How a Finnish engineering firm is greening the shipping industry

(Eco Business, 16 Jun 2019) As the maritime sector grapples with scary emissions, one firm is rolling out technology designed to reduce energy consumption and pollution. In this interview with Eco-Business, Wärtsilä CEO Jaakko Eskola talks about how his firm is driving sustainability through a sector responsible for 2 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions.

In 2017, Finland-based international engineering firm Wärtsilä quietly laid out a purpose statement: “Enabling sustainable societies with smart technology”.

The unusual aspect: one of Wärtsilä’s core businesses is the maritime sector, a notoriously conservative industry that produces as much greenhouse gas emissions as some developed countries annually, while sustainability is low on the list for many of the company’s customers.

But change has to start somewhere, says Wärtsilä chief executive Jaakko Eskola, speaking to Eco-Business on a stop in Singapore. And for a 185 year-old company like Wärtsilä, which has reinvented itself a dozen times over the last two centuries, changing to incorporate sustainability in its business model is a natural step.

“The market is changing. Customers are changing. Our own people are changing. We have to change ourselves too, and we chose to pivot towards sustainability,” he says.

Companies serious about sustainability can effect change in many ways, he explains. They can work through their national industry bodies or professional associations; they can leverage the influence they hold simply by operating internationally and having a presence in many countries.

They can reach out to regulators such as the International Maritime Organization (IMO), which is responsible for setting standards on the environmental performance of international shipping. And—as Wärtsilä has done—they can provide the means for other companies to be sustainable.

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Eco Business, 16 Jun 2019: How a Finnish engineering firm is greening the shipping industry