Where we started Social value at our heart

Initially a social enterprise funded by DEFRA, Action Sustainability Community Interest Company (ASCIC) was tasked with disseminating the work of the UK Government’s Sustainable Procurement Task force.

We quickly became the “go to” resource for sustainable procurement. In 2011, we teamed up with Business Enterprise Group to form Action Sustainability Trading Ltd in 2012. The business has since thrived, and in 2016 Ian Heptonstall and Shaun McCarthy bought out the remaining shares and are now sole owners of the business.

Also in 2016, we teamed up with Mark Lyster, Jean-Louis Haie and Danielle Mulder to form Action Sustainability Asia Pacific based in Sydney. Alistair Coulstock has since joined that business and Danielle has joined our business in the UK.  In 2020 the team in Australia were acquired by KPMG and Danielle left our business to pursue her passion for carbon and science-based targets. The UK trading company donates 2.5% of its revenue (regardless of profit) to ASCIC, whose mission is to build the body of knowledge around sustainable procurement.

From March 2020, Covid-19 had a profound impact on everybody and our business was no exception. Our team needed to adapt to virtual delivery in everything we do. Whilst this was a major challenge, our substantial investment in technology enabled us to do so. The numbers of people engaging in our Supply Chain School doubled in 2020 and we increased our partnerships in the School to over 130. The sales of our performance tool increased and we saw a steady stream of clients requiring our consultancy services in our traditional sectors as well as new sectors such as health, catering and manufacturing.

Where we're at The last ten years

  • We consider ourselves leaders in everything we do.
  • Action Sustainability has instigated a wave of best practice in sustainable procurement; through our early work with DEFRA, our role as technical authors of sustainable procurement standard BS 8903, and more recently through the international standard ISO 20400.
  • We use our not for profit business to create a knowledge sharing resource www.iso20400.org
  • We believe in a holistic and collaborative approach to sustainability and have invested in leading edge initiatives and tools such as Supply Chain Sustainability School and our Sustainability Tool to back that commitment.
  • Our consultancy clients have won numerous awards and achieved recognition for their achievements with our help.
  • We are about action, we are about sustainability. There is a clue in the title.


We founded the business and worked with DEFRA to promote the work of the Sustainable Procurement Task Force whilst at the same time building a portfolio of consultancy clients. We worked with the Centre for Sustainable Design with EU funding to deliver a sustainable innovation programme, and with London Remade to deliver the Mayor’s Green Procurement Code.


In 2009 we were appointed technical authors to develop the world’s first standard for sustainable procurement practice, BS 8903, which was published in 2010.


Action Sustainability Trading Ltd was established with Ian Heptonstall, Shaun McCarthy and Business Enterprise Group. We established the Supply Chain School in 2012 and were honoured to be recognised as overall winners of the Supply Management Awards, supported by CIPS, for our work with the Supply Chain School. Shaun McCarthy was honoured with an OBE for services to sustainability and London 2012 in Her Majesty the Queen’s 2013 Birthday Honours List.


Shaun and Ian became sole owners of Action Sustainability Trading Ltd. We grew the Supply Chain School to become a leading collaboration in the UK and Australia. We opened a business in Australia. We led the UK and Australian delegations to develop ISO 20400.


Our business has enjoyed year-on-year growth and the Supply Chain Sustainability School is going from strength to strength approaching 100 Partners. Our Sustainability Tool is establishing itself as best practice with long term clients. Our colleagues in Australia were acquired by KMPG to build on the good work in their region.


Covid-19 forced us to convert all of our delivery to a virtual environment. Despite this, the business has continued to thrive, we anticipate 200 Partners in our Supply Chain School and our consultancy business continues to grow, being far less reliant on the construction sector. In 2022, less than 50% of our consultancy business was in construction. The growing demand for real demonstrable sustainability performance has led to significantly improved sales of our Sustainability Tool following substantial investment in the software and in people to support our clients using this tool.