Leading the Road Ahead – IF&CR talks to Inver’s John O’Leary

Leading the Road Ahead – IF&CR talks to Inver’s John O’Leary

IF&CR talks to Inver managing director John O’Leary on his vision and plans for the company – for Inver to be recognised as a leader in decarbonising transportation in Ireland – a challenge which is becoming ever-more pressing and urgent as the nation works to meet its emissions targets.

John O’Leary was appointed as managing director of Inver in early 2023 – how has he found the role to date?

“Exciting, challenging and immensely enjoyable. We have a great team and a long established, diverse customer base spanning across marine, aviation, industrial, agricultural, domestic and of course the retail fuel sector. The journey to decarbonisation is challenging us to be more innovative in our thinking and every day is a learning opportunity” John told IF&CR.

A certified accountant by training, he spent 14 years in finance roles in the medical industry in the UK and Ireland, followed by two years in the global communications group WPP.

“I joined Inver as CFO in 2013 and moved to Greenergy, our parent company, to become European Head of Finance in 2018, based in Manchester. I was delighted to return to Inver as Managing Director in 2023.”

As the figure head for Inver, what strategic vision does John have for the brand/company?

“My vision is for Inver to be recognised as a leader in decarbonising transportation in Ireland through our use of low carbon fuels. A key element in achieving that is our jointly owned terminal in Foynes, the most modern terminal in the country. The flexible configuration of the terminal allows us to continually adapt to the increasing requirements associated with meeting Ireland’s Climate Action Plan targets” he said.

Inver is part of the Greenergy Group – can you outline Inver’s place in the over-arching company structure?

“Our purpose, mission and values are very much aligned. Greenergy has three decades of experience working to decarbonise transport fuels and is Europe’s largest manufacturer of biodiesel from waste. Greenergy is also investing in other next generation renewable projects to help drive the energy transition and support circularity.

“We work very closely with our Greenergy colleagues daily to deliver on our shared mission and values, which underpin our interactions both internally, with our customers, suppliers and broader community.

These are turbulent times for the oil/fuel industries – with policy and legislation driving change and moves towards carbon neutrality. This must bring up many challenges – and opportunities for Inver – how are you managing these necessary developments and changes?

“Yes, it can be challenging managing through such change, we manage by being flexible, adaptable and responsive to change. These qualities are demonstrated by our people daily and are our strongest asset in dealing with a constantly evolving industry.”

How and what can Inver offer a forecourt in Ireland – what are the main benefits of being an Inver customer?

Inver customers enjoy a host of compelling benefits that set us apart as a fast-growing fuel supplier in the market. We take pride in supplying traceable, quality-assured fuels through a flexible partnership ensuring seamless and straightforward collaboration. Our supply security is guaranteed through our advanced terminal in Foynes.

“With a strong reputation for honesty, safety, and dependability, Inver stands as a trusted choice with a positive recall amongst customers. Choosing to be part of the Inver family is also choosing to support your local community.”

Marketing and promotions are becoming increasingly important in such a competitive fuel marketplace – being a ‘visible’ brand and having a social media presence is more pertinent than ever – how does Inver’s outward facing marketing make a difference?

“It allows us a platform to connect with our customers and motorists, and we use this platform to engage, inform and educate. For example, fuel quality and traceability are paramount to Inver and our customers, and our quality assured fuel programme champions this through pump branding and point of sale materials at the forecourt. We have developed this programme to give our partners and motorists the assurance that fuel supplied by Inver meets the National and European fuel standards, and have complete traceability from the point of origin at the refinery to delivery at the forecourt” explained John.

“Social media plays a vital role and provides a direct channel to engage with motorists, connect with communities around our forecourts and communicate key messages. For example, we use social media channels to share updates on our charitable initiatives, new forecourt openings and product launches, including our recent launch of HVO at selected forecourts. We find that our presence on social media efforts fosters a sense of connection and engagement with motorists and our broader community.”

If you had to make a one-minute elevator pitch for Inver – what would you say?

“At Inver, we prioritise excellence in customer service and aim to build long-lasting relationships with our customers, whilst helping them to manage the energy transition journey and meet Ireland’s decarbonisation targets with our certified, quality-assured fuels.”

In the last edition of IF&CR we covered the story about Inver Energy rolling out HVO at selected forecourts. How’s that been going and what’s the feedback so far?

“It’s showing incremental week on week growth, which is very gratifying. The feedback has been positive, but it’s also clear that there is an ongoing requirement to educate other market sectors in addition to transport on the benefits that using HVO provides in reducing carbon emissions, when appropriately certified.   “

How will this progress – is HVO the future of/for Inver Energy?

“It’s certainly a key element of our transport decarbonisation strategy. We are fortunate to have a modern terminal already optimally configured to store and blend HVO along with other biofuels, that can help meet the increasing Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation (RTFO). HVO is also suitable for use in other sectors than transport, such as electricity generation, domestic heating and industrial applications. I therefore certainly see it playing an important role in our decarbonisation journey.

“Given global demand for feedstocks however, and the targets for advanced biofuels supply incorporated in the EU Renewable Energy Directive, I also see a role for other types of biofuels in the future.”

It could be argued that Ireland is just one giant village – supporting local communities is at the core for many businesses – how does Inver get involved at grassroot level, with local people, schools, sports and so on?

“We’ve very conscious that our forecourts, both Inver owned and those owned by our partners, are embedded in our communities. Our “Leading Lights” programme, which we operate in conjunction with our forecourt partners, provides on the ground support to those local organisations that share our common goals to support education, technology, children and family.  We maintain our own Inver community social channels and use these to highlight some of the great work done by the local groups we support” John told IF&CR.

“For a number of years, Inver has also sponsored the Junior Munster Rugby Supporters Club by providing free memberships for children. This gives children who play rugby or love to follow rugby an opportunity to interact and meet their heroes and be part of the Munster Inver Community.”