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Business School Student Team presents Sustainability Solution at MoD Conference

MoD’s Net Zero effort gets boost from students in Newcastle University’s ‘Hacking for Sustainability’ class

A student team at Newcastle University Business School has devised a solution for helping the Ministry of Defence (MoD) achieve its mandate of Net Zero by 2050, as a part of the inaugural “Hacking for Sustainability” course at the University of Newcastle.

Team members, Alexandra Papp and Niamh Valance, took the course as part of their MSc in Innovation, Creativity and Entrepreneurship, creating a way for MoD suppliers to measure what is typically the largest source of a company’s emissions. The team presented its findings at the World Environment Day Conference hosted by the UK Ministry of Defence on 16 June 2021.

The specific problem initially presented to the team was how to account for the carbon emissions of suppliers in the MoD’s procurement process. The problem focussed on the MoD’s ability to assess the carbon emissions of their suppliers to provide a fuller picture of the MoD’s carbon footprint. This fuller picture enables the MoD to prioritise suppliers based on their carbon emissions, particularly important after the Government’s release of Procurement Policy Note (PPN) 06/21 which mandates that any company who wants to win a contract with the government with a value of more than £5 million must commit to reaching Net Zero by 2050 and present their carbon reduction plan.

By interviewing 26 stakeholders involved in the MoD’s procurement process, the H4 Sustainability team identified three ways carbon emissions are measured, Scope 1, 2 and 3. The team’s discovery showed that MoD suppliers tended to focus on Scope 1 and Scope 2 measurements of their carbon emissions, but that the majority of MoD suppliers did not know how to measure their Scope 3 emissions; indirect emissions occurring in their value chain, including, for example, transportation and third party warehousing. ‘Scope 3’ emissions, depending on the nature of the organisation, could be the largest source of a company’s emissions, yet not included in the MoD’s supply chain analysis.

This neglect of ‘Scope 3’ and the lack of a common means to measure these indirect emissions was a key pain point the team identified when working on this problem. The team’s solution was a recommendation that the MoD create a standardised carbon emission measuring tool within which ‘Scope 3’ measurements would be clearly delineated. The team saw this as a key tool to prompt common understanding within the MoD and amongst MoD suppliers as to how to measure ‘Scope 3’ emissions. This recommendation will increase the visibility of the carbon footprint of MoD suppliers ultimately enabling the MoD to achieve its Net Zero targets.

The ‘Hacking for Sustainability’ course launched at Newcastle University’s Business School in February 2021, in partnership with the Common Mission Project. The course is designed to educate students on how to use Lean Start-up methodology to tackle the Ministry of Defence’s toughest climate change and sustainability problems. When asked about the value of the course, Dr Rebecca Casey, Module Leader, noted that it “equips students with the tools to respond to grand challenges by identifying and solving practical problems for stakeholders on the ground. Using their business and marketing knowledge [the students] can offer an alternative perspective and design useful solutions for their problem sponsors.”

Team members Alexandra and Niamh both plan to embark on careers in Product Development and both noted how they felt that the course had set them up for success. Alexandra also noted how the course had ‘transformed’ the way she thinks about sustainability. She noted “sustainability is not optional, it is a necessity. I will take this understanding forward in my future career”. Alexandra is now intending to write her dissertation on sustainability and the role of education. Niamh echoed; “it was a priceless experience that taught me a lot about the purpose of the MoD, the importance of protecting the environment and Net Zero goals. I also want to take this forward and apply it in my future career”.

One thought on “Business School Student Team presents Sustainability Solution at MoD Conference

  1. It was a great talk. Really interesting and informative, thank you for joining us for our World Environment Day 2021 event.

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