Assessing retail sustainability at London Transport Museum

22nd September 2022

London Transport Museum in Covent Garden hosts an extensive retail outlet containing numerous branches of themed merchandise. In recognition that the items it sells carry an environmental footprint, the museum commissioned Eunomia to provide a high-level environmental assessment of its best-selling items.  

This research aimed to enable London Transport Museum to reduce its environmental footprint and subsequent contribution towards climate change and environmental degradation.  

Building on previous work done by Eunomia’s sustainable business team for clients such as WHSmith and Aldi, we undertook an ambitious, evidence-based analysis of London Transport Museum’s retail operations. The selection of products we analysed was based on items that each had distinct characteristics, so that no analysis was repeated and that the results could be applied across other product lines. We also analysed the museum’s carrier bags and various other bag options to choose bag optimal for environmental impact, customer use and price. 

We began this analysis by devising a data request for the suppliers of each product to answer, to gain an in-depth understanding of the product’s manufacturing, components and packaging. Where possible, this data was supplemented with secondary research on each product. The chosen ‘impact categories’ were as follows, to cover a holistic range of different environmental concerns: 

  • Embodied carbon, 
  • Biodiversity and deforestation, 
  • Transport, 
  • Recyclability, 
  • Water use; and 
  • Pollution and toxicity.  

In order to compare each product’s impacts, we developed a scoring matrix with applied rules (for example, all wood and paper certified FSC 100% scores 5/5). This was applied to each component in the product and packaging, then combined and weighted to develop a single score for each item. Example items include the Routemaster-themed scarf (which scored highly due to its use of organic, bleach-free wool, certified wood, plastic-free packaging, and local production) and the Tube Train Model (which scored poorly due to its non-recyclable plastic base and packaging, production in China, and air freight).  

From this analysis, we drew out a series of recommendations into a concise and detailed report and presented our findings to the museum’s retail team and their newly formed Green Journey steering group. We then used this analysis to devise an environmental roadmap for the museum’s retail operations and for the wider museum covering actions for 2022, 2025 and 2030. Recommendations included: 

  • Taking sustainability into account in procurement tenders,
  • Reducing the use of single-use plastics,
  • Replacing virgin plastic with recycled content, and only using certified wood and paper,
  • Improved recycling instructions on packaging.

Vera Lahme, Senior Consultant and Project Manager at Eunomia for this research, commented: “This project condensed a vast amount of complex information into concise recommendations. Our work acknowledged the challenges small suppliers in remote locations might experience when implementing large scale change, and created a valuable body of work to inform London Transport Museum’s future decisions regarding their procurement.” 

Laura Mullins, Head of Trading at London Transport Museum, described the project outcomes as “extremely helpful”. She further commented that “the Museum is committed to making more informed decisions and Eunomia have helped us to do this with clear straight forwards, recommendations and advice. We have already put some of the recommendations into practice such as moving to paper carrier bags and we are in the process of reducing plastic packaging on our own brand lines. Other recommendations are more long term but we are fully committed to change where possible.”