What does sustainability leadership actually mean?

Jaakko Eskola, Group Vice President, Ship Power, answers questions.

Q: What makes a company reputable when it comes to sustainability?

A: Sustainability is about long-term responsibility towards the environmental, economic, and social dimensions. A company is reputable in these fields when it centres its strategy, R&D investments, and product portfolio development towards these long-term responsibilities, while demonstrating that by doing so it can be profitable. This is nothing new to Wärtsilä: already today we focus our strategy and way of working on sustainable practices. We also deliver products and services with sound environmental and economic performance for our customers.

Q: What is the role of leadership in making a company into a sustainability-oriented business?

A: Leaders play a key role in defining and implementing sustainability initiatives. Shaping a vision and committing to it is part of the job of leaders. However, what is most important is to be able to build up a solid business case, clear goals and smart measures that help support and deliver this vision.

Q: What are the major issues that the shipping industry faces in terms of sustainability?

A: Reduction of greenhouse gas emissions is one of the big environmental topics, but our responsibility also extends to protecting biodiversity in the oceans and to other issues. On the social front, issues like piracy and labor conditions for seafarers demand clear actions. At Wärtsilä when we develop a product or service, we take into account the global issues that our customers face.

Q: How should companies in the shipping industry communicate on the topic of sustainability development?

A: Communication and transparency are critical. For decades, the shipping industry has operated without being visible to normal citizens. This situation is now changing, as people want to know more about the products that they consume. This means that shipping companies and their providers feel an increasing demand for sustainable practices in their work and transparent reporting of all their activities.

Q: Who has a bigger impact on companies in terms of sustainability: shareholders and investors or consumers and the general public?

A: The importance of neither side can be underestimated. Consumers and the general public create the baseline demand for sustainable practices and products, and the shipping industry is steadily adapting to these changes. Shareholders and investors demand solid economic performance backed up by high-level sustainability practices, with focus on the opportunities that lie ahead.

Q: How can companies concerned with sustainability use social media wisely?

A: Companies that excel in sustainability have great opportunities in using social media to interact with the general public. A wise use of social media includes engaging and promoting healthy discussion about issues affecting sustainability; informing people about the company'spractices in a transparent, easy to understand way; and harvesting for good ideas and innovation opportunities.

Q: What impact have recent dramatic events (i.e. Fukushima, oil spills, tsunamis and other natural disasters) had on sustainability and environmental matters?

A: For both businesses and the general public, events like those mentioned have been a reminder of the need to increase standards in safety and environmental performance. Furthermore, they have made us reflect on our long term responsibilities towards our planet, resources and living beings. The shipping industry needs to learn that such improvements are needed now and continuously from this point onwards. At Wärtsilä, we accept this need to invest in developing more safe and sustainable solutions for our customers.

Q: Are sustainability-related actions actually boosting profits?

A: Efficiency and environmental performance go hand in hand, as the Dow Jones Sustainability Index benchmarking performance of companies based on a triple bottom line reporting has demonstrated. Shipping companies are on a constant search for improving efficiency, and so yes, investing in efficiency brings lower operating costs and hence increases profits.

Q: What is the role that legislation has in sustainability issues within the shipping industry?

A: Legislators have the role of creating rules and standards to level the playing field and ensure that goals are achieved. In shipping, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) has a global responsibility for safety and environmental performance. Wärtsilä respects the work done by IMO and other legislators and is deeply committed to working with regulators and industry stakeholders to promote rules that will help the industry tackle its most important issues. Rules alone won’t change the game. They must be well thought out, provide the right incentives, and be correctly enforced.

Back to Annual Report
Back to Annual Report