Running on Hope

Megan Rowe
March 23 2022
Last week, The Maritime Executive wrote a short feature on the Esperanza, Greenpeace’s International Ship that has been the face of environmental protection and humanitarian missions across the globe and is heading into retirement after two decades of service. Greenpeace confirmed that the Esperanza’s retirement was due to its lack of alignment with the NGO’s core principles, a result of the ship’s large carbon footprint, and that they’re instead opting to source more flexible and local maritime alternatives. As such, the Esperanza has arrived at her final port stop in Gijón, Spain, where she will be retired before being responsibly recycled.
I’ve been reading a lot in the news recently about older ships being responsibly recycled, but what surprised me in particular was the role that green pressure has played in the decision to scrap shipping vessels within the oil industry. An Offshore Energy article detailed how ‘BW Offshore Sends Another Laid-Up FSPO to Scrap Yard’, prompted by a lack of redeployment opportunities for older vessels, and the agreement to recycle the FPSO Umuroa sounded strikingly similar to other stories I’d been reading in the news recently. This particular decision to sell the FPSO is estimated to generate a cash consideration of $13.5 million in net liquidity. According to BW Offshore, the move was closely tied to market volatility and the future development of oil prices as a result of the increased focus on energy transition. Essentially, a shift in industry confidence in the status quo: industries are viewing the scrapping of old, FSPO vessels as a more secure source of income in the modern market and the focus on green energy is playing a part in the business model of fossil fuel heavy businesses.
As positive as it is to read that fossil fuel heavy businesses are having to begin incorporating green energy into their strategy, the shipping industries own lack of confidence in how in demand their fleets will be due to oil market volatility, combined with the ongoing situation with Russia and a strong desire to not be reliant on Putin for our oil supply, has got me thinking – do we need to move to a more greener way of living sooner than anticipated?
This Monday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson hosted a roundtable at Downing Street with leaders from the nuclear industry to discuss how to “rapidly accelerate" UK nuclear projects amid the increasing energy crisis, intensified by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. It was disclosed Johnson revealed he wanted nuclear power to play a “major part” in the UK’s future energy supply as a “clean, reliable and safe” energy source. This desire to focus on “clean, reliable and safe” energy particularly stood out to me and, as I thought more about how we can realistically achieve this, the notion of Regenerative Capitalism and idea of reconsidering current capitalist ideologies by looking beyond net-zero emissions to a net-positive impact on the planet, kept returning to me. Chris Stokel-Walker, a writer, speaker and journalist, recently wrote a piece for the World Economic Forum concentrating on Regenerative Capitalism which breaks it down into nice, bite sized chunks of information for anyone new to the concept.
For those who aren’t familiar with the term (I wasn’t until more recently), Stokel-Walker explains how it was coined by John Fullerton in 2015 and refers to business practices that restore and build, rather than abuse and damage. Essentially, it’s about going one step further than net-zero and creating conditions that allow our planet, and the life on it, to thrive and renew infinitely. Louise Kjellerup Roper, CEO of Volans, a London-based think agency and advisory firm, admits that for many, the term ‘regenerative capitalism’ appears rather self-contradictory: “There's a question around whether regenerative capitalism is an oxymoron”, before going on to explain that, in her opinion “it’s an oxymoron in the US and in the Anglo-centric world of capitalism,” but in Denmark, where she was raised, there’s a “very different form of capitalism.” Kjellerup Roper believes it’s achievable to adhere to the principles of Regenerative Capitalism, where larger businesses play a fundamental role in not further damaging our planet, but rather attempting to re-balance it, whilst also continuing to strive for business success themselves. In her opinion, it simply requires a change in mentality and a lot of brainstorming – in ways that maybe don’t always have the top priorities of the business at the very heart of every idea: ‘That’s the biggest challenge: to really move from that,” says Kjellerup Roper.
We have seen success stories of Regenerative practices being utilized across various industries. In his article, Stolker-Walker focuses on John Elkington, a “world authority on corporate responsibility and sustainable development” and who sits on the Sustainability Advisory Board of Neste, a Finland-based company. Elkington tells of how they’ve transitioned Neste from a regional oil refining company to a world leader in renewables and highlights how other industries can also make the move, talking of how he’s starting to see “sparkles of regenerative activity” in the tourism area through ventures such as partaking in urban farming whilst travelling (I personally know of a few students who did this as a work-away style holiday during summers at university). Larger industries, too, he argues have their part to play in the regenerative transition: “If I had to pick one sector that is plum in the centre of this regeneration story, it would have to be agriculture and aquaculture,” says Elkington. Anyone who watched Cowspiracy, the popular Netflix documentary, will have even a surface level idea of the environmental impact of animal agriculture, but the actual figures are quite alarming, with thirty percent of global greenhouse emissions coming from farmed animals – something that Elkington contends could be altered and improved by working more intimately with the Earth farming relies on. Stolker-Walker cleverly compares this to the point made by Kjellerup Roper that “The fastest-moving pieces of the puzzle are anything that touches agriculture…We seem to understand the concept of regenerative agriculture, almost instinctively.”
Returning closer to home and the industries we work with at Red, Stolker-Walker highlights further promising developments in the shipping sector in relation to Danish shipping company Maersk, who have recently invested in eight new ships, each carrying 16,000 containers, that will run on carbon-neutral methanol: “That’s a shipping company making a step in the right direction” observes Elkington.
Stolker-Walker ends his Regenerative Capitalism article on an optimistic note, focusing on Kjellerup Roper’s hope for the future: “Most people have good intentions and want to make a difference. The hard bit is we've all locked ourselves into patterns that make it very difficult to be the first person or company or industry to step forward. But I'm absolutely confident we can do this.” Kjellerup Roper’s closing words really resonated with me, particularly the part about being locked in a pattern. And I suppose that’s my whole point of this article: we’re no longer locked in a pattern. As the scrapping of FSPOs due to a shift in industry confidence in the status quo and Boris’s desire to “rapidly accelerate" UK nuclear projects amid the increasing energy crisis, intensified by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, have demonstrated: the world is being shocked into making change now. We cannot and will not be reliant on other countries for vital supplies. We’ve realised that this change needs to happen sooner, rather than later. It’s been a call to action for us. You can only run on hope for so long – for it to be sustainable, we need to be running on change.






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