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Our Vision for Sustainable Development

The global environmental emergency - in particular how this will affect all our futures - is the biggest challenge facing the world.

We recognise this in our work through a Strategic Priority, Taking action on climate change and environmental impact, which reinforces our organisation-wide commitment to reduce our own impact on the environment and to inspire others to do the same.

As we begin to develop a new Strategic Plan to guide us from 2022 onwards, we recognise that the current climate and biodiversity emergencies demand urgency of action.

A thistle (Cirsium vulgare) at the National Museums Collection Centre

Our commitment

We are committed to changing our approach to address the climate and biodiversity challenges the world faces. Our actions will be based on robust holistic thinking about the whole organisation: our culture and practices, people and estates. We are creating an Action Plan that is grounded in cultural and behavioural changes. Its focus will be broad, covering the full range of our activities including public programming, collections care, our estate and workforce training.


We will continue to improve our environmental performance as part of a wider commitment to sustainable development, through a framework of targets, monitoring and reporting. And we will use our exceptional natural sciences collections, world-class scientific research and multi-disciplinary approach to give us a platform from which to inspire and educate our audiences to work towards a better world.

Our statutory responsibility

International and UK legislation sets the pace for our response to the climate emergency. In particular, the Climate Change Act (Scotland) 2009 (April 2019 updates) sets Scotland’s targets at 75% net carbon emissions reduction by 2030. This Act (part 4) clearly states that public bodies have a climate change duty, that we must reach targets and act in the most sustainable way.

As a Public Body, our carbon calculation must cover:

  • All waste and recycling
  • All purchased goods and services
  • The use of all sold goods
  • All fuel
  • All travel: all domestic (including owned, hired and leased cars) and international aviation and shipping
  • Including production and waste
  • And there can be no third party off-setting to net against our emissions.

We know that we have a long way to go and we believe that in the process of meeting our targets and contributing to a zero-carbon society we will be making a contribution towards changing society itself.

Operating sustainably

Our Sustainable Development Strategy has been important in leading our work in this area to date. We have made good progress - since 2013, we have more than halved our carbon emissions from energy and reduced our environmental impact in other areas.

We will:


  • Continue to adopt and promote energy efficiency and the use of renewable resources throughout all our operations
  • Preventing or minimising waste and maximising reuse and recycling opportunities
  • Minimising our consumption of natural resources and procuring sustainable materials and services
  • Ensuring our use and management of hazardous materials is controlled responsibly and seeking less harmful alternatives.


Proactively using our collections

Our collection provides a rich resource for creating knowledge and understanding. In particular, our natural science collection represents almost 300 years of collecting, providing invaluable data sources for measuring change over time.


Active collections research and scientific fieldwork provides rich evidence-based research into environmental change and biodiversity loss. The work of the Natural Sciences team and the breadth of collections-generated information contributes to the effort in the UK and around the world of better understanding human impact on the environment.

Engaging our audiences

Museums have always had an important role to play in creating spaces for people to debate, learn and share ideas and hope for a better future. We embrace our role in promoting awareness and conservation of the natural world and cultural heritage through our exhibitions, education and activities and by engaging our audiences in dialogue about changes beyond our walls. Curatorial expertise underpins our public engagement programming.

Involving our team

As an employer, we will empower our teams to adopt new ways of working, providing the necessary resources and training to deliver change. By raising and maintaining awareness we will encourage active participation, corporately and individually, in sustainable business practices including more sustainable modes of transport.

If you have any queries regarding our work on sustainability, please email our general enquiries team on and your query will be passed to the relevant person.

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