. When a new technique is considered, research is carried out to identify, analyse and mitigate its potential effect on the object, on our operatives, on the public, and upon the built and natural environment.
The following have been embedded in our working practice in order to minimise our negative impact upon the environment:
- Our workshops are largely unheated and our office has no air conditioning.
- Energy-efficient strip lights were installed throughout the workshops and office in 2014 to reduce energy consumption.
- Lights are turned off whenever practicable to allow safe working conditions, using daylight when possible.
- All lights are turned off at night.
- Workshop tools and office equipment are switched off to avoid keeping on ‘stand-by’. All office equipment is equipped with energy saving sleep modes when switched on.
- Computers are shut down at night.
- Cleaning is carried out only weekly to reduce the energy use impact of this activity.
Waste generation and recycling
- We are committed to the reduction of waste and to responsible disposal of any waste produced by our operations, avoiding landfill.
- The use of paper is limited. Most communication is via email; postal/delivery services are rarely used. Invoices are emailed rather than printed and posted; clients are encouraged to accept this method. Electronic payments are also encouraged, reducing the need to post cheques.
- Recycled paper products are favoured. Documents are printed on both sides of a sheet of paper. Waste paper is retained for re-use as scrap paper, and recycled when spent.
- We store pre-used packing materials for potential re-use, including wooden crates, bubblewrap and cartons.
- We purchase workshop, office and housekeeping goods made from recycled materials whenever possible.
- Waste produced in the course of our day-to-day operation and housekeeping, such as paper, aluminium, glass and plastic, is recycled weekly through our local authority recycling collection service for business.
- Scrap metal, including tiny scraps of gold leaf, is collected and taken to an appropriate scrap merchant for recycling periodically (approximately every two years).
- Toner cartridges, batteries, coffee pods and other specialist items are collected and recycled periodically using recycling centres within walking distance or suppliers’ specialist recycling services, avoiding courier services where possible.
- Equipment that is no longer of use is recycled whenever possible by donating to staff, their friends and families, or by using the local ‘Freecycle’ service.
Staff business travel
- Business travel is kept to a minimum by communicating via telephone and email, by providing estimates based on emailed photographs to avoid inspection travel, and by grouping local and regional meetings/inspections together to avoid unnecessary travel.
- We are committed to the reduction of car and van transport and the use of public transport, or cycling if appropriate.
- Air travel is rarely required and is avoided.
- Car parking is severely limited at our premises.
- Members of staff travel to work by walking, by cycling or by public transport.
- Staff are encouraged to cycle by providing a secure indoor location for storage of bicycles during the working day, and a changing room (2021 statistics: 2/7 staff cycle, 5/7 use public transport).
- Any new member of staff cannot and will not be offered a car parking space, and this is made clear when recruiting or taking on temporary student interns.
Conservation project transport (company van): fuel use and emissions
- Our one works’ vehicle (transit van) is regularly upgraded to ensure that it is fuel and emissions-efficient; this is prioritised when selecting a replacement vehicle.
- Journeys using the van are kept to a practical minimum and such tasks combined when possible.
Use of suppliers’ and clients’ transport
- Orders of materials are infrequent and are grouped together to lessen our use of suppliers’ delivery journeys.
- Deliveries and collections of objects for conservation are also grouped together if possible.
- Local suppliers and locally produced goods and services are favoured.
- Email communication is favoured to minimise use of postal/delivery services.
- We use water for cleaning sculpture, both on site and on our premises. It is the nature of our profession as Fine Art Conservators that all interventions with an object are kept to a minimum, therefore the use of water is also kept to a minimum.
- Run-off from cleaning processes is managed responsibly with awareness of possible effects on the physical environment. The nature of our work does not allow re-use of cleansing water.
- Our workshops are equipped with meters that allow us to monitor water consumption.
Pollution arising from conservation processes
- The potential effects of our activities upon the environment (for example water courses, flora and fauna) are risk-assessed and minimised prior to works commencing.
- Noise pollution is also minimised.
- It is the nature of our profession as Fine Art Conservators that all interventions with an object are kept to a minimum, therefore the use of chemicals, paint etc., is also kept to a minimum.
- Patination chemicals are diluted off-site (usually <2% in water) to minimise the risk of environmental impact by potential spillage on site. Patination chemicals are only applied in tiny, dilute quantities to metal statuary/plaques and do not run-off.
- We accrue only tiny amounts of waste chemicals, which are collected and disposed of correctly in accordance with the manufacturers’ guidelines.
- If detergents are necessary when performing cleaning operations on monuments and public sculpture, we always use biodegradable detergents; these are used only in minute quantities.
Part 2: Social Impact
Rupert Harris Conservation Ltd has considered the positive and potentially negative impacts that our activities might have, and implemented the following policies in order to maximise the positive impact and minimise any negative impact:
Responsibility towards the objects that we conserve
- We consider that our most positive positive social contribution can be made by continually and diligently seeking to increase the excellence of our conservation practice in order to protect world heritage:
- The historic objects that pass through our hands, whether ‘fine art’ or ‘mundane’, all form an important part of the world’s cultural and historic heritage.
- Most of the objects that we treat or advise upon are in the public realm or public ownership.
- We consider our primary responsibility to be towards the objects that we advise upon or treat.
- We follow an international code of conservation ethics in order to protect world heritage from loss, denigration or damage.
- We seek to promote excellent practice in order to protect world cultural heritage (for example, by providing free information on our website on the protection of lead sculpture).
- We support societies and other organisations that seek to protect heritage, such as the PSSA.
Relationship with employees
- We take our responsibility to our employees seriously and recognise that every small business must set an example of good practice in order to protect not only those directly employed, but their families and wider society in which we operate.
- Our Equality of Opportunities Policy is followed when recruiting and is embedded into our staff contracts in order to prevent any discrimination. Rupert Harris Conservation Ltd will not tolerate:
- Behaviour that seriously detracts from the social well being of any other person.
- Any act which could constitute sexual, racial or disability harassment.
- Acts of incitement or actual acts of discrimination against clients or their staff or fellow employees or others on the grounds of gender, race, physical or mental disability, sexual orientation or identification, religion, national or ethnic origin, or age.
- New employees and student interns are given formal inductions.
- Student interns are paid a wage for their work.
- Contracted employees receive annual appraisals (including training objectives).
- Our Conservators are encouraged to widen their experience and develop their skills to maximise their potential.
- Our Conservators are offered moral and financial support for their Continual Professional Development and in seeking Professional Accreditation under PACR (ICON).
Relationship with sub-contractors
- Sub-contractors are vetted for demonstrable consideration of sustainability issues.
Relationship with our clients and custodians in the heritage community
- Rupert Harris Conservation Ltd is committed to the ethical treatment of world heritage, whether under the care of public bodies, commercial bodies or private individuals.
- We strive to give ethical, detailed, helpful and informative advice to all clients, in order to make a positive contribution towards knowledgeable, responsible and enlightened custodianship of heritage objects.
- Our clients place trust in our ability to provide them with both advice and practical work of the highest quality. This demands that we act with a high degree of integrity at all times and that we respect our clients’ confidentiality.
Relationship with conservation students and their educational institutions
- Rupert Harris Conservation Ltd recognises the value of sound training for the future of the conservation profession and for the objects affected by its practitioners, and seeks to make a positive contribution by:
- Teaching, training and lecturing to conservation students, architects, housekeeping staff and volunteers.
- Accepting student interns (and paying them a wage).
- Providing free access to informative, detailed, technical information on our website.
Relationship with local businesses
- Rupert Harris Conservation Ltd has formed a good relationship with our business neighbours since our establishment in 1982.
- Careful consideration is given to noise pollution and any physical environmental effects that could potentially impact negatively on local businesses and their employees.
- Effort is made to forge and maintain positive relations with local businesses that result in mutual support and a tangible sense of community.
Relationship to our local community of residents
- Rupert Harris Conservation Ltd has formed a good relationship with our residential neighbours since our establishment in 1982.
- Careful consideration is given to noise pollution and any physical environmental effects that could potentially impact negatively on local residents, for example, loud music is not permitted in the workshops and communal areas of the building are kept tidy.
- We make an annual charitable contribution to the local primary school to support their anti-bullying teaching programme. This is a long-term commitment.
- When appropriate we offer pro bono advice, conservation or maintenance services to local organisations in order to see our local public sculpture well cared-for.
- We consider the above measures to make a positive social contribution and continually seek to embrace new opportunities to improve our social impact on our local community.
Part 3: Suppliers’ sustainability
Rupert Harris Conservation Ltd makes every effort to source materials locally and from a responsible, sustainable chain of supply.
- Sustainability is taken into consideration when selecting new key suppliers.
- We have identified the chief risks with regard to our supply chain as being the source of gold leaf and the sources of other new metals, such as stainless steel.
- We use new metals in very small quantities so our response is necessarily in proportion to that, however we continue to monitor and question our suppliers on their supply chain to exert what influence we can.
- We use local suppliers wherever possible
- When new stone products are required, for example for sculpture plinths, stone is only sourced from quarries within the UK.
- Key suppliers’ sustainability statements are to be periodically monitored so that the above information can be kept up-to-date.