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Last week saw the launch of one of my favourite exhibitions, Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year. Seeing this yearly celebration of the beauty and magnificence of our planet, captured by the world’s greatest nature photographers, never fails to inspire me. As a museum, we are proud of the role the winning pictures have played in changing the perception of the natural world.

 

The 2011 crop of images included an impressive span of entries winging their way from as far afield as Cambodia, French-Polynesia, Brunei and Kyrghyzstan. A big part of the competition reaching this huge level of global recognition is the support it has received through its 47 year history from corporate partners, including BG Group, Shell and Veolia Environnement.

 

This is the third year Veolia Environnement have worked with us on Wildlife Photographer of the Year. Veolia Environnement are a recognised supplier for many public bodies and local authorities across the UK, providing vital environmental services which are a component of everyone's daily life. We all have responsibility for developing sustainable practices to minimise our impact on the planet and as a research institution ourselves, we are satisfied that Veolia Environnement are taking a reputable scientific approach to address these issues.

 

Corporate partnerships are a critical part of the funding mix for cultural organisations and audiences, especially in these financially difficult times. The Government is keen to see publicly-funded organizations such as ourselves increase their financial self-reliance. Partnering with Veolia Environnement, and with our other corporate partners, helps us to do just that.  More importantly, I believe philanthropy offers a crucial way for companies to engage with social and environmental issues. Our work with corporate partners helps us to continue promoting the discovery and enjoyment of the natural world.

 

It is undeniable that the natural world faces incredible challenges - understanding this is at the core of the Museum’s mission. In considering a potential partnership we look at a company and its activities in the context of these challenges. It’s not a case of ruling out working with any specific company or sector. I believe it is more logical and effective to concentrate on a transparent process that looks at every potential partnership in the light of what the Museum is here to do.

 

When it first becomes clear a relationship could develop further for an exhibition, education initiative or scientific project, our fundraising research team conducts a comprehensive review of each potential partner, from a wide range of independent third party sources. An evaluation panel of senior staff examine the report to inform their decision about the suitability of the sponsorship. Every organisation we work in this way with goes through the same rigorous procedure. The process we follow is in line with published guidelines from many similar organisations.

 

Veolia Environnement’s connection to Veolia Transport’s activities in the West Bank and the Tovlan landfill site were raised in the context of the wide range of activities of the entire group of the Veolia companies. The political situation in Palestine is very complex with difficult political aspects; Veolia Environnement are best placed to explain their involvement in the area.

 

The Museum’s role is to be the voice of authority on the natural world. We don’t campaign or lobby for ourselves, any other organisation or cause beyond our core mission: to maintain and develop our collections to promote the discovery, understanding, responsible use and enjoyment of the natural world.

 

Sharon Ament

Director, Public Engagement

Natural History Museum