Why the UK Supply Chain is so vital for Climate Innovation

An article by James Kavangh, Head of Group Marketing & Strategy at Alderley

1 July 2022

This week’s Climate Innovation Forum #CIF22 was a much-needed checkpoint between COP26 and COP27.  COP26 promised so much and, as the Energy Minister, Greg Hands, summarised in his introduction to the day, many positive steps have been taken since.  He importantly reinforced the UK’s “unwavering” commitment to Net Zero.  But the overwhelming feedback from the event’s delegates is that we’re moving too slow and are already behind plan in addressing climate change – a view echoed by the UK Climate Change Committee Progress Report, delivered this week.

The climate challenge is complex and multi-faceted, and no single sector or community can deliver our Net Zero needs.  It was therefore refreshing to see stakeholders from across industries and sectors – multinationals, government, financial institutions, investors, SMEs, start-ups – all contributing to the discussion and working towards a common goal: how do we stop the chronic pain of climate change getting worse?  And how do we accelerate the decarbonisation of the economy?  As one speaker put it, we shouldn’t just be aiming to reduce emissions, we should be looking to eliminate them.

Working as Head of Group Marketing and Strategy at Alderley, a UK Supply Chain company with significant interests across the global energy sector, it was important to see how the work we’re doing to support clients transition their businesses to become more efficient and greener fits into the bigger picture.

As Alderley tries to innovate to support its clients not just in the energy sector but also in pharma, marine and industrial, it’s evident that we are but one cog in a larger and more complex picture.

Indeed, the event set out to address what people and organisations need to do to instigate real change and deliver the innovation needed to succeed. 

Innovation in this context doesn’t just refer to technological innovation – there is plenty of that in the UK Supply Chain.  It requires innovation in policy, planning, finance and education and training to provide the right environment, structures, processes, and people to operate at speed – something that Damitha Adikaari, Director for Science and Innovation at BEIS, referred to as the “span” of innovation in his recipe for success.

It also requires closer working to define the right ‘needs-based’ innovations.  Anna Turrell, Group Head of Environment at Tesco, exemplified this through her introduction to the supply chain panel discussion, commenting: “It’s great to share a stage with my competition to discuss common challenges to reaching a common goal.  But we don’t need common solutions.  We need to work together on a single solution to better engage with and support our supply chains to deliver change.”

Patrick Arber from UK-based insurance company Aviva challenged delegates to ask their pension provider “where are you investing my money” and “what is the climate impact of my portfolio”.  If everyone applies the spirit of this challenge to the products and services we use, we will drive the reform and innovation needed to transition from climate change to real climate progress.

My key takeaway from the forum therefore is that we must work together to achieve our climate goals. 

This may sound obvious, and it’s far from ground-breaking, but the reality is we’re not currently doing it or at least we’re not doing it at the speed required. 

Collective multi-sector reform is needed to provide the right environment and mechanisms to innovate effectively and at speed. 

We all have a part to play in this: we must be relentlessly proactive in our pursuit of driving change – ‘climate-impact’ must become the key consideration for the choices we all make as businesses and as individuals.  This is as valid for the UK Supply Chain as much as it is to Tesco or Aviva.  We must innovate not just to thrive as businesses but also because the world needs our solutions to create a sustainable future.


James Kavanagh is Head of Group Marketing and Strategy at Alderley plc. Before joining Alderley, James was Global Product Marketing Manager for Range Rover at Jaguar Land Rover.


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