How an art brand became B Corp: Painting a greener tomorrow

May 29, 2024 | News

Winsor & Newton, the company that sells paints, brushes, and other tools to artists, has become a B Corp. We believe art is important for society’s growth, and sustainability is a part of that’, says the firm.

Climate crisis awareness is increasing. Brands and businesses are taking sustainability seriously, and a B Corp certificate is a great way to demonstrate a commitment to ethical practices. In April, it became known that 2,000 B Corporations are certified in the UK. The purposeful business movement has doubled in size in just 18-months. More than 8,000 B Corps have been certified in 95 countries.

The certification is based on a number of factors, including climate action, circular practices and fair wages. Making your manufacturing processes sustainable in order to meet B Corp requirements can be a challenge when you make art supplies and paint that contain potentially harmful chemicals. Colart, parent company of Winsor & Newton, Lefranc Bourgeois and Liquitex art supply brands, Conte a Paris, Charbonnel and Conte a Paris, is the first art company that has achieved the certification. This was due to the changes they made to their practices to reduce the environmental impact.

Read more about Winsor & Newton’s sustainability journey From reducing toxic chemicals to promoting community projects and supporting B Corp, you can learn more about Winsor & Newton’s journey to becoming a B corporation

Helly Summerly, global brand director at Winsor & Newton & Colart, says that being a B Corp is in line with the company’s larger values. She explains that Winsor & Newton were founded by a scientist and an artist. In 1832, the two – whose names form the brand name — created brushes, paints, and accessories that were revolutionary for their time because they were easily portable.

This innovation-based ethos was the basis for the B Corp certification. But now, instead of improving artistic practice and the broader industry with compact, versatile products, it is the goal to reduce the impact art supplies have on the environment. Summerly says that Colart’s owner is on a mission to make the art supply industry a better one.

This year, B Corp Month was held in March. The theme was This Way Forward. Summerly says, “I thought that theme was perfect for us because it’s about growth.” “The B Corp is a journey and not a destination. There’s growth in the creative processes as well.” All of our customers, from professional artists to hobbyists to students, share a common desire to grow through art. It could be to improve their craft or for personal development and mental well-being. We believe that art is important for the growth of society, and sustainability is a part of it. “That includes sustaining artists and their art.”

Winsor & Newton Archive: Shades of cobalt and emerald green.

Winsor & Newton donates supplies to nonprofits and charities to help sustain artists and their art. It’s currently partnering with Hospital Rooms to paint mental health wards. It was easy to check the ethical box for B Corp certification, but how could a paint supplier make chemicals-heavy colours more environmentally friendly?

Ajita Chamberlin explains that Colart’s group sustainability manager, Ajita, “continues removing substances of high concern from our product” and is looking for sustainable alternatives wherever possible. She says that many art materials contain substances which can be harmful to the environment or human health, such as heavy metals or volatile organic compounds.

Colart, Winsor & Newton’s parent company, is the first art company in the world to receive B Corp certification

These materials are used in order to make paints durable and long-lasting. This is a good thing because it means that less waste is generated, since less replacements are required. Paints and artworks can’t be recycled or disposed of easily because they contain chemicals.

Chamberlin says, “It is a significant challenge to the industry.” “The emphasis on saving artworks for posterity may conflict with circularity goals. It can be difficult to balance the preservation and artistic heritage with the principles circular economy .”

Three assessments were conducted over a period of two years to examine Colart’s B Corp and its practices. Colart is already on its way to achieving its sustainability goals on many fronts. In its impact report for 2022-2023, Colart declares that it intends to reduce Scope 1, 2, and 3 CO2 emission by 5% per year, using the baseline year of 2019 to measure emissions. In 2022, the company said that emission reductions exceeded this goal by 15%. Another goal was to reduce hazardous waste by 50 percent by 2025. In 2022, a reduction of 24.5% was achieved compared to 2019.

Colart has improved its transport, packaging, and energy efficiency as well as the greening of its paint ingredients.

Chamberlin explains that in order to become more sustainable, it is necessary to change the way we do things and educate people. “Educating artists, suppliers and customers about sustainable practices and their environmental impact is essential to promote circularity in the fine arts materials industry. Some companies may not be aware of the benefits B Corp certification and the importance of sustainability, especially if they are in a sector that is less environmentally conscious .”

The purposeful business movement has doubled in size in the UK in 18 months.

Colart has changed its freight policy to no longer transport goods by air. It has also increased the use recycled materials in its packaging. And its UK and French manufacturing facilities are powered by green power. The B Corp certification is a first step for a company that wants to move forward.

Winsor & Newton Images

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