in Defence

UK Defence ESG Charter launched

Posted 25 January 2024

The UK Defence ESG Charter was launched today - spearheaded by the UK's trade body for Britain’s defence, aerospace and security industries, ADS - which has been signed by some of the biggest names in British industry.

Defence firms working across the UK have signed up to a new ESG Charter highlighting their commitment to cutting carbon emissions, building a more diverse and dynamic workforce and keeping Britain safe.

Kevin Craven, CEO of ADS, described the Charter as the “foundation for a better sector” and encouraged more firms to sign up to its aims.

He said: “The UK is facing an increasingly complex threat landscape: war in Europe, rising cyber-attacks and the devastation of climate change all pose risks to our national security and economic prosperity.

“We must work together to strengthen our defences, support our armed forces, cut carbon emissions, build a more diverse workforce and deliver sustained growth to every nation and region in the UK.

“Sustainability is not the responsibility of a single organisation, it is an effort that requires collective action. This ESG Charter outlines our firm commitment to building a stronger, fairer and more prosperous Britain.

“It is the foundation for a better sector. We want to enhance our sustainability and secure the long-term access to financial services that are vital for Britain’s safety and prosperity.”

The ESG Charter outlines the industry’s commitment to cutting carbon emissions to help Britain reach its net zero target by 2050 and develop innovative new technologies for the armed forces.

It also pledges to cut Britain’s skills gap by forging more partnerships with colleges, universities and local communities to encourage more people to consider careers in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM).   

The Charter also outlines a commitment to improve diversity, equality and inclusion across all levels.

The value of the sector to keeping Britain’s national infrastructure safe, supporting the armed forces and shoring up the nation’s defences against cyber-attacks are also highlighted in the document.

It commits to “improve and sustain a strict, efficient and comprehensive export control system” and play a pivotal role in Britain’s prosperity and protection.

The defence sector delivers a £9.8 billion boost to the British economy annually and employs more than 147,500 people. Seventy per cent of defence jobs are outside London and the industry supports 6,900 apprenticeships.

The Charter’s inaugural signatories are ADS, Airbus, Babcock, BAE Systems, Leonardo, MBDA, QinetiQ and Thales.

Minister for Defence Procurement, James Cartlidge MP said: “The invasion of Ukraine has highlighted in the starkest possible way the fragility of the most important social value – peace.

“It’s more important than ever we stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our partners to ensure they can continue protecting our way of life, alongside becoming more sustainable, reducing skills gaps and promoting a diverse workforce.

“I urge more companies to sign up to the new UK Defence ESG Charter, which champions the vital role the sector plays in Britain’s security and prosperity.”

Image copyright Shutterstock

The UK Defence ESG Charter hosts nine key statements of intent under three overarching pillars. The three pillars are based on the standard ESG structure:

  • Climate transition & clean tech
  • Societal impact
  • Governance & ethics
  • Under the climate transition & clean tech pillar, the commitments cover decarbonisation, clean tech and climate solutions, and critical mineral traceability.
  • The societal impact pillar focuses on improving the diversity, equality and inclusion (DEI) of the sector, inspiring the next generation into STEM roles and furthering the sector’s positive impact on communities through meaningful partnerships.
  • Finally, the governance & ethics pillar commits to greater cyber resilience, growing the UK’s sovereign capabilities and skills and continuing to ensure export safety and success.

Ben Bridge, Airbus Defence and Space UK Chair, said: “Our national security has never been so important in this increasingly volatile geopolitical world. The Defence Industry plays a pivotal role in providing that security and we must balance the very important elements that come with responsible ESG investment and the need to ensure a solid and thriving defence sector. Now is the time to invest more, not less, in our sovereign capabilities.”
David Lockwood, CEO of Babcock, said: “Babcock is proud to be a part of creating this important industry charter. Now more than ever, what we do matters. This collaborative effort will help us to drive action and generate prosperity, as we strive for excellence in service of creating a safe and secure world, together.”
Dr Charles Woodburn, CEO of BAE Systems, commented: “We can’t build a sustainable future alone. Our industry plays a vital role supporting national security and the UK’s prosperity, driving growth through investment in new jobs, new technologies and our communities.

"By collaborating with our peers, partners and suppliers, we can boost our economic contribution, work towards net zero and demonstrate that sustainability and innovation can go hand in hand.”
Clive Higgins, Chair and CEO, Leonardo UK, said: “The Defence & Security sector has a vital role to play in ESG. Our national security underpins our freedom as a society and lays the foundations for economic, social and environmental progress. As a major investor in UK research and technology, our industry will be able to provide great life opportunities for the nation’s next generation of scientists and engineers, while embracing the tools of the digital age as a route towards a more secure and sustainable future.”

Chris Allam, Managing Director of MBDA UK, commented: “We are proud to be a launch partner for the ADS ESG Charter which aligns with our own ESG strategy that sets out our firm commitment to the highest levels of good governance, enhanced social value and net zero.”

Steve Wadey, Group Chief Executive Officer of QinetiQ, said: “Our industry plays a vital role in protecting what matters most for a sustainable future – our safety and security.  By joining forces to make this collective commitment on sustainability we will also harness the many positive contributions we make to the UK’s prosperity and the protection of the environment.”

Alex Cresswell, CEO and Chairman, Thales UK, commented: “I am proud that Thales is a signatory to this charter, which articulates clearly how the defence industry contributes to building a safer, more secure society, helping provide the foundation needed to realise a more inclusive and environmentally responsible world.”

In 2022, the defence sector contributed £9.8 billion in value add to the UK economy, £22.8 billion in turnover and £7.4 billion in exports (on a three-year average), whilst 147,500 people are employed in the sector including 6,900 apprentices. The average annual earnings in the defence sector is £37.4k, which is 12% higher than the UK average.

ADS is the trade association for the UK’s defence, security, aerospace and space sectors. It has more than 1,300 members across all four sectors, of which over 1,000 are Small and Medium Size Enterprises (SMEs). In 2022, ADS sectors added value of £37 billion to the UK economy and generated a turnover of £82 billion.

To download a pdf copy of the Charter’s key commitments, click here.

For more information and to get involved:



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