Growing up on a council estate in Scotland, Leigh-Ann says she couldn’t have imagined that one day she would be managing a $30 billion supply chain. But last year, when she became the chief procurement officer of bp’s global businesses, that is precisely where the latest step on her career journey took her. It’s a complex role but one that Leigh-Ann manages to explain succinctly: “We buy stuff, big and small. We procure everything for bp from coffee cups for our petrol stations, all the way through to wind farm machinery, drilling rigs and massive processing facilities in the desert in Oman.”
The job comes with a lot of responsibility because procurement and supply chain management have always been fundamental to bp. In its upstream business, 80% of people hours are through the supply chain and about half of spending goes towards the third parties bp works with. And in the past two years, it has become even more strategically important. “The pandemic has accelerated the importance of sustainability in the energy transition, which has highlighted the role of supply chains in helping the planet get to net zero. Supply chains have always been important from a cost perspective, but I think the pandemic has elevated their strategic element,” says Leigh-Ann.
Procurement has a big part to play in bp’s net zero ambition. The company has 20 aims to support its ambition of getting to net zero, with Aim 20 seeking to establish a sustainable supply chain. “That includes working with our contractors on reducing their emissions,” Leigh-Ann explains. “For example, we've got a plan to take out approximately 24,000 tonnes of emissions in our production & operations business from our supply chain by 2022. That's the equivalent of taking 2000 vehicles off the road”.
At a wider level, Leigh-Ann believes that the energy industry as a whole has a vital part to play in the global effort to reach net zero. “bp’s purpose has got to make a difference to society. Achieving net zero without the involvement of energy companies is impossible and we have been one of the boldest with our net zero ambition.”
Helping people to grow and develop is second nature to Leigh-Ann and is something that she practices both in and outside of bp. “As a leader, I get to help people grow and develop. I’m proudest when I watch people who I’ve helped thrive,” she says. “When you help a younger colleague, it's the same feeling you get as a parent. I’m energized by that feeling of giving people a helping hand, a nudge or maybe some critical feedback to push them in the right direction. Watching what capable people can do when they're in the right environment is brilliant. And that's what I look back on and have loved most in my career.”
Thanks to Leigh-Ann, fostering growth is now being hardwired into the DNA of procurement at bp for the long term. The company is developing the ‘Procurement Athlete of the Future’ programme. It imagines what an agile and expert procurement professional of the future would look like and then creates a programme to help develop that skillset accordingly. “I am massively excited about this because, if there's one thing we do well, it is develop people. We've got amazing talent, and we continue to attract amazing talent. Their development is the big thing that's getting me out of bed in the morning.”
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