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Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL)

Richard Wardlaw is Chief of Defence Logistics and Support at the Ministry of Defence and former Lieutenant of the British Army.

In July 2019, the University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL) and Earth on Board ran a half-day briefing for the Board of the British Army. In this interview with Lindsay Hooper, Executive Director at CISL, Richard explains why he commissioned the course, why climate change is important to the Army and his own personal leadership experience.

The interview focuses on core themes including; the strategic implications of climate change for the Army, and how the Army is responding; engaging external stakeholders; and personal leadership.


CISL and The British ArmyRead the full interview here

Read a short summary of the interview below.


Core topics

  • How sustainability and particularly climate change relate to the Army.
  • The risks and opportunities climate change poses for the Army and how it is responding.
  • How action on climate change relate to the Army’s purpose and role.
  • How the Army sees its role in relation to enhancing national resilience to sustainability-related risks.
  • Barriers and opportunities in the execution of the Army’s strategy.
  • How to achieve internal leadership alignment and how to overcome internal barriers.
  • How to engage with external stakeholders critical to the execution of the Army’s strategy.
  • How the Army’s climate change ambitions relate to its recruitment strategy
  • Personal motivations that sustain leadership of an ambitious strategy
  • How to develop leadership to ensure that you can credibly drive sustainability change


"The Army Board are keen to get on the front foot and see responding to climate change as an opportunity and not a threat. Responding in a way that drives innovation and change is entirely consistent with the purpose of the Army and Defence in the UK."


"Responding to climate change is such a critical challenge that we cannot afford to compartmentalise it or bury it in a sub-strategy; my view is that it must sit at the core of the Army’s strategy and shape our decisions across a broad range of activities."


"We face the challenge of making decisions that will deliver for the long term, while remaining credible in the short term. When one sets out long-term benefits, as I was able to do as I armed myself with arguments from Cambridge and asked my team to develop cases over a longer timeframe, the economic case for most major decisions becomes logical and viable."


"One of the most important lessons I have learned as a leader is that, as leaders we are incomplete; there is no ‘complete leader’, we are always developing and growing. One of the areas for personal development that I identified was that I needed to broaden and deepen my knowledge base to enable me to play my part in leading a strategic response to climate change."