Insights from Leaders in the Maritime Industry

What kind of leadership do we need to speed up the energy transition?

The energy transition is a priority for the entire maritime industry. While the urgency and necessity are recognized by everyone, the actual transition is often a complex and long-term process that needs good leadership to see it through.

Four leaders in the maritime sector, predominantly WISTA members, shared their views on how we can facilitate and accelerate the energy transition movement.

Special Report for WISTA The Netherlands – Women’s International Shipping & Trading Association

by Marjolein van Herel

With great thanks to WISTA and these experts for sharing their knowledge and views:

6. Start now – Be positioned for the future

Good entrepreneurship means staying ahead of developments. From an equipment supplier’s point of view there is no clear route to 2050, however you need to be ready for whatever the market may choose. You have to take a certain risk, because if you wait for the market to make a choice and then start developing your equipment, you’re too late.

So you have to be bold to stay one step ahead of the market. This will inspire confidence with your customers that your equipment is ready for any development. Being there from the start is the best way to become a trusted supplier in the renewables industry as it’s growing.

Be bold enough to invest not only in technical developments but explicitly also in the human factor. An important condition for success is the use of knowledge tools. Not only new tools but also smarter use of existing technology.

For example, there are plenty of simulation centers available to test your designs and ideas.

A combination of knowledge development, implementation, training, execution, and monitoring will lead to a win-win-win situation with a better environment, thriving shipping companies, and happy crew.”

Marja Walraven-Behrend, Marketing Manager STC-KNRM

7. Lead by example

If you look at management, the single most important characteristic is leading by example. When your board talks about sustainability and follows it through by demonstrating and promoting a more sustainable way of working, that sends a powerful message.

That also involves a change in mentality. If we agree that certain things need to be done differently, leaders need to create support in every layer of their company or industry. That means accepting things will be different, and maybe a bit more expensive, but focusing on the benefits. Thinking in terms of possibilities instead of the short-term disadvantages it may bring.

In particular, it requires constructive leadership, getting people to think along with the entire chain. It’s also important to understand why people in the field may sometimes be reluctant to embrace new procedures, often due to past experiences.

That requires constructive leadership where you understand the past, accept it, and look ahead.

When you see a board member pushing for something that’s going to improve your carbon footprint, or people see a board member endorsing a new more sustainable way of working, that sticks with them.”

– Erica Gray, Sustainability Manager at Mammoet

8. Listen to the work floor

When we think about leadership, we usually think about the people in the higher echelons of the company. But it can just as well be someone in the workplace, who takes the lead and convinces their colleagues that things can be done differently.

We’ve got an enormous professional workforce, people who understand that energy transition is important and who have launched initiatives themselves. Those improvements are perhaps the most valuable ones.

Give people a way to get in touch and share ideas; they may very well come up with better ideas then you had yourself. Support them by structuring the initiatives and provide support groups so they can share their ideas.

If you see someone very passionate about something, it is contagious and it can spread like fire throughout the entire organization.

As long as people believe in it and stand behind it, leadership can emerge from all layers within an organization.

9. Facilitate Middle Management

Where you sometimes lose energy is in the middle bit. You’ve got a board propagating energy transition, you’ve got people in the field who are producing interesting ways to solve practical issues, and then in the middle, there’s a group of managers who have their hands full keeping the business going or trying to reach their targets.

Therefore, it’s crucial to support middle-management. Show them how they can integrate sustainability into their work in a way that isn’t adding to their headaches but is actually meaningful to them.

Talking about the long-term is always a hard sell, so you need to make it as practical as possible, to ease the tension between short-term and long-term gain.

It is also important that people have a sense of autonomy. This can be facilitated by offering managers a choice of sustainability activities, so they can select the ones that they think will work best for their part of the business.

Once they see that those activities make things better, you can build from there. Keep showing initiative and don’t give up.

10. Keep communicating

People will continue to do things the way they have always done it. Unless you can show them the improvements or the advantages of changing those behaviors, you will always be up against that behavioral change barrier.

That is why it’s vital to keep helping people understand what you’re trying to do and why you’re trying to do it. It’s important to keep explaining what you can do to work sustainably and explain the consequences if you don’t.

Awareness is important, as well as understanding what you can practically do to improve your performance.

Communication is key, and it is just as important communicating about it internally as it is externally. It is important to explain to your stakeholders that the energy transition is not only important for your organization, but it benefits them as well.

Listen to your employees, respect their past experiences, accept previous setbacks and keep focusing on a sustainable future. That takes constructive leadership.

From the moment I joined Wärtsilä two years ago, not a day has gone by in our company without some form of communication about sustainability.

It takes time, but eventually, everyone supports and underlines the importance of sustainability.”

– Claudia Beumer, GM, Global Sales Water and Waste at Wärtsilä Marine

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