national lottery heritage fund

Why National Lottery Heritage Fund wants to find the Sustainable Project of the Year

Article: David Styles

The National Lottery Heritage Fund is hoping to instill a collaborative approach to environmental work across the sector through establishing the Sustainable Project of the Year prize with Museums + Heritage Awards.

While the specially extended deadline for this award is 21st February, applicants for all other M+H Awards categories have only one day left to apply.

It seldom rings true when a disappointed actor trots out the well-worn ‘it was great just to be nominated’ on the red carpet. When it comes to climate change, however, individualism is futile. Either we all win or nobody does.

It is in this spirit that the National Lottery Heritage Fund wants organisations from across the museums and heritage sector to submit proposals not only for the chance of winning the inaugural award, but also participate in the knowledge sharing required to drive the sector forward.

To reach the shortlist, applications must demonstrate best practice in areas such as: managing environmental impacts – particularly energy efficiency, recycling and reuse; sourcing materials; sustainable procurement; or green visitor travel planning.

The 2019 M+H Awards winners

Having included sustainability in its frameworks since 2013, Heritage Fund’s Strategic Funding Framework 2019–2024 has gone a step further by requiring all projects it funds to improve their environmental sustainability and create positive benefits for nature.

National Lottery Heritage Fund has a significant focus on ensuring sustainability of all the projects it funds

Drew Bennellick, Heritage Fund’s head of land and nature UK policy, has been taking the lead on the issues of sustainability and climate change within the organisation for the past decade.

Despite this prolonged effort, he recognises that last year – which afforded huge prominence to the likes of Extinction Rebellion and Greta Thunberg – changed things. The amount of public interest has “grown considerably” over the past 12 months, he notes.

The Museums + Heritage Awards 2019 recognised world-renowned environmentalist David Attenborough, who has arguably done more than anyone else to highlight the issue of climate change, with a Special Recognition Award.

One of the new award’s key purposes, according to Bennellick, is “about making organisations think about issues they probably had never really considered in the past.”

Sponsoring awards, he states, is a really good way of doing this. “It challenges people, and also people want to show off about what they’ve done. It’s a great way of sharing good practice. The best way of learning is through seeing what other people are doing.

“The Awards will be a great way to promote these issues and to help inspire others to take action.”

When asked what applicants should aim to include in their proposals, Heritage Fund’s head of land and nature UK policy said: “Bring creative ideas. I’m sure there are many, many organisations that are doing brilliant stuff but we’re after the really inspirational ideas that immediately make people think ‘oh yeah, we could do that as well’.”

Adding her advice to Bennellick’s, Fiona Talbott, Heritage Fund’s head of museums, libraries and archives, urged applicants to “think as broadly as you can about where you think you’re making a difference.”

“Size isn’t the issue here,” she continued. “We might find best practice in a tiny local museum. It certainly doesn’t have to be a national institution to have a big impact. You can think about how sustainable you are at any level.”

How to apply

The Sustainable Project of the Year award is free to enter and will apply to projects or exhibitions which took place in 2019.


Submissions will take the form of a 500-word statement submitted online and entries will be accepted until an extended deadline of Friday 21th February 2020. For full details visit the category page on the Museums + Heritage website.

Talbott is also keen to emphasise the importance of collaboration if the sector is to improve its environmental credentials. “They [museums and heritage sites] are going to have to respond to new audiences coming through: young people for whom sustainability and environmental issues are huge. People will be expecting, if they go to a museum, for these issues to be reflected,” she told Advisor.

The M+H Awards Sustainable Project of the Year category, she believes, can be a great way of achieving this. “Although there’s only going to be one winner, everyone who submits a proposal will effectively be contributing case studies for wider environmental work. There will be lessons for the entire sector from this award.

“It’s also not just about what you do. Your work could serve as a catalyst for debate and conversations with the public that might not be able to happen anywhere else.”

This year’s Awards Ceremony will take place on 13th May at 8 Northumberland Avenue, London.

Apart from Sustainable Project of the Year, the deadline for all other M+H Awards is 31st January (the end of this week!). Details about the application process can be found here.