Headshot of Heidi Barnard, smiling

Sustainability is all our jobs: greening and influencing

NHS Supply Chainmanages the sourcing, delivery and supply of healthcare products, services and food for NHS trusts and healthcare organisations across England and Wales.”  In this blog post Heidi Barnard, Head of Sustainability for NHS Supply Chain, gives an overview of introducing a sustainability strategy to her organisation.  


The climate crisis we find ourselves in, is more than just global warming. Declining biodiversity and a pressing need to reduce wastage in all aspects of our economy are equally threatening to human life on our planet. 

Leading organisations and employers not only need to manage their impact on the environment, but increasingly take into consideration how a changing environment will affect their ability to do business in the longer-term – they no longer talk of greening operations, but of greening their entire organisation. 

It can be useful to distinguish between ‘green jobs’ and ‘green skills’, as an ‘all jobs greener’ approach will be needed to truly transform the economy to one that has sustainability at its heart. 

  • Green skills: an umbrella term to refer to the technical skills, knowledge, behaviours and capabilities required to tackle the environmental challenges we face, and to unlock new opportunities for society. 
  • Green jobs: used to signify employment in an activity that directly contributes to — or indirectly supports — the achievement of the UK’s net zero emissions target and other environmental goals, such as nature restoration and mitigation against climate risks. 

NHS Supply Chain, more than most organisations, has much of its impact tied up in indirect Scope 3 emissions. These are emissions that are not produced by the company itself and are not the result of activities owned or controlled by them, but by those that it’s indirectly responsible for up and down its value chain, along the whole journey of buying, using and disposing of products from suppliers. In order to reduce the impact of emissions we have no direct control over we must influence others along the value chain, upstream and downstream, both external product suppliers and product users within the NHS, changing practices and behaviour. 

This means engagement with our suppliers, customers and a host of others. The scale and scope of the challenge also means that it can’t be done by a sustainability team on their own. The people in our organisation need to be able to engage with our stakeholders – at every touch point – on this topic, in order to influence and shift behaviours.  So, the first pillar of our sustainability strategy is focused on how we engage, upskill and embed sustainable thinking and practice into our workforce. 

This is where we took the work that the Institute of Environmental Managers and Assessors (IEMA) and Deloitte had done on a green workforce transformation toolkit and applied it to our organisation. You can see details of this, and download the Blueprint for Green Workforce Transformation report produced jointly by IEMA and Deloitte, here. 

The output for us was a comprehensive curriculum, which we have started to deploy. This is not a discrete project with a start and end point, we see this as integral part of the broader employee engagement and skills development strategy, needed to secure and retain talent for the future – as well as making our contribution to carbon reduction.


To find out more about the challenges of supporting the NHS to meet its target of becoming the “world’s first net-zero carbon national health system” by 2045, read Heidi’s feature on the IEMA website, and for more context and details of specific sustainable initiatives see the Sustainability section of NHS Supply Chain website.

 NHS Supply Chain is currently recruiting for a graduate trainee within their Sustainability Team. Details on MyCareerHub  https://www.hub.ed.ac.uk/students/jobs/detail/1072865 

 For other jobs relating to sustainability search #EdSustainabilityCareers on MyCareerHub.

(Image supplied by NHS Supply Chain )


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