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The Lloyd’s List Podcast: Why don’t shipping companies have a credible ESG plan?

Listen to the latest edition of the Lloyd’s List’s weekly podcast — your free weekly briefing on the stories shaping shipping

Most ESG ambitions triumphantly announced by shipping companies still lack depth, detail and credibility. While the large corporates are racing ahead chasing first-mover advantages in zero-carbon fuels, the reality among most shipping companies, which are small-to-medium operators, is much less advanced. So how do shipping companies adopt a solid strategy and should we be worried that so many companies are only just reaching for the ESG starter pack?



THE lack of transparency and substance being attached to environmental, social and corporate announcements in shipping has become a pretty consistent theme of the Lloyd’s List Podcast over the past few years.

We have paraded a long queue of earnest environmentalists and eager executives in front of you, all saying the same thing — that change is afoot. But what does that actually look like in terms of boardroom decisions, and are decision really being made or just talked about?

There’s no shortage of press releases touting ESG credentials, but as one of the more honest shipowners we spoke to this week explained frankly: “we don’t have the balance sheet to save the world”.

The reality is that many, if not most climate policies triumphantly announced by companies (and arguably governments) lack depth, detail and credible intermediate targets if you are measuring them against strict science-based targets aligned to the Paris 1.5°C goals.

Creating credible ESG strategies is difficult. Quite apart from the lack of regulatory or pricing certainty, the corporate overhauls required to genuinely change processes and future-proof company initiatives for tomorrow is a step above what most small companies struggling to keep up with today’s compliance challenges can deliver right now.

That is a problem because while the large corporates are racing ahead with sustainability initiatives chasing a competitive advantage today, tomorrow that same sustainability requirement becomes more about having a licence to operate.

What is voluntary now will become mandatory requirements for companies and will be important when they seek to raise capital.

Shipping has fallen behind other industries on ESG commitment. Those that have made progress are mainly large, global companies, representing only part of the world fleet.

Thousands of vessels, millions of seafarers and gigatonnes of carbon dioxide are currently not covered by ESG ambitions.

This is not about deliberate greenwashing, this is about the sheer scale of change required from companies over the next few years and the fact the reality that many shipping companies are struggling.

Joining podcast host Richard Meade this week to discuss these issues are:

  • Tanja Dalgaard is chief strategy and operations officer and part of the Leadership Team at the Maersk Mc-Kinney Møller Center for Zero Carbon, with more than 25 years of industry experience within the energy sector. Prior to her current work Tanja held several leading positions in major energy companies such as ØRSTED and INEOS. She has extensive experience as an international business leader both in Denmark and abroad with a strong affinity for leading complicated technical and commercial organisations. 

  • Peter Jameson is the global topic lead for sustainability and climate within Boston Consulting Group’s infrastructure, cities and transport team. He works across industries with a focus on climate and sustainability strategy and transformation. Before joining the firm, Peter gained experience in a senior position at Coloplast, a leading Danish medtech company, where he was responsible for innovation, and during the first part of his career, in the British Royal Navy. 

  • Dr Jean-Marc Bonello is a principal consultant at UMAS International, a lead author of the Sea Cargo Charter and co-author of the Fourth IMO GHG Study. He is lead technical adviser for the Poseidon Principles for Finance and Maritime Insurance. Through UMAS, he has worked with several owners, operators and stakeholders to understand the implications of aligning shipping activity to science-based climate targets and provide evidence to inform decisions around current operation and future investments. His doctoral research at the UCL Energy Institute investigated information and data use in decision-making related to chartering and owner-charterer relationships the uptake of energy efficiency technologies in shipping towards emission reduction. He has an MSc in marine engineering and naval architecture from the University of Southampton and a BEng in mechanical engineering from the University of Malta.

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