Charting a Sustainable Course: A Deep Dive into the DDRC’s Latest Whitepaper on UK Defence Sustainability

Exploring the Circular Economy, Technological Advances, and Global Contexts in the UK Defence Sector’s Path to Sustainability

The DDRC Whitepaper titled “Towards a Sustainable UK Defence Sector: Leveraging capability” by James MacGregor focuses on the urgent need for sustainability in the UK’s Defence sector. Published in May 2023, the paper argues for adopting a circular economy approach to achieve the Ministry of Defence Climate Change and Sustainability Strategic Approach (CCSSA) targets (Page 2).

Key Points:

Sustainability and Defence: The paper emphasizes that sustainability is becoming increasingly critical for the UK Defence sector. It highlights that the sector accounts for over half of the UK Government’s carbon dioxide emissions. The paper suggests that sustainability should be integrated into strategy, business, and operations immediately (Page 2, 4).

Circular Economy: The paper advocates for a circular economy to reduce consumption and waste, increase material use efficiency, and foster innovative solutions. It outlines the seven ‘Rs’: recover, recycle, refurbish, remanufacture, repair, repurpose, and reuse. The circular economy is seen as a way to build momentum and resilience for a sustainable transition (Page 5, 6).

Role of Data: Technological advances, particularly in data and digital capabilities, are identified as crucial for driving sustainability in the Defence sector. The paper argues that a strong digital element will support efficient investments (Page 5).

Global Context: The paper situates the UK Defence sector within a global context, mentioning that NATO has enshrined ‘climate change’ as a pillar of the alliance. It also notes that similar environmental and climate change strategies have been published by the European Union, the USA, Canada, Australia, and Sweden (Page 4).

Risks and Opportunities: The paper discusses the wide range of impacts, factors, and unknowns that sustainability brings, including political change, migration, flooding, crop failure, and more. It suggests that both technological advances and sustainability present convergent risks and opportunities (Page 6, 8).

Leading Practices: The paper points out that most civilian sectors have developed their own approaches to sustainability, providing an opportunity for the Defence sector to learn and adapt these practices (Page 9).

Regulatory Framework: The paper mentions that there are several bodies focused on sustainability improvement, including the European Commission’s IF CEED, the Energy & Environment Capability Technology Group (CapTech), and the European Defence Agency’s Consultation Forum on Sustainable Energy in the Defence and Security Sector (CF SEDSS) (Page 7).

In summary, the paper makes a compelling case for immediate action in integrating sustainability into the UK Defence sector. It offers a comprehensive roadmap, emphasizing the circular economy and the role of data and technology, to meet the challenges posed by climate change and other environmental factors.

Access the full report in DDRC Publications.

Written by Travis Street

Lecturer and Researcher with specialisation in AI, ML, analytics and data science at the Universities of Surrey and Exeter.

The Race for Data Supremacy: Achieving decision advantage to deter future conflicts

Harnessing Data for Defence: Inaugural Data Study Group at DDRC