In the last GREEN4SEA Forum, Dr. Kostas G. Gkonis, Director / Secretary General, INTERCARGO highlighted that the Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) have become the new normal for maritime stakeholders; industry is currently focusing on how to apply a holistic transformation of its operations to address ESG challenges and apply requirements from a monitoring and reporting perspective.
SAFETY4SEA: What are the ESG challenges/ barriers and drivers towards sustainable shipping?
Kostas Gkonis: The main challenge and barrier is the G part. The Governance. If decision-makers do not grasp the reality and what is expected from them and their companies, nothing will happen, them and their companies will be laggards. In fact allow me to say they will belong to history, as I do not quite see a future for such companies lacking the vision, the leadership, the G element. One key ESG driver we should not by any means neglect in our industry is Safety. In an increasingly complex environment, the fundamental dimension of Safety needs to be brought back to center stage. I have the privilege and responsibility of participating in the steering committee of Together in Safety, an Initiative championed by a number of organizations, including of course INTERCARGO, where this critical dimension has been identified, so that it forms integral part of our messaging and deliverables.
S4S: What should be the next steps towards an ESG-ready industry?
K.Gk: A new Mindset is needed. Our industry cannot simply rely on its history, the achievements and successes of the past. We need to build on the past for sure, there lie the foundations of this amazing industry that shipping is. But a new mindset, call it vision and perspectives if you prefer, are needed and inevitably new visionary people also need to be trusted to deliver on the challenges of today & tomorrow. This is step 1. Step 2 is collaboration & partnerships. Let us be under no illusions. ESG is here to stay as the new mindset, reality and expression of basic expectations in a broader stakeholders’ economy and environment. But one claiming that can walk the walk on their own are largely disillusioned, be it as free riders or self-proclaiming leaders who can be taken for simply arrogant. This is not a lonely game, this is a collective challenge and ambition for the many peoples and societies of this one planet.
S4S: What are the best practices to address ESG challenges?
K.Gk: There is no single approach, no fit-for-all solution. ESG is by no means prescribed in, or delivered via, one scheme. Instead what is needed is a broader mindset and perspective and employing multiple approaches , in order to narrow down on, or indeed formulate, an appropriate set of best practices for the concerned sector and specific company, which can and even should be distinct in their content. Collaboration as already said, engaging in partnerships, goes without saying as a basic best practice. Overall, one should not expect to find answers or implement them through quick fixes. ESG is a journey and process that materializes in a longer term.
S4S: What is the importance of ESG, industry wide and its impact to strategic thinking?
K.Gk: ESG is existential. Period. Addressing ESG in some way or another translates into a ‘license to operate’. It is all about strategic thinking, planning and delivering, but action is needed now to deliver before it is too late. I am afraid many, especially smaller sized, companies are so much focused on the present and short-term survival that they miss the strategic element and thinking. If consumed in and focused on the short term, the immediate profit, the opportunity will be lost. One may be a master of adaptation and operational effectiveness, but without a strategic mindset there is no tomorrow!
S4S: What are the lessons to be learned and applied from other industries and key priorities?
K.Gk: There are enormous lessons to be learned and benefit to be gained, but we cannot simply replicate; see eg the safety dimension that is fundamental in our industry. There is our own story to tell, history and achievements to cherish, and future to build without easy imitations or compromises. Also, we should not accept any finger pointing by interests who are superficial in their judgements or badly informed and positioned to exercise such scrutiny.
But let us focus on the shipping companies and community as the primary concerned stakeholders, which deliver real tangible value and services. Some key priorities to be set:
-Introspection should be over; we need to be out there in the public domain, modernizing our image, messaging and value offering,
-Attracting talent, and being receptive to new ideas and trends
-The old style of big egos and unchallenged experience should also be over.
-ESG is an existential question; latecomers and laggards are likely to fail to survive. Instead, it is imperative to recognize the value of ESG and act upon it at the core of our business, in order to secure survival in this decade & beyond
-ESG actually offers huge opportunities to secure business success in the future.
The views presented hereabove are only those of the author and not necessarily those of SAFETY4SEA and are for information sharing and discussion purposes only.