Ninety percent of international trade travels by ship. And that comes with the type of carbon impact you would expect: The shipping industry’s carbon emissions currently account for 3-4% of global emissions and are expected to triple by 2050 if current practices continue unchanged.
Shipping is a vital, global industry. Part or all of the clothes you’re wearing, the phone you use and the materials in the buildings you live and work in were most likely transported by ship for at least part of their journey to you. But with a carbon impact like its current one, the sustainability of the whole shipping industry could be in jeopardy. And that affects us all.
That’s why Forum for the Future decided to collaborate with WWF to frame and facilitate the creation of an ambitious coalition of global shipping leaders and key industry stakeholders: the Sustainable Shipping Initiative (SSI). Together, its membership is taking practical steps to tackle some of the sector’s greatest opportunities and challenges. Their aims? First, by 2040, establish new good practices that ensure that the shipping industry is both profitable and sustainable. Second, the ultimate goal is to show that collaborative action is possible and that, by mobilising support across the industry, shipping itself can contribute to — and thrive in — a sustainable future.
You’re probably thinking, ‘Shipping? I get how it might have to do with products I use, but what does it have to do with my job?’ Practically speaking, the SSI is a model for how a range of industries might work together to create a shift that ensures they will be ready and able to grab future opportunities, because they have prepared for the challenges of a changing world. It brings together a diverse range of players from right across the value chain in a single forum to tackle problems that can only be solved through co-operation.
The principles are applicable to a range of sectors and industries. The SSI was established in 2010, agreed what it would seek to achieve and in 2011 published its ‘Case for Action.' The Case for Action looks to 2040 and identifies the major trends and key challenges which will affect the maritime sector in the interim. Members signed up to a collective ‘Vision for 2040,’ setting out visions and aspirations for an industry response to these trends and challenges. Most importantly, the Vision is backed by specific commitments to action, through four distinct workstreams, which will provide tangible outcomes that the wider industry can implement. The workstreams focus on areas where collective action has the greatest potential to accelerate change. Further action is planned for 2014 and beyond; members are committed to the long-term involvement and fund the initiative themselves.
Media coverage the SSI has received since it commenced speaks volumes. Lloyd’s List, the leading shipping industry newspaper, said that the SSI is "the first significant industry-backed sustainability initiative to move beyond existing regulatory compliance in many key policy areas" (31 October 2011). And The BBC’s World Business Report said at the SSI’s launch that "there is a definite sense that this industry is at a turning point" (22 May 2011).
SSI members are increasingly aware that the work they are doing together is important not just to the industry, but to their business and their bottom line. Eirik Nyhus, Director of Environment at member organisation DNV said:
"Being able to demonstrate how to implement changes and the effect they have on safety, the environment and the bottom line is fundamental to overcoming these challenges. That’s why we joined the SSI. Its action-orientated approach and focus on developing practical solutions with solid business cases is what the industry needs right now."
The involvement of key players will lead to a more resilient shipping industry. Most of the things we use in our everyday lives involve shipping, so a shift to more sustainable shipping practices has immense impact, without even requiring brands, manufacturers or customers to make a choice.
So, whether you work for a retailer or a manufacturer, focus on clothing or tech, are an entrepreneur or work for a big company, the question is the same: what are the difficult challenges your sector needs to focus on to thrive, and what issues can only be tackled through collaboration and co-operation? If the Sustainable Shipping Initiative can do it, so can others. So can you.