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Natural History Museum talks BLE and sustainability

Natural History Museum is participating in the BLE Sustainability Activation in partnership with Products of Change. Head of licensing, Maxine Lister, highlights some of the changes at the Museum.

When you talked about the Products of Change legal workstream group in April you outlined the guidelines you’re creating. You mentioned a set of quick wins as well as longer-term plans. What progress have you made since then, and have you seen any uptake from the within the industry?

We continue to sign off samples digitally whenever we can, we have reduced the number of samples across our contracts and packaging has continued to be reduced. I believe that the whole industry is making the same commitments and there are a lot of licensors, licensees and retailers that should be applauded for this, and I hope as a licensing team we can work with them in the future.

It is exciting to see the industry move forward but there is always more we can do – technology advances at such a pace so things are constantly changing. We are very keen to talk to companies that are working in this area and have some exciting meetings happening at the moment regarding how we can work with some new brands within the sustainability sphere.

You’re undertaking loads of sustainability initiatives at NHM – from samples to packaging – what are your plans for expanding this in 2022 and beyond? Do you have milestones you’re aiming for?

Sustainability is at the heart of the Museum, not just within our licensing department. We think sustainably when making decisions and try to operate in a way which is kind to the environment. We aren’t perfect, but we’re looking at ways we can reduce the Museum’s carbon emissions and energy consumption, reuse and repurpose technology, and encourage everyone to refill and recycle. We’ve also pledged to become the first museum in the world to set a science-based carbon reduction target.

We have targets across carbon emissions, water, waste, our cafes and restaurants and our retail outlets.

Within licensing we have committed that all our apparel will be made of 100% recycled or organic fabrics by the end of 2022. Also, all plush will be produced with recycled PET and sustainable fabrics again by the end of 2022. We will also continue to engage with all our licensees on sustainability to implement changes to make a difference.

You mentioned you have some exciting sustainability-related partnerships in the pipeline for 2022 – can you tell us any more about these?

We have recently launched our adult and children’s luxury pyjama dinosaur collection with Desmond & Dempsey, which is printed on GOTS certified organic cotton, the buttons are made from corozo, which is the seed from a palm (instead of mother of pearl) and the swing tag is made from recycled cotton, so the collection really does have sustainability at its core.

We have two new launches early in 2022 which unfortunately I can’t yet discuss but in both instances, we have worked hard at every stage of development to ensure that sustainable practices are adopted. We are very excited to see these collections launch and push the NHM brand into new categories, with even more to come throughout 2022.

Do you only work with licensees now who meet a certain sustainability criteria? If so, what is that?

We are open to having discussions with all licensees and retailers as we want to work with companies that are looking to improve their sustainability and help them with that journey as well as work with companies that are already successful in this area so that we can help shine a light on their fantastic work.

We include information within our brand deck that outlines some minimum requirements we ask licensees to adhere to, for example, taking a minimal approach to packaging, no single-use plastic packaging (unless legally required), no shaped swing tags (to avoid waste). I am also keen to work with UK manufacturers to reduce shipping and carbon emissions and to support UK companies.

Tell us about what you’re doing in the BLE Sustainability Activation in partnership with Products of Change – we can’t wait to see it…

We were thrilled to be asked to be part of the Sustainability Activation, which will feature our beautiful pyjama collection with Desmond & Dempsey called The Epic Dino Collection, with details of the product development and production process. It is such a great opportunity to showcase a recent product launch that truly has sustainability at its core.

Brand Licensing Europe runs in-person at London’s ExCeL from 17-19 November, followed by an online event on 30 November and 1 December. Check out for further details.

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