In our special column this month, we are happy to host an interview with Mrs Tara Norton, Chief Sustainability Officer at Navico, who has been working in the sustainability field for more than 20 years and gets excited when people show enthusiasm about sustainable practices. We can have big impact on our environment if we work together as an industry, Mrs Norton notes suggesting to prioritize root cause solutions to stop pollution and negative impacts proactively.
SAFETY4SEA: How did it come about that you joined shipping (marine) industry and your field of expertise specifically?
Tara Norton: I’ve been working in sustainability for more than 20 years, and I like stretching into new and innovative opportunities. When Navico was looking for a person to lead sustainability, I was so excited when my door was knocked on! Though I didn’t come from marine background, I love the ocean, lakes and water. I have worked with consumer electronics companies on sustainability questions, and with other transport- related industries. I ran an initiative called Railsponsible, which is about sustainable procurement for rail — not only rail operators, but train manufacturers, brakes, everything else that goes into trains. I’ve also worked on projects with shipping and ship breaking.
S4S: What about your current job/ role most excites you and why?
T.N.: Navico is committed to leading in sustainability, within itself and the industry, plus I’m empowered by our CEO to drive change, so the opportunity is really wide open. I’m also excited about the enthusiasm and passion I’m seeing from Navico staff on this. There are exciting industry changes that are happening now and that lay ahead, and there is a big impact we can have to improve our environment if we work together as an industry.
S4S: When you think of the word successful who’s the first person who comes to mind and why?
T.N.: Friends of mine who are truly happy. Being successful is really personal. We tend to spend too much time looking for role models to emulate, when it’s more important to look inward and define for yourself what you want, what makes you happy. Having a balanced life and making time for yourself and to enjoy life makes you better at your job. In our industry, Ellen MacArthur is a huge influence!
S4S: Who is/was the most influential person/mentor to you & why ?
T.N.: I thrive on external input, and so I try to have a sort of unofficial advisory board of people whose careers I admire that I can turn to. Mentors can be official or unofficial; I am lucky to have a paid coach at the moment. Mike Barry and Helen Crowley are two sustainability leaders who I like to count among important mentors to me.
S4S: What is the best and what was the worst piece of advice you’ve ever been given and why?
T.N.: Best piece of advice was from my mom: Be kind to yourself. That’s harder than it sounds. Worst advice was also from my mom: Go into banking. Not that there’s anything wrong with the financial sector, but it wasn’t for me! I didn’t take her advice, and I remember it being difficult at the time to tell her that I was going to join the US Peace Corps instead of exploring options in the financial sector.
S4S: What is the most worthwhile career investment (in energy, time, money) you’ve ever made?
T.N.: Getting my MBA at London Business School. The degree helped me learn skills and elevated my CV, but probably more important were the other students. My former classmates are still an unbelievably supportive network.
S4S: If you could give a piece of advice to your 18-year-old-self one thing, what would it be and why? What piece of advice should you ignore?
T.N.: Travel, explore, work hard, experience all that you can and you’ll figure it out. Don’t worry too much. There is an American saying that is terrible advice and should be ignored: “do what you love and the money will follow.” This puts a lot of pressure on young people. Just start with something you like, that makes you feel fulfilled in some way. Love for a job often develops over the years as you get better at it. Many twenty-somethings hate their jobs, while us forty-plusers tend to love ours! Why? We’ve honed our crafts.
S4S: In the last five years, what new belief, behavior, or habit has most improved your business life?
T.N.: I’ve really learned to trust my instincts and not be afraid. This kind of belief led me to the jungles of Madagascar on a project on one of the coolest professional experiences I’ve had, testing a cutting edge technology.
S4S: What would you like to change in the current maritime landscape and your area of expertise specifically and why?
T.N.: Prioritizing root cause solutions to stop pollution and negative impacts before they happen – e.g. keeping plastic out of the ocean in the first place – over dealing with cleaning up our messes afterwards. How do we work on those upstream issues?
S4S: What is your personal motto?
T.N.: You can only go forward.
The views presented hereabove are only those of the author and do not necessarily those of SAFETY4SEA and are for information sharing and discussion purposes only.