Innovation for sustainability 6. Leigh Hudson

Leigh Hudson (LinkedIn) is Sustainable Fuels & Carbon at International Airlines Group (IAG, which owns British Airways amongst others) and Board Member at Ikigai Capital, which aims to become a leading international, technology-neutral ‘energy transition platform’.

She role is developing new technologies for sustainable aviation fuel, by supporting innovators and influencing policy. A themes I took to her answers:

  • Innovation for sustainability is part of the corporate strategy function, which would have been unthinkable a decade or more ago.
  • There is an accelerating pressure for, and pace of, innovation for sustainable aviation fuels.
  • Progress takes time, and therefore resilience, patience and a strong sense of direction. Leigh talks about working with a company for 10 years before getting to demonstrator stage. Some of that time was about getting the technology ready, some was about the demand for sustainable aviation fuels rising.

Some people find aviation controversial, and see it as a symbol of our unsustainable situation, seeing it as an addiction to a destructive form of consumption which is highly unequally distributed. For them, there can be no sustainable form of aviation, and effort put into it is a waste of precious resources at this crucial time.

But if technological innovation can deliver, then could there be sustainable aviation, which is not highly damaging in each flight? It is a big ‘if’, with many things needing to go right for there to be truly sustainable aviation. But that was why we were comfortable having this interview. Such innovation efforts are a legitimate part of creating a sustainable world for all.

This is part of a series of interviews about innovation for sustainability conducted for the UCL Institute for Sustainable Resources, as a contribution to a module in this Masters.  You can find out more about these interviews, and the module, here.

Listen to the episode:

Here are the times of each of the questions.


0:49 – Q1. What is your role and organisation? 

1:39 – Q2. What role does your department / function have in the organisation? What is expected from you? How does that connect to the organisation’s strategy?

3:25 – Q3. How is ‘sustainability’ framed in your organisation? (For instance: are there specific key words or phrases? Is it only environmental?)


6:10 – Q4. Can you tell us the story of a good example of your work on innovation for sustainability?


17:33 – Q5. What are the key methods and practices you use for innovation for sustainability?

24:35 – Q6. What are the biggest challenges you face, and how do you overcome them?

27:05 – Q7. If there was one thing policymakers could do which would make your work significantly easier, what would that be?


27:32 – Q8. What are your organisation’s priorities on innovation going forward and why?


1 thought on “Innovation for sustainability 6. Leigh Hudson

  1. Pingback: ‘Innovation for sustainability’ interview series passes 2,500 downloads | David Bent

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