This paper examines the UK's approach to supply-chain resilience in four key sectors: food; water; pharmaceuticals; and energy. It argues that the UK government is trying to follow a partnership model between the public and private sectors to manage what it sees as an increasingly risk-prone security environment for various strategic goods and services.
Over the past twenty years, the UK has progressively adopted a risk-management approach to security, in which the priority for investment in resilience to all kinds of threat and hazard is informed by an assessment of the likelihood of harm or disruption to key British interests, and the seriousness of the likely impacts. Supply-chain resilience is for the most part regarded as a matter for the (now largely private-sector) owners and operators of essential service providers in the national infrastructure sectors; but the UK government has tempered this market-based approach with moves towards a partnership model to manage what it sees as an increasingly risk-prone security environment for energy, food and some other strategic goods and services, in the medium- to long-term future.
This paper examines the UK's approach to supply-chain resilience mainly through a survey of government documents that deal with various aspects of the security of the supply of strategic goods, understood as those goods or services that are essential to the wellbeing of the British people and/or the economy.
About the Authors
John Tesh is an Associate Fellow at RUSI. He was formerly the head of the capabilities team in the Cabinet Office’s Civil Contingencies Secretariat, where he co-ordinated the National Resilience Capabilities Programme and contributed material on national resilience to the first three national security strategies, in 2008, 2009 and 2010. He was awarded a CBE in the 2013 New Year’s Honours list for this work on civil resilience and on the development of the National Risk Assessment, which was acknowledged as best-in-class internationally by the OECD in 2009. Since his retirement in 2012, he has continued this work on risk assessment and resilience through freelance consultancy to the OECD and to governments. He is a visiting senior fellow at King’s College London.
Jennifer Cole is a Senior Research Fellow at RUSI, working within the National Security and Resilience group. Since joining the Institute in January 2007, Jennifer’s research interests have focused on the UK’s emergency preparedness and response capabilities. Her particular interests and areas of expertise include CBRN(E), flood management, cyber-security, resilient communications and the role of training and exercising in resilience.
This paper was commissioned by the Crisis Management Research and Training (CRISMART) centre at the Swedish Defence University on behalf of Myndigheten för samhällsskydd och beredskap (MSB), the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency. It constitutes the UK country-report chapter of a larger study on how countries are planning to deal with disruptions in the security of supply chains, in particular: food and drinking water; energy resources (oil, natural gas, nuclear, solar, wind); and pharmaceuticals.