In pursuit of sustainability: ‘It’s the most sensible thing to do’
Speaking to Cranfield Sustainability Business Specialist Apprenticeship with Sustainability MSc student Archie Lasseter, we ask him where his passion for the subject comes from.
“I just think it’s the most sensible thing to do,” he replies.
Coming from a family of farmers and growing up in the countryside, Archie is naturally protective of the environment, but his interest in sustainability goes much further.
As Head of Sustainability at energy supplier Utilita, he understands the business imperative for change, and sees his further studies as an investment in his career.
“From a business perspective, from the direction of travel for economies, being and running a sustainable business – socially, environmentally and economically – is the sensible thing to do,” he explains.
“Sustainability often breeds opportunities for a business, be that in new markets, in new products and services, or in new ways to attract the same customers, so I see it as a very good employment opportunity as well as an exciting and interesting space to be in.
“Innovation is so heavily intertwined with sustainability that you’re always presented with new challenges; having to think about something in a slightly different way and come up with a novel solution to a problem. Sustainability never stays still and that’s one of the most interesting and attractive things about it – alongside the opportunities for personal growth, because sustainability is one of the fastest growing employee sectors of the economy.”
Archie began his sustainability journey by studying for an undergraduate degree in climate change, before getting a job in the energy sector. He joined Utilita in 2017, becoming Head of Sustainability two years ago.
It was while working on a strategy to transition the company to net zero by 2030 that Archie decided to pursue further studies at Cranfield.
“I had some skills in carbon accounting and in critical analysis of the cost effectiveness of different decarbonisation opportunities,” he explained. “But as I started to engage more widely in net zero I found significant gaps where I was lacking in some of the wider skills of sustainability like life-cycle assessment, sustainable innovation, sustainable procurement and sustainable leadership.
“I started to look around for qualifications, with the hope of taking advantage of the apprenticeship standard if I could.
“I was attracted to Cranfield by the university’s position as postgraduate specialist, as well as its reputation for providing quality education.
“The Sustainability MSc was broad, with great teaching content. The topics covered were exactly what I thought would give me all the theoretical expertise I needed, and the opportunity to apply the learning practically through the apprenticeship was exactly what I was looking for.”
With a practical element a key requirement in his original search, it isn’t surprising that the application of learning outside the classroom features prominently on Archie’s list of highlights from the course so far.
“Everything I’ve learned so far I have either applied immediately or I can see a way to apply it in my current or future roles,” he says. “The structure of the programme, where you learn the theory in the taught modules and then consolidate that learning by applying it back in the workplace works fantastically well. The teaching quality is second-to-none, and I like that we’re hearing from a mix of academics and industry experts.
“There’s also a real sense of camaraderie and a wider learning experience that comes with being in a cohort with 47 other people from very different backgrounds and industries. It’s really interesting to see how they are applying the learning in their industries. But, more than anything, they are all fantastic people that are here because they want to do something good for people and planet. To have a network like that and to make friends like that is invaluable.”
In addition to the value Archie and Utilita are gaining from his studies, Archie’s Sustainability MSc has also been a vital part of a nationwide campaign to reduce energy use and help families cope with the rising cost of living.
The Shop Smart, Cook Savvy campaign, in partnership with Iceland, will see UK-supermarket-first energy-saving cooking instructions introduced across Iceland own brand products, and energy-saving air fryers sold at discounted prices. Meanwhile, households can also benefit from Utilita’s High 5 advice on the top five ways to save more than £500 a year on their energy bill through energy-saving actions across cooking, energy use and water use.
“We had been running the Energy High 5 campaign for a while, giving people advice on how to reduce their energy use, and were thinking about expanding that out to encompass different functions in the home,” Archie explains. “We had the idea of a Cooking High 5 just as I was studying the Cranfield Sustainability MSc module on sustainable innovation, as part of which we were set an assignment to come up with an innovation at work.
“That assignment allowed me the opportunity to do all the underpinning research for our campaign, including the calculations on how much energy could be saved by using difference appliances and cooking practices.
“I briefed that back into the business and we then approached Iceland, whose customer base shares a lot of characteristics with our own. The idea immediately resonated with them, and the whole thing snowballed from there.”
In 2023, the need for the campaign is clear, and Utilita is now looking for partners to extend the reach of the energy, cooking and water high fives.
“National Energy Action forecasts that around 6.5 million people in the UK are in fuel poverty as a result of price increases,” Archie adds. “Add to that the cost of living crisis, and there are many more people who may previously have been doing OK but now need to start thinking carefully about where their money is going.
“This campaign isn’t just for Utilita and Iceland customers – it’s for everyone, regardless of who their energy supplier is or where they shop. And it’s also one with a positive message. If you’re reducing your energy consumption, you’re having a positive impact on the planet. So times are hard, but we’re saying not only can we help you to save money but you can help to save the planet too.”
Discover more about the Sustainability Business Specialist Apprenticeship with Sustainability MSc.
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