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How the Postgraduate Certificate in Sustainable Value Chains help me learn to overcome sustainability hurdles

18 May 2017 – Chris Bellamy, former Product Creation Engineer at Jaguar Landrover was selected by the company to take part in CISL’s PCSVC, which led him to champion sustainability and learn how to embed sustainability principles in the luxury car market.

I was deeply interested in sustainability issues related to production at Jaguar Land Rover and became an outspoken internal advocate of the need to transition towards a low carbon economy.

Through my professional experiences, I had developed an increased awareness in the need to integrate sustainability within the luxury car market. Meeting consumer demands for improved performance, aesthetics, and functionality, alongside business demands for reduced costs and improved quality often do not align with reducing the environmental impact of vehicles. Finding win-wins, or proving the value and desirability of sustainable solutions are ways around this.

Whilst working on the body engineering for Jaguar’s first, all-electric car I wanted to make the vehicle design as sustainable as possible and worked closely with our sustainability team as the programme developed. Through our work, we were able to integrate a number of features and designs, as well as influence numerous decisions during the design process, that lead to dramatic reductions in the environmental impact of the production vehicle. It was the success of this work that lead to me being considered to take part in the Postgraduate Certificate in Sustainable Value Chains (PCSVC) programme.

Following an internal selection process, I was offered the opportunity to join the course at the University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL). The six-month course, with two, week-long, campus-based periods, offered me the perfect opportunity to develop a key competency in a first-class learning environment with access to the best available resources whilst also continuing with my day job.

My individual course project allowed me to examine how it might be possible to reduce the life cycle impact of a vehicle by 90 per cent. I then developed a business model and concept to ascertain whether there was a business case for such a product.

For our group project, we had a common objective to explore ways to reduce the impact of the plastic value chain and factor in elements such as recycling, contamination and the improvement of engineering standards. These areas connected centrally with my core work interests.

"To be surrounded by thought-inspiring leaders in such a well-designed environment on the most important issue of our time was a privilege."


Sorting plastics recycling

Inspired learning

After completing a Master’s degree in Engineering at the University of Cambridge, I had struggled to find postgraduate courses and training that matched the quality of teaching and challenge I was used to. The course at CISL more than met my expectations – it was definitely the best postgraduate course I have been on.

My intake included around 30 people from all around the world with a diverse range of backgrounds and skill sets who became a trusted network for collaborative learning. Open discussions led to the formulation of incisive ideas and helped inspire learning.

A variety of mainstream industry speakers offered a range of perspectives to consider. Being given the opportunity to engage in 1-2-1 discussions and get excellent advice from these experts proved invaluable. The case studies presented to us were so diverse and offered such valuable insight into a range of industries with a common thread. I was able to explore practical examples of how these skills were transferable.

The end result is that through the personal development I gained on this programme, I now feel more assured and confident when talking about sustainability-related issues with colleagues. The course has equipped me with a solid understanding of the wide-ranging technicalities relating to the subject and how I can use these in my work life. It didn’t give me the immediate answers to problem solve but I developed the tools to think through how to move towards solutions, engage others and take them on the journey with me. I really valued the insight that there was a necessity to make what I was developing relevant to others.

Understanding the fundamentals

One of the main advantages of taking the course was that it gave me a deep understanding of the fundamentals of sustainability, to ignore greenwash by looking at the facts from first principles to really differentiate between what is and isn’t sustainable.

After completing the course I made it my mission to build awareness of the need to integrate and develop sustainable value chains by presenting compelling stories to directors in the business to show feasible routes and products that could help them solve the challenges. From a technical perspective, the course allowed me to work at all levels, being able to take individual component decisions and link these into the bigger picture at a planetary level.

I recently took a sabbatical from my role at Jaguar Land Rover to enable me to work in new industries. I’m currently involved with a start up in Vancouver that creates custom 3D printed products. I’m now championing sustainability in this new industry which I wouldn’t have felt equipped for was it not for the PCSVC course.

Professionally, it was the most stimulating, rewarding and enjoyable time I’d had in years. To be surrounded by thought-inspiring leaders in such a well-designed environment, discussing the most important issue of our time was a privilege.

Carbon neutrality by 2050 is a goal we need to meet during my working life and the only way to solve it is to become part of the solution. To do this people must be trained to navigate the hurdles - the course is something that can help those wanting to achieve this.

Accredited by the University of Cambridge, the part-time Postgraduate Certificate in Sustainable Value Chains helps professionals create resilient supply chains. Previously known as PCSVC, the course is now offered as the Postgraduate Certificate in Sustainable Business (PCSB), with the option to select one of two streams: ‘Organisational focus’ or ‘Value chains focus’.

About the author

Chris Bellamy headshotChris is a Chartered Engineer who studied Manufacturing Engineering at the University of Cambridge before joining Jaguar Land Rover as a Product Creation Engineer, inventing and developing new vehicle concepts and customer focused features. Recently he moved to Vancouver, Canada where he is now a senior engineer for Wiivv Wearables, developing custom-fit 3D printed products being manufactured in high volume.

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Guest articles on the blog do not necessarily represent the views of, or endorsement by, the Institute or the wider University of Cambridge.