Maxine Lister, head, licensing, The Natural History Museum, highlights how The Natural History Museum is making change through sustainable product lines and more.

McKenna Morgan, Content Editor

February 29, 2024

5 Min Read
Maxine Lister.
Maxine Lister.The Natural History Musuem

The licensing industry has global influence; consumers flock to buy the products the industry creates, and the revenue driven at retail is a substantial driver in a brand’s power to implement change. Some executives harness the power of their position to become what License Global calls a changemaker, meaning that to create the change they want to see in the world, they are uncovering licensing’s potential as a catalyst.   

To celebrate the initiatives and individuals behind change, License Global explores how the licensing industry impacts sustainability, diversity and inclusion through a monthly insight column called “Changemakers.” 

This month’s column highlights The Natural History Museum’s sustainability initiatives and how they’re hoping to continue to advocate for the planet. Maxine Lister, head, licensing, The Natural History Museum, chats with License Global on how the museum plans to do this – and what they’ve already done. 

How does sustainability match up with the brand identity of The Natural History Museum? 

Maxine Lister: In 2020, we launched our vision and strategy up to 2031 (our 150th anniversary year), which sets out the part the museum will play as a global, scientific and cultural leader. Our vision is of a future where both people and planet thrive, and our mission is to create advocates for the planet.  

Creating advocates for the planet can take many forms, and the licensing program, in particular, is a global one where we reach people who may never visit our actual museum, whether that be our iconic South Kensington site or our museum in Tring, Hertfordshire.  

Our products have the ability to tell stories regarding the history of the museum and our planet and also talk to the sustainability of the products created.  

Tell me about your sustainable product lines. How do you connect with museumgoers while prioritizing sustainability? 

ML: Sustainability is always one of the first discussions with any new licensee, whether that be the sourcing of the fabrics right through to the reduction of packaging. Our strategy is not just to connect with museumgoers but also to connect with the wider consumer market.  

The licensing team does not produce products just to be sold in the museum stores, although we are thrilled when the retail buying team sources them. We look at the wider retail market both in the U.K. and beyond to increase the museum’s reach and to tell our stories.  

We pride ourselves in upholding our sustainable ethos across our different collaborations, from our early years STEAM Let’s Learn range with Galt Toys to our beautiful clothing collections with Joanie, comprised of sustainable fabric blends. Most recently, we launched an exciting new collaboration with premium apparel company, ROKA London. Our new Waterhouse Field Backpack has been curated from old plastic water bottles and other plastic materials that cannot biodegrade.  

You won the Sustainability Award at the B&LLAs. To what do you attribute that success? 

ML: We are always very grateful to be recognized by our industry and to work with our licensees to create products that are both sustainable and affordable. In the case of Dunelm, who won the award for our collaboration, it is just that. A collaboration where sustainability is part of the whole process and where it is affordable for consumers to make conscious choices regarding their purchases.  

You have said that you’re aiming to become a leader in sustainable retail. What does that mean to you, and how will you accomplish it? 

ML: Sustainability is a core focus across the museum. For retail, there are two factors to this. Firstly, our retail team within the museum has a strategy to increase the sustainable products they stock, and then we have a licensing program that wants to support licensees through the process of becoming more sustainable to show that it can be done at every level of retail. We constantly look for new partners that are not only already working on sustainable products but ones that are looking to improve so we can tell their stories and highlight the fantastic work they are achieving.  

How do you choose licensing partners to align with your sustainability goals? 

ML: Firstly, any new licensees must fit into our licensing strategy. We work closely to understand their business model, where they are within the sustainable journey and how we can work together to create successful, engaging products and how we can support them both in terms of product development and PR to communicate that sustainable story in an engaging way. We work with a licensee very closely from start to launch and are involved in every step alongside key teams within the museum.  

What’s next for The Natural History Museum? 

ML: 2024 is shaping up to be one of the museum’s biggest years in its history with regards to licensing and collaborations. Following incredibly successful launches with the likes of The Royal Mint, ROKA London and our fourth collection with Dunelm in the first two months of the year alone, we have an incredible and exciting roster of licensees and announcements for the rest of the year. 

Not only is this inspiring for the museum in terms of reaching a new audience, but it is allowing us even more opportunities to tell sustainable stories. This new reach is also giving us the chance to explore how we move our licensing program to new territories to work with like-minded licensees and retailers. We’re incredibly excited to see how this will unfold over the next 12 months. 

About the Author(s)

McKenna Morgan

Content Editor, License Global

McKenna Morgan is Content Editor for License Global. Based in the Santa Monica office, McKenna specializes in coverage involving non-profits, beauty and cosmetics, health and wellness, new and social media and entertainment licensing.

When McKenna isn’t covering the latest licensing news, she spends her time attending live music shows and finding her next travel destination.

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