Oli Stradling - My City Science Journey

20 February 2023

What is your position at City Science?

My official job title is sustainability consultant. I work with Laurence Oakes-Ash (our CEO) on Carbon Accounting and Finance and with Joe McQuillen (Principal Energy Consultant) on Energy & Sustainability Projects. All of this essentially focusses on carbon reduction - our ultimate mission.

How did you come to be working at City Science?

I studied a combined honours Geography and Sustainability degree at the University of Exeter from 2017 to 2020. After graduating, I got my first job in the sustainability team at a group of retailers. This role involved a wide range of tasks, including sustainable procurement strategy, freight decarbonisation, and keeping up with the latest relevant regulations. In the year and a half I worked there I discovered I had a particular interest in carbon reduction. It was then I learned about an opportunity at City Science. They asked me to do a presentation modelling carbon emissions for the retailer Next as part of the recruitment process. It was a big challenge, but I found it really interesting and since I joined the City Science team, I have been able to expand on the thinking and approach in the projects I am working on.

Can you give an example of a project that you're either working on or have been working on?

I specialise in carbon modelling and my current main project is focused on supply chain carbon emissions. There are ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) providers that model carbon emissions, mainly for listed companies. Our project is to model it differently. They use top-down modelling, based on revenue and costs. Our approach is bottom-up and based on company processes. When you’re using the top-down approach, you’re applying a company's financial data to an input-output model which then applies a per £ carbon figure to each supply chain carbon category, based on average industry carbon figures. This is not a very accurate way of doing it. We’ve built a series of bottom-up models that use company-specific data and accurately model specific processes and calculate carbon based on a much more detailed understanding of underlying activities. Also, as I mentioned, current providers focus on large listed companies but most companies in the UK are SMEs and the top-down approach doesn’t really factor down to SMEs. Instead, we’re starting with SMEs and scaling up. Since emissions from the supply chain account for ~90% of emissions of large companies, being able to calculate emissions on a much more disaggregate basis is also essential to help larger companies decarbonise. At this stage, we’re working with SMEs that already have a good understanding of their carbon emissions so we can test the accuracy of our modelling. So far we’re within about 5% of the actual emissions, which is pretty amazing. We’ve recently won additional phase 2 funding from SBRI UK to scale our tool and expand it to many more sectors.

What motivates you most about the work you do at City Science?

I'm passionate about sustainability in a holistic sense. It's what drives me to get up in the morning and do my work. We're helping businesses and local authorities decarbonise, and leading cutting-edge research projects to make sure we’re developing the tools industry needs. Plus, I get to work in many different areas here. I'm able to switch between projects, explore new things, and learn more about specific topics. Sustainability is a vast field and I love the variety.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

I live with a few friends in Cornwall, so I have access to a pretty amazing coastline. Most of my free time is spent surfing and searching for the best waves. I’m also really into veggie cooking and keeping up to date with sustainability innovation.

If you could wave a wand and change some aspect of policy or legislation, what would it be and why?

I would want to make the UK energy independent which is entirely possible using existing renewable energy technologies. A starting point should be easing planning laws on renewable energy technologies like onshore wind and a mammoth retrofit rollout across the UK. In addition, a form of carbon tax which taxes carbon and biodiversity-destructive industries and products and removes VAT from solar and low-carbon products to reduce their green premium would be great news.