A part of the solution

There is one question many companies, including Grieg Star, ask these days: “Is our business sustainable?”. For Grieg Star, the answer is simple, yet very demanding: No, our business is not yet sustainable. So, what do we do?

By Matt Duke, CEO of Grieg Star

Many people relate “sustainable” to emissions, waste handling and energy consumption. But we also recognise the challenges related to micro plastics in the oceans and global warming. Sea levels rising and extreme weather patterns developing. In that perspective the way we do business today is not sustainable. We do not have a viable option to completely replace traditional fuel oil on our deep-sea vessels. This is an industry wide challenge, and one we will be part of solving.

Our starting point is clear: We need to learn what sustainability actually means. That goes for us as an organisation, our owners, our employees, and our partners. The UN Brundtland report “Or common future” gives a good interpretation. “Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” And at this point, it should be clear to us: The work we do in the next years, and the legacy we leave behind, will have dramatic and long-lasting effects on our children and grandchildren.

This leads us to some big challenges. It is a fact that we, at the moment, don’t have the technology to ship vast amounts of cargo around the world carbon free. But what if we had that technology and infrastructure today? Well, ship owners don’t have the financial strength to retrofit all their vessels at the same time. Nor the strength to over night replace their entire fleet. We should also be mindful that it won’t do the world any good if we simply stopped transporting cargos across the oceans. That alternative would lead to economic chaos, hunger and poverty. And that is an outcome that is obviously not sustainable either.

In Grieg we have had an extensive process. We know we need to transform into a sustainable company. What we have done, is to invite experts on the subject to help us to translate that need into our business strategy. The basis for this work has been the UN Sustainable Development Goals. We are not adding it to our strategy, but we use it as the foundation of how we plan, operate and develop our business.

Our owners have set an ambitious and motivating purpose for us in this journey: “We shall restore our oceans.”

It is critical to find new sustainable ways to do our business. To have a purpose and understanding of this criticality, is a great starting point.

In 2008, we committed to the 10 principles of the UN Global Compact. Last year, we decided to become a participant of the same. And we decided to join the UNGC Action Platform for Sustainable Ocean Business. We do that, because we recognise that we are not big enough to solve our problems alone. We need to work together with others.

To us, innovation is key to become sustainable. That is why we engage in several research initiatives . The outcome of those may help us find sustainable ways of building and operating a ship. That is also why we work to develop our company culture to embrace thinking differently. We believe that it is the human capital that will make us sustainable. So, we invest in competence, development and diversity. That is what we do. We must be rigged to innovate in order to discover new ways do our business. This is not just a process or tool; this is fundamental change in mind-set and culture.

Yet we do need structure and not only random initiatives. The actions we have decided on, are based on the UN Sustainable Development Goals. We have incorporated them into our overall business strategy. And so, if we fail on our SDG targets, we fail on our strategy.

It is not possible to have a sustainable business without having sustainability as one of your key targets. So, we have made the commitment, and we are delivering on our promises in small steps. For example, we were one of the first deep sea operators to install and use hybrid technology on Star Laguna. We were also one of the first to deploy real time sensor data capture towards our vessel support centre to optimise performance at every step. We are involved in many short- and long-term initiatives where we share our knowledge. Our partners in these are technology companies inside and outside the maritime space, energy providers, academia, government institutions and our commercial partner G2 Ocean. In that way we can together define new ways to:

  • improve performance in the short term, and
  • dedicate ourselves to finding and solving the problems in the long term.

We also were amongst the first to recycle ships under the new EU directive for responsible ship recycling. And we did it twice within six months, with the help of our valued partner Grieg Green.

IMO has set ambitious goals. Compared to 2008 performance, we shall reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by 40% within 2030 and 70% by 2050. In that journey we believe there will be many opportunities to find new business. Business that combine the global need to decarbonise with the adoption and innovation of new technologies.

A key component of sustainability is a healthy economic platform. To us, that means we need to have two thoughts in our mind at the same time:

  • we must deliver the best possible performance in our core business
  • we must ensure incremental improvements to our carbon footprint.

This is the key to our ability to grow and thrive. And from that position we can be curious, bold and open minded. We will find and develop – with partners – new solutions that deliver on our purpose: We shall restore our oceans.

In that meaningful journey I am confident we will continue to attract the best talent. We will build our competency and abilities, experiment and test hypothesis. There will be small sustaining innovations. There will be larger disruptive steps. Through those we will be part of the solution to our critical environmental problems.

After all, if you aren’t part of the solution, what are you?