"We view sustainability as a given rather than lip service"

Hapag-Lloyd released the first sustainability report in the history of the company. In this interview, Jörg Erdmann, Senior Director Sustainability Management, discusses what is in the report and why it was important for Sustainability Management to outline Hapag-Lloyd’s sustainability-related efforts in its own report.

What should everyone know about the report?

With the Sustainability Report, we have announced a climate goal that we have set for ourselves for the first time: By 2020, Hapag-Lloyd intends to reduce its CO2 emissions per TEU-kilometer by 20 percent. This value is compared to the emissions in 2016. We have already succeeded in significantly lowering our CO2 emissions in the past. For example, between 2007 and 2016, the specific CO2 emissions of our fleet were reduced by 46 percent.

With the report, we wanted to tell a story – the story of the issue of sustainability at Hapag-Lloyd in all its facets. So, instead of initially being a reference work, it shows what sustainability means for employees, the company, our fleet and along the supply chain. Now we will update this story with a new report every year and thereby show how our commitment is progressing.

In mid-April, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) set a goal of halving the emissions caused by shipping by 2050. How does that fit in with Hapag-Lloyd’s goal of reducing its emissions by 20 percent by 2020?

We think the strategy put forward by the IMO to decrease the greenhouse gas emissions from shipping is excellent. Our goal of reducing CO2 emissions by 20 percent is very ambitious. We view sustainability as self-evident, active involvement rather than as lip service. Hapag-Lloyd numbers among the leaders in the container shipping sector when it comes to sustainability. Time and again, our involvement far exceeds the measures required by law. For example, we are one of the few global shipping companies that recycle its container ships in an environmentally friendly manner in specifically certified shipyards – even if doing so entails additional costs.

What are the issues the Sustainability Report deals with?

There are seven chapters in all. They show in detail what Hapag-Lloyd, as an employer, offers its employees such as through various programs and opportunities for further training and education. But it also shows just how diverse the company is – and in no small part due to its various mergers. We now bring together 94 nations. And, on top of that, it demonstrates how we use trainings to ensure safety and health standards that far exceed the minimum legal requirements, and how we have managed to optimize routes and thereby save fuel by intelligently analyzing data.

The Sustainability Report’s motto is “Cast off!” What does that mean to you?

We wanted to provide a comprehensive picture of what sustainability means to Hapag-Lloyd. The container shipping industry is currently going through a period of radical change – particularly when it comes to the issue of new fuels. We have viewed this as an opportunity, and we have launched measures to help us further strengthen our position as one of the leading global liner shipping companies. The fact is that sustainability also signifies future viability.

How were the issues for the report selected, and especially those that were not mandatory?

In 2016, for example, we conducted a survey of internal and external stakeholders with more than 200 participants. Using this as our foundation, we were able to specify relevant issues. The matters that we deal with in the Sustainability Report cover our reporting obligation and, on top of that, are geared to the needs of our internal and external stakeholders.

Could you give us an example?

For example, the issue “waste prevention and disposal” was classified as especially important by our stakeholders. So we put it as an extra item on our agenda. We then consulted internally with our Fleet Management on the issue. The principle of “no garbage into the sea” – which has been a daily reality for us for a long time – shows which practical measures we are taking to prevent and reduce negative impacts on the environment.

And, of course, there are even more examples, which all of you can find in our Sustainability Report.  

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