CPO Crunch: Hydrogen making its mark

David Rae

Procurement can play a pivotal role in helping to find solutions to societal challenges

The concept of ‘energy transition’ fascinates me. It’s a simple phrase; one that rolls off the tongue and suggests a satisfyingly straightforward process – stop using one form of energy, start using another. Simple, clean, impactful.

The reality, of course, is very different. Energy transition will be spectacularly difficult, messy and eye-wateringly expensive to achieve. It is also intensely political, threatening a foundational resetting of our existing world order, not to mention the replacement of an ageing but ubiquitous global infrastructure with an asset value running into trillions of dollars. So, as a concept, it’s fascinating.

Many different technologies will be part of the energy transition, but one that’s always jumped out at me is hydrogen – possibly because it comes from such a serene source, water; possibly because it’s such an abundant element, making up three-quarters of the mass of the universe; or possibly because it can provide huge amounts of energy with just water vapour as a by-product.

Whatever the reasons, it was great to hear similar excitement from one of our judges of the World Procurement Awards 2024, who joined a kickoff call we hosted last week. (A huge thanks to the 45 CPOs who make up our panel of judges and whose job it is to choose winners from the hundreds of global entries.)

John Wilgar, Chief Procurement Officer of NSG Pilkington, a major global glass manufacturer, shared during the call how excited he was that a multibillion-pound hydrogen-production facility, which will supply some of his facilities, received the go-ahead earlier this year.

With glass manufacturing being such an energy-intensive process, this type of innovation will be game-changing for the sector; and procurement is playing a key role in making it happen.

The conversation with judges reminded me of what a privilege it is to be a part of the Procurement Leaders and Sustainability Leaders communities, each providing unique opportunities to hear first-hand how global organisations are helping to change the world.

This might sound over the top, but as we heard from our members of the things that are exciting them about the year ahead, I was reminded of just how central procurement is to making progress on some of the major challenges we face as a society.

That includes gaining visibility of sub-tier supply chains to support national security, building new supply chains to support the rollout of cancer-beating drugs or launching new sustainable energy solutions that can change the game in terms of our net-zero ambitions.

First procurement, then sustainability, now R&D

Congratulations to our friend Amanda Davies, who has just added R&D to her role to make her the Chief R&D, Procurement & Sustainability Officer at Mars Wrigley. If ever there was a job title that provides an opportunity to make upstream and downstream impact when it comes to sustainable value creation, this is it. Amanda, who is another of our 2024 judges, is a passionate, focused leader so we’ll be watching with interest.

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