Shipping Industry Takes Steps Toward Increased Sustainability

Concerns about sustainability are exerting a growing influence on a growing number of industries. From winemaking to space travel, finding ways to conduct operations in an eco-friendly manner is becoming an integral part of how companies do business in the 21st Century. Add to that the increasing pressure of laws, treaties and regulations, and it’s easy to see why sustainability is a trend that’s here to stay.

Maritime shipping has its own sustainability issues–even though it’s already a lot more efficient than road or air transport. However, because the vast majority of trade (over 90 percent) happens via vessels traveling the world’s great bodies of water, increased sustainability within shipping is essential.

Even though the fallout from being excluded from last year’s Climate Change Summit in Paris has mostly died down, the effects of the agreement as well as the shipping industry’s substantial carbon footprint remain. Now, a group of companies have banded together to create the Sustainable Shipping Initiative in an attempt to tackle those problems. Touting lofty goals, they have developed a ‘Roadmap’ to make sure those goals are achieved.


The Sustainable Shipping Initiative, in many ways, is groundbreaking. Started by 17 of the world’s leading suppliers and shipping firms, its goal is “true” industry sustainability by 2040. In other words, SSI is committed to helping ease the burdens of an imperiled planet while simultaneously ensuring shipping’s long-term survival as an industry.

Shipping is anything but a one-size-fits-all industry. Because of this reality, its path to sustainability is a complex one. However, the SSI has broken ground for that complicated path with its Roadmap.

As Alastair Fischbacher, CEO of the Sustainable Shipping Initiative explains, the Roadmap “Is a dynamic document that will be updated and developed further–a unifying and interactive tool that will serve to drive more engagement and debate within the shipping industry.”

The Roadmap

The Roadmap, then, is a broad effort at providing both a foundation and an initial attempt to define best practices so that the industry can meaningfully move forward. Here are the current six core areas of implementation:

  • Make a proactive contribution to responsible ocean governance.
  • Be seen as a responsible and trusted partner within the communities that are affected by and interact with shipping.
  • Ensure shipping environments are healthy and safe so that the industry is viewed as a place where individuals can meet their potential while enjoying a rewarding career.
  • Encourage transparency and accountability throughout the industry so that performance improves alongside more sustainable practices.
  • Inspire and expand solutions that reward sustainability while also enabling increases in efficiency and innovation in tech, design and operations.
  • Systematically and dramatically reduce greenhouse gases by transitioning to a more diverse and more eco-friendly range of energy resources.

The Takeaway

While there is nothing binding for the shipping industry to adhere to at the moment, the SSI makes plain that times have changed. For shipping to survive well into the future, the planet must survive also. Sustainability, therefore, is not something that should be passed down the line to future generations.

The SSI’s Roadmap is a first attempt to define what that sustainability might look like. Whether it takes the next 24 years or it’s accomplished in less, shipping has shifted. By declaring and shouldering its own mandate regarding climate change, the hope is that shipping will remain a vital and thriving part of the world’s economy.

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