Embedding sustainability into Heritage Lottery Fund operations and grant assessments

Lead Organisation

Sustainability West Midlands
Project Manager: Alan Carr (Senior Sustainability Adviser)


HLF recognised SWM’s track record in supporting organisations in this manner and therefore commissioned us to convene a series of national workshops for staff so that they can become more knowledgeable about sustainability and therefore more confident how to assess the credentials of grantee applications.


  • Gain an understanding of the current policy context for sustainability.
  • Improve understanding of what sustainability means in principle and in practice, i.e. how it might be defined and the breadth of topics and issues that it encompasses.
  • Feel more confident discussing sustainability with potential applicants and stakeholders.
  • Contribute to evolving thinking about how we will engage potential applicants with sustainability and support them to deliver positive outcomes.

Results and achievements

As a result of appointing SWM in this role, we were able to provide sustainability training for HLF staff.  The following achievements were realised:

  • SWM produced sustainability criteria that HLF can use going forward as a framework to enable staff to better assess the sustainability credentials of funding applications going forward.
  • We used existing relevant HLF guidance to feed into the above criteria, thus ensuring compatibility and continuity.
  • Approximately 45 HLF staff, a sixth of the total workforce, attended the workshops from across all areas of the UK, meaning that they can now impart their new knowledge onto other staff members and developed a slide pack suitable for cascading.
  • We routed out enthusiasm! The workshops showed that many HLF staff care passionately about sustainability which is always a great start.
  • We routed out knowledge! The workshops also demonstrated that many HLF staff have good ideas and a sound understanding of sustainability already, vital when moving this work onto its next stage.
  • We routed out a determinism to ensure that sustainability is truly integrated into project application assessments in future.
  • We have also been able to provide HLF with some light-touch recommendations to consider when taking forward their sustainability related work.

Since completing the work, HLF commissioned us again in November 2018 and May 2019 to:

  • Publish an article on what it takes to run a sustainable event
  • Assess 14 grant applications for their sustainability credentials.

Contact us if you’d like more information on either of the above projects!

“HLF is fully committed to ensuring that the projects we fund take steps to reduce their negative environmental impacts and increase the positive impacts. We identified SWM as a suitable partner, based on their experience and knowledge, to help us fulfil this commitment by providing training for staff from across the UK. The aim was to increase our understanding of the various facets of sustainability so that staff are more confident talking to potential HLF applicants about the ways that they can embed sustainability within their project proposals. SWM provided an invaluable independent perspective and an enthusiastic and engaging style to enable us to kick start this process, and it was great to be able to work with them. The facilitated group work was particularly helpful in gathering good ideas that can now be fed into our grant-making policies and emerging strategy.” – Sara Crofts, Head of Historic Environment, HLF

Download the full case study

For further information or help, please contact the SWM team on 0121 237 5890 or enquiries@swm.org.uk.