It’s a wrap! IMPA Virtual Conference 2021 brings together close to 400 industry professionals during a fantastic day focused on sustainability in shipping

Innovation, collaboration and courage to change the status quo remain the three key ingredients for meeting the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals; this is the consensus reached by everyone attending the IMPA Virtual Conference 2021.

Almost 400 ship-owners, ship-managers, maritime suppliers and manufacturers joined the IMPA team on the morning of 14th December to learn from the industry’s movers and shakers what is being done or could be done in procurement departments around the world for a more sustainable blue economy.

“Sustainability is for everyone and all companies”, began Stephen Alexander, IMPA Secretary General and COO, in the opening address of the 2021 IMPA Virtual Conference. While it may have been a choice in the past, CSR is no longer an option and this can be clearly seen in the increasing traction that initiatives like IMPA ACT, IMPA SAVE and the IMPA Green Business Bureau Framework are gaining from key industry players. Navigating procurement with purpose and embedding the people-planet-profit mantra into strategic purchasing decisions might still be a confusing ground for many out there, but these are the exact challenges that conferences such as IMPA’s are helping our industry navigate. No matter how difficult it may seem to “find method to the madness”, “we must continue to challenge ourselves”, Stephen told the audience, “and IMPA will be here to continue assisting our community with better frameworks, guidance and products for sustainable purchasing.”

“It is incredibly scary how fast climate change goes”, continued Mikael Karlsson, Chair of IMPA SAVE and IMPA Special Ambassador for Sustainability, and many people, especially the younger generation, are more concerned about climate change than anything else. There needs to be a massive shift in priorities not only at company-level, but also at individual-level because every little helps and every little matters. Initiatives like IMPA SAVE’s may seem a drop in the ocean at first glance, but when you consider that our industry’s consumption of plastic drinking water bottles could build a bridge to the moon and back, drastically reducing the use of plastic bottles onboard vessels suddenly starts to seem like a sizeable action. Before passing the baton to Founder of Ocean Generation and filmmaker Jo Ruxton, Mikael unapologetically added that “our environment is ours to protect and ours to destroy; if we want a sustainable future, we must proactively make changes and not sit around waiting for regulatory bodies to push us”.

Jo Ruxton, a passionate campaigner for the oceans whom many of our attendees and readers may already know from famous Netflix documentary A Plastic Ocean, began her career in conservation in the 1980s and has ever since been passionate about all-things ocean. “Plastic has never been the culprit”, Jo began her keynote speech to the amazement of all in attendance, “it is the way we overuse it and create unnecessary single-use items that is to blame”. Plastic was a product designed to defy nature, and while it is remains a vital product in our lives (take the medical field, for example), the issue arises when it is used redundantly to wrap food that needs no wrapping or replace items that can be reused. In a fascinating retelling of her journey to creating her first 2017 documentary feature, A Plastic Ocean, Jo not only covered the damaging effects of plastic to our marine ecosystems, but also underlined the importance of education in bringing this issue to the top of the agenda, alternative solutions in providing feasible alternatives and new legislation in pushing those who need pushing. Her organisation, Ocean Generation, was created – in a way – to ensure that the message of the documentary feature is taken beyond its release, and the organisation strives to raise awareness and educate the public on the need for collective change. Asked by Mikael Karlsson how she still finds hope in the current environment, Jo smiled and answered: “the key to having hope is to work with people that are eagerly working on solutions”.

Following next, Salvatore D’Amico, Fleet Director at d’Amico Shipping Group, covered the topic of sustainability as seen through the lens of a shipowner. “We are lucky the shipping industry is only a very small part of the problem”, he began by saying, “because it means that it is much easier for us to do something about it and set out to mitigate our impacts”. Decarbonisation, more efficient transportation of supplies, more attention paid to waste reduction and a more careful selection of suppliers (with proper measurement of reliability and quality of supplies), are all ways in which we can reduce our environmental impact and matters that IMPA – as a forum – can help address by giving those with solutions a voice. When asked if there are any challenges in communicating the sustainability agenda within different cultures, Salvatore replied, “it is not a matter of culture, but people; and the main ingredient to efficiently communicate an agenda and address challenges is time”.

Moving forward, Dorthe Mejlvang, Senior Category Manager at Maersk Procurement who is in charge of consumables, provisions and PPE, talked about Maersk’s sustainability drive and the ambitious target the company has set to be carbon neutral by 2050. “We will need all hands on deck to achieve this, and that includes customers and suppliers as well”, Dorthe told the audience, “and we now carefully assess whether our suppliers cater for green procurement through contractual clauses, evaluating supplier innovation and sustainability”. Collaboration is paramount between what she calls “the dynamic trio” (customers, suppliers and the ship-owner or ship-manager) in order to reduce CO2 emissions, reduce waste generation and conserve biodiversity. A pledger and council member for IMPA SAVE, Dorthe ended her presentation by inviting those suppliers with innovative solutions and those purchasers still thinking about pledging to get in touch with her; “there is no excuse not to pledge and change the status quo; we all have a part to play in this”.

Next up, Fiorenzo Spadoni, Marine Commercial Director at RINA, covered the path towards net zero, the various emerging regulatory frameworks, and how the panacea of it all is not one single solution, but a blend of multiple ones, including alternative fuels, technological improvements to ensure an efficient fleet and several other operational measures and luckily, organisations such as RINA have developed the necessary guidelines to support the transition to a more sustainable future.

Paolo Magonio, Group Procurement Manager at Scorpio Ship Management who is not only the first IMPA SAVE pledger to drastically reduce plastic bottles onboard all of its 200+ vessels, but also the recent winner of the 2021 Seatrade Awards, stepped in with hands-on practical examples of maritime supply chain logistics-related initiatives that can be deployed now in procurement departments. The common thread between all those examples? Partnership, initiative and willingness to change; “you can wait for change to happen and then follow, or you can be proactive”, says Paolo. Actions that can be implemented include longer-lasting alternatives to single-use plastic items onboard vessels, which can oftentimes prove to be cheaper, more attention paid to selecting suppliers who use biodegradable wrapping, recycled packaging and reusable pallets, for instance, and considering innovative measures such as water filtration systems onboard vessels to replace plastic bottles. In closing, Paolo added that if buyers create a demand for alternative items and promote awareness in supply chain, then suppliers will develop innovative alternatives. It is all a matter of demand, and we – as an industry – need to demand better and greener.

For the penultimate sessions of the day, George Stroumpoulis, Environmental & Energy Performance Manager at Prime Marine, and Giorgos Kyriazis, Associate of P Ship Systems, joined the conference with a practical case study, all about delivering cleaner and greener water to seafarers and ships. P Ship Systems, a vetted IMPA SAVE solution provider, showed the audience they are ready to help ship-owners and ship-managers to kick plastic drinking water bottles onboard vessels; they just need to wish to change.

In closing the insightful day, Bill Zujewski, Chief Marketing Officer at Green Business Bureau, gave the audience the lowdown on the new IMPA GBB Framework for qualifying suppliers’ sustainability efforts and provided ten practical steps to launching a sustainability programme in your company. From defining your company’s mission and creating a green team, all the way to planning, implementing and getting certified for your efforts, Bill incentivised all IMPA suppliers to become green suppliers and work towards creating a greener maritime ecosystem; and, for a limited time only, they can benefit from a 20% discount on GBB membership fees.

The IMPA ‘Sustainability-In-Shipping’ Virtual Conference amassed close to 400 industry professionals in attendance and provided an excellent forum to learn about new things that can be done in procurement departments to further the SDGs and debate the feasibility of such actions. The IMPA team hopes attendees have found value in this event and rest assured, we are not stopping here. We will be back in the new year with new conferences, forums and opportunities to learn, debate and – hopefully – network once again!