“Our customers are becoming more and more interested in sustainability”

“Gathering Pace Together” is the title of our company’s second sustainability report. In the following interview, Jörg Erdmann, Senior Director Sustainability Management, speaks about sustainability, IMO2020 and “Fridays for Future”.

Everyone is talking about sustainability these days. Since last year, Hapag-Lloyd has been legally obliged to report on its sustainability-related activities. What does sustainability mean for our company, and how do we measure it?

The topic of sustainability has played an important role at Hapag-Lloyd for decades. We already had the former classification society Germanischer Lloyd certify our quality management as early as 1994. In 2003, we broadened our management system to include the environmental aspect. Quality, in particular, is a key element of our Strategy 2023.

For the sustainability report, we compile and communicate key figures for the entire Group, such as accident rates, CO2 emissions and the energy efficiency of our reefer containers. These provide us with detailed information on our sustainability performance.

And how has our sustainability-related track record been for the last 12 months?

We’ve noticed that customers have recently become much more interested in sustainability-related legislation like IMO2020 and the obligation to report on sustainability. So we’re pleased that we have the sustainability report as a publication providing comprehensive information on our activities in various areas.

For example, we were able to improve the efficiency of our ships and lower the bunker consumption per slot from 2.85 metric tonnes in 2017 to 2.75 metric tonnes. We also reduced our specific CO2 emissions by 5.5 percent compared to the 2016/2017 period. This brings us another step closer to achieving our goal of reducing specific CO2 emissions by 20 percent by 2020 compared with 2016.

This year, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations were incorporated into the report for the first time. What does this mean for Hapag-Lloyd’s sustainability strategy?

The goals aim to point the way towards a fairer and more sustainable future on the economic, social and environmental levels. They were adopted by the UN General Assembly in the “2030 Agenda for Sustainability Development” in September 2015 and entered into force in January 2016. The SDGs have 17 overarching goals. By undertaking a cross-sectoral analysis and taking a close look at our existing activities, we have identified the SDGs to which we are already contributing. In doing so, we were able to identify six goals. Our extensive measures to optimise our ships – such as by optimising bulbous bows and cleaning ship hulls to reduce water resistance – are just a few examples of how we are contributing to the goal of “climate protection measures” to combat climate change.

Looking briefly towards the future, what do you think the most urgent sustainability-related challenges will be and how do we intend to approach them?

IMO2020 and reducing the sulphur content in maritime fuel are meant to combat air pollution – and they are important steps that we as a company fully support. However, the issues of the future will be greenhouse gases and reducing the consumption of fossil fuels. The IMO targets for 2030 and 2050 have established an initial framework for confronting these issues, but it needs to be fleshed out in the years ahead. We need to hammer out concrete, specific measures for achieving these goals. And, to do so, we need our partners in the fields of technology and science.

The last question is a personal one: What was your sustainability “highlight” of 2018?

Fridays for Future. This global movement of students at all levels dedicated to more climate protection is a great thing. The future belongs to the young. The fact that young people want to shape things themselves is important, and I think it’s brilliant. We still have a long way to go, but I’m very confident that we in the maritime industry will also find ways to meet the climate goals. This will require action from everyone.

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