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What does sustainability really mean to you? Procurement at the Natural History Museum London

07/26/2021 By

This summer, Spend Matters is focusing on ESG, and particularly sustainability in the procurement context, as a discussion topic with the industry, with vendors, buyers and suppliers. This will take the shape of in-depth analyst-written PRO articles, podcasts with procurement professionals, panel discussions and more — all accessible from the Spend Matters site. Why? Because we’d like to take a look at the bigger picture, from several angles.

To discover what sustainability means; what ROI can be expected from a sustainability focus; what the tech landscape looks like and why we need ESG-enabled technology; the implications for e-procurement and how procurement can influence the ESG agenda, read our PRO article here.

As our technology analyst Bertrand Maltaverne puts it in that article and in the wake of the failings exposed by the Covid turbulence:

“Many organizations are also victims of a self-inflicted injury that jeopardized their capacity to operate during the crisis …  However, it seems like Covid will be the wakeup call that the supply chain world was waiting for. As a reaction to the events of the last months, the realization that organizations need better supply assurance (and that the Procurement function is critical in achieving this) spreads among organizations and management boards. This shift in priorities and mindset is an opportunity to go beyond ensuring business continuity. It is in fact a chance for building more antifragile, and more sustainable supply chains.”

To accompany our broader look at ESG in practice, this short series captures personal views on sustainability — we’ve posed three questions to a cross section of procurement and supply chain practitioners from the worlds of consultancy, specialist organizations and forums, FMCG, retail, oil & gas, tech and so on, to get a top-level understanding of what being sustainable really means to them.

We hope this will reap a set of interesting and useful answers for procurement software vendors to take note of, and for other practitioners to consider.

Today we hear from Andy Davies, Procurement Manager at London’s Natural History Museum and  Kimberley Lewis, its Environmental and Sustainability Officer.

We asked:

In an ideal world:

How would you ensure in your organization that ‘sustainability and responsibility’ is not just a tick-box exercise?

“We face a planetary emergency. Our future depends on the natural world, but we are not combating our own destructive impact on the planet. Earth is now changing fast under the influence of human behaviour. Climate change and biodiversity loss are just some of the manifestations. By threatening natural systems, we threaten our own future. We must act now, we must act on scientific evidence and we must act together.

  • Our vision is of a future where both people and planet thrive.
  • Our mission is to create advocates for the planet.
  • Our strategy to 2031 sets out the part the Museum will play as a global, scientific and cultural leader.

So, our two main areas of commitment are to be:

  • Efficient by nature – reducing our impact on natural resources in our day-to-day business: carbon, energy, waste, travel, procurement, water, investment & income, food and catering
  • Sustainable by design – minimising our impact on natural resources in new developments: new building and major projects, temporary exhibitions, shops

Our concept is to create a collective voice for nature that works at an organisational level and radiates outwards, showcasing the efforts/achievements we’re most proud of and providing hope for a future where people and planet thrive.”

What would help you ’embed’ sustainability and responsible practices/thinking into procurement?

“To help demonstrate our capacity as organizations to collaborate and drive sustainability, we plan to invite our key suppliers to join us as advocates for our planet and share in our commitment to reduce carbon and drive circularity.

“An advocate for the planet is an organization that values nature, is concerned about the future of the planet, understands the need to take action to protect it and has the motivation to do so. An advocate for the planet is an organization that encourages others to learn about and care for the natural world and takes action to help create a future where people and planet thrive. ”

“As an advocate our suppliers would commit to:  

  • Provide us with their annual carbon footprint (or work with us to calculate their carbon footprint)
  • Reduce their carbon footprint
  • Shift to a low carbon circular economy
  • Understake a program of due diligence to mitigate the risk of modern slavery and promote respect for human rights
  • Share stories of best practice.

If you could have one wish from procurement tech/software vendors (to help with your sustainability goals/supply chain visibility/operations/measurement) what would that be?

“It would be to stop pretending that software alone can solve the problem. Software that requires hundreds of suppliers to make self-assessments of their operations, often completed by account managers keen to win business rather than supply chain specialists, carries the risk of optimism bias and a false picture emerging of the carbon footprint or human rights record of a supplier base. What we need is a deeper engagement that comes only from collaboration, a mutual commitment from a few key suppliers at first, then those in higher-impact categories.”


Many thanks to Andy Davies and  Kimberley Lewis — our analysts will take an aggregated look at all our responses in the coming weeks and give their take on the common themes that have emerged.  

Here’s an index of other voices to come in this series.

If you are involved in sustainability in procurement for your organization, feel free to comment below or submit your own answers to

And f you are doing a tech selection to help wiht your sustainability goals, you can get a shortlist fast with TechMatch

ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance)