Linking sustainability with profit is the challenge the industry will have to overcome in order for the stakeholders to be able to embrace it.
SAFETY4SEA: How your organization may contribute towards sustainability? What are your plans to move forward?
Despina Theodosiou: As an executive in the shipping industry, I believe passionately in thinking about the future and how it is our responsibility to shape it in the right way. Sustainability is about so much more than “the bottom line”. We see more and more organizations identifying and acknowledging the factors in their environment which affect them in today’s connected world.
WISTA is the largest network of women in the shipping and trading industry. We believe that diversity brings innovation, and thus a strong future for the maritime industry. The shipping industry is always changing; therefore, we plan to continue building opportunities for diversity and inclusion, for professional development and skill competency moving forward. These are powerful tools which support the emergence of new ideas focused on sustainability.
S4S: In your view, what would be the biggest shipping challenge in the years to come with respect to sustainable shipping for the industry stakeholders?
D.Th.: The undeniable truth is that businesses’ main goal is to make profit and no business is functioning purely out of selfless motives. In recent years however, we have also come to realize the growing effect our surroundings have on our businesses on many levels (environment, regulatory, society etc.). It takes time, effort and resources to re-shape organizations and minds who have been focused on profit for such a long time and have them not only accept but also pursue sustainability. Linking sustainability with profit is the challenge the industry will have to overcome in order for the stakeholders to be able to embrace it, but we will have to do this if we want a viable future.
S4S: Which are the key drivers and barriers towards sustainable shipping?
D.Th.: Sustainable shipping should focus around tree main pillars: Environment, Society and Economy. Different factors affect the development of sustainability in shipping, and with many stakeholders involved in the process, one of the critical factors in driving Sustainable Shipping is the understanding of all parties’ concerns, needs and expectations through constructive dialogues and enabling synergies.
Tradition and technology should be equally welcome in shipping; these are what make our industry what it is today.
S4S: What is your organization doing differently in order to prepare for a more sustainable future?
D.Th.: We have always looked to eliminate “waste”. Our organizations today accumulate a vast amount of data. We all have the tools and resources to do this. However, what makes the difference is how do we manage all this gathered data? We need to be smart about it as true sustainability lies in filtering through all the information we receive daily from various sources and understanding how it impacts us. Only then can our decisions be truly effective.
S4S: What should be the top priorities for the shipping industry stakeholders ?
D.Th.: I am very excited to see more and more events focused on environmental issues. This is of course not random. Our industry has realized and accepted that Sustainability is about environmental sustainability and about economic sustainability. These two are now entwined and need to be discussed at the same time.
S4S: If you could change one thing about the shipping industry, what would it be and why?
D.Th.: WISTA's goal is to create a more inclusive and diverse shipping industry. We are working toward increasing gender diversity throughout the industry. Furthermore, and in regard to technology in our industry, I would like to change the idea that in shipping there are two “opposites”, tradition and technology. These two elements should be equally welcome; they are what make our industry what it is today.
S4S: What’s your message to those who wish to pursue a career in shipping industry?
D.Th.: Shipping is a dynamic and fast-moving industry. It demands focus and presence 24/7 throughout the year and the confidence to take decisions which carry heavy consequences in a very limited timeframe. It also requires a deep understanding of the multilevel environment you are called to function in. Today more than ever before the industry is looking to innovative thinkers that are in it for the long haul.
S4S: Given the ongoing discussion for the role of women in shipping do you think that we need more females on leadership roles or more leaders acting on a female mode?
D.Th.: We need and have always needed capable people in leadership positions. Gender should not be a distinguishing factor in a world where both men and women receive equal opportunities to occupy managerial positions and are treated according to their skills, qualifications and performance. The leadership model is evolving, in an even faster pace (as everything in our society today) and this is also something to consider when selecting the next leaders for our organizations. This is what WISTA works toward, a shipping industry that is diverse, inclusive, minimizing the existing leadership gap and offering equal opportunities.
Despina Panayiotou Theodosiou is joint Chief Executive Officer of TOTOTHEO MARITIME, a leading global supplier of equipment and services for satellite and radio communications as well as bridge navigation systems, automated applications, ship repairs and operational efficiency solutions.
Despina is President of WISTA International and board member of various organizations like the Cyprus Shipping Chamber, the Cyprus Maritime Academy etc.
Leading international shipping publication Lloyd’s List selected Despina as one of the Top 100 Most Influential people in shipping in 2017 and she attained a further credit as one of Lloyd’s List’s Top 5 Next Generation executive.
She holds degrees from the National and Capodistrian University of Athens, the Copenhagen Business School and the University of Oxford – Said Business School.
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.