Sustainability In Practice: An interview with Diane Woodham

  • 28/02/2024
  • Written by NOE CPC

In this interview, we delve into the world of sustainability within healthcare procurement through the eyes of Diane Woodham, Sustainability and Social Value Manager at NHS Supply Chain: Facilities and Office Solutions. With over three decades of experience in procurement and a significant shift towards sustainable practices, Diane shares pivotal moments, challenges, and achievements that highlight the crucial role of sustainability in healthcare. Join us as she unfolds her experiences, insights, and the ongoing efforts to encourage a sustainable future in healthcare procurement.


What was the pivotal moment that you recognised the importance of sustainability in healthcare procurement?

It came in 2019 when I was working as a Category Manager and completing my Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply (CIPS) qualification, and chose to centre my final project on sustainability. This of course led me to research deeper into the various initiatives and the potential within this field, and it was this exploration that made me realise the critical role of sustainability in procurement.

I would say it was somewhat of an epiphany, which not only opened my eyes to the broader implications of sustainability, but also resulted in me writing a five-year sustainability plan for our procurement category areas, subsequently marking the beginning of a significant shift in my career towards focusing on sustainable practices, which was no small change for me.  

Do you think your experience in procurement has impacted the way you consider sustainability initiatives and activity?

Yes, my experience has indeed had an impact. It has made me more mindful of the various challenges and conflicting requirements inherent in procurement roles. This background has been invaluable, as it influences my approach to not only meet the basic requirements but also to strive for better. My past roles have deeply influenced me, encouraging me to challenge our team and push them to think differently, with the aim of setting our own higher standards, and continually striving for better practice.

How do you integrate the concept of ‘practice makes perfect’ in developing and implementing sustainability processes?

The concept of 'practice makes perfect' is integral to our approach. We continually review our activities to identify areas for improvement. By learning from past experiences and applying these lessons to future projects, we aim to enhance our sustainability efforts. My role allows me to guide the team across different categories, using insights from various projects to inform and improve our practices. Creating a domino effect of ongoing learning and improvement.

Can you describe a specific sustainability challenge you've faced and how you addressed it?

One instance that stands out to me most prominently was during the tendering of the NHS National Healthcare Uniform Framework. We knew it was essential to include sustainability and social value requirements, but we were also trying to continually ensure that value for money was not compromised. Our objective was to balance the cost of the garments manufacture, whilst ensuring we stipulated more forward-looking sustainability requirements, to reduce the environmental impact nationally. We knew it was the perfect opportunity to influence change, and that it would have been an incredible missed opportunity had we not.  

Ultimately it was stipulated that suppliers were to be part of, or working towards membership within the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI), that all garments must include 100% recycled polyester, and that all packaging must be kept to a minimum and where it is entirely necessary should be made from 100% recycled polymer. Further underpinned with the ethical and social value considerations of suppliers, ensuring we are due-diligent when it comes to Modern Slavery for example.

It wasn’t easy to get to this conclusion, and it involved a huge amount of discussions within the supplier dialogue phase of the process, but we managed to make the uniform more sustainable whilst also achieving a nearly 30% national average saving. Demonstrating that it is possible to align financial and environmental goals effectively. You just have to take the time to find the right combination.

Do you have any further plans for this Nationally scoping project?

Absolutely. Looking to the future we are also hoping to address the potential of creating a circular economy for healthcare uniforms. This is complicated in the NHS due to the diverse scope of waste policies and waste management agreements currently used across NHS trusts, but that won’t stop us from trying.

To help us understand this complexity better we have formed a project group specifically focussed on addressing these challenges, and have conducted a survey with National Healthcare Uniform stakeholders. This has been rewarding, as it brings together various stakeholders to collaborate on sustainable solutions.

We are now using the findings from this survey to help form the basis of guidance and resources for trusts, to help them make informed decisions. Although still in its early stages, this work is crucial for developing solutions that are practical and tailored to the unique needs of each trust.

How are you working to educate and influence our team and suppliers about sustainability?

Education is a key part of our strategy, and we leverage a variety of resources, including webinars and training provided by NHS England and Central Commercial Function (CCF) to upskill our team and suppliers. As an organisation NOE CPC have made the carbon literacy training, mandatory for our team and all category managers are tasked with ensuring that they highlight training opportunities to our current and potential framework suppliers such as the Carbon Reduction Planning (CRP) and Evergreen Assessment training. Sharing these resources helps ensure that everyone involved is equipped to contribute to our sustainability goals.

I would highly recommend these resources to any NHS organisation. The carbon literacy course, for example, is an excellent starting point for understanding sustainability basics. These educational tools are not only informative but are also engaging and help to demystify the complexities of sustainability, encouraging practical application in the NHS.

How do you stay informed about sustainability trends and best practice?

In short… I work closely with other people and regularly collaborate with my colleagues. We don’t always have the same challenges but in those differences is where we learn the most from one another. I regularly meet with my peers to share best practice, lessons learned and to take inspiration from one another on how to approach something.

I also like to listen into conferences or webinars that I think look interesting. You’ll often find me signing myself up to things. I always find something unexpected to take away from them. 

In one short sentence, what would you say is the single most important step in trying to achieve sustainable and socially responsible outcomes?

Hmmm… Having the right people to facilitate change. 


It's clear that the journey towards sustainability in healthcare procurement is both challenging and rewarding. We invite you to explore further resources and content that can aid in your quest for best practices by visiting our #PracticeMatters resources and content at:, and stay up-to-date with the latest sustainability activity within NHS Supply Chain at

Let’s continue to embrace change, learn, and grow together in our efforts to make healthcare procurement sustainable and socially responsible.

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