A sustainable future is within reach

January 5, 2022

Mark Church, head of sustainability at North P&I Club, explains why the maritime insurer is working towards net-zero, and why North East businesses are perfectly placed to deliver a better future for us all.

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As we head into 2022, sustainability is – quite rightly – a priority for many of us in the North East’s business community.

The eyes of the world were on Glasgow last autumn as the city hosted COP-26, placing sustainability high on the global agenda. Even before that, the cut in emissions resulting from less travel and road traffic during COVID-19 lockdowns led us all to reflect on how we can create a greener world.

Making a difference has always been our focus at North. Whether it’s enabling our members and clients to trade with confidence, creating jobs and economic opportunities for local people in the North East, or giving back to our communities, our 161-year history has been defined by our sense of responsibility to others. Sustainability at North is about making real-world differences to our environmental impact.

That is why we have recently announced our aim to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2030. We have already achieved a great deal in terms of protecting the marine environment and supporting the health and wellbeing of people, including our own team here at North, as well as the many thousands of seafarers our members work with. Our 2030 Sustainability Strategy will help us to go even further, though, and more quickly too.

We are introducing a raft of changes to cut our emissions, from reducing the use of fossil fuels to heat and power our buildings – both here in Newcastle and across the world – to thinking again about how, and how often, we travel. The seven ambitious targets we have set cover carbon emissions, waste, our supply chain, diversity and inclusion, corporate social responsibility, employee engagement and investments.

We see this as our responsibility, not just as a North East business, but also as a major player in the maritime industry. We are members of the International Group of P&I Clubs, responsible for insuring 90 per cent of the world’s ocean-going shipping. By setting out our stall on sustainability, we can lead the way for our sector, supporting our members in implementing their own sustainability targets and policies.

Compared to other forms of transportation, shipping is relatively low-carbon, but with 95 per cent of the world’s trade carried by sea, this means shipping contributes more than two per cent of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions. It is therefore vital that significant changes are made across our sector to protect the environment and communities. We see sustainability not just as an environmental challenge, but as a social one too, protecting the health and wellbeing of people around the globe and providing sustainable livelihoods through the right business practices.

With global temperatures rising and such a huge challenge ahead of us all, it can often be tempting to feel cynical or disillusioned about the sustainability efforts businesses around the world are taking.

However, at North we’re committed to transparency and firmly believe that actions speak louder than words. That’s why we have recently published a detailed impact report exploring our sustainability work to date. For example, the safety tools we provide to our members, such as the industry-leading GlobeView technology platform, prevent pollution-related incidents through real-time threat information, empowering shipping operators to act decisively and proactively.

In addition, our expert claims team has advised on, and coordinated, some of the biggest pollution cleanup operations in the world. After a car carrier overturned off the coast of the US state of Georgia, we worked on constructing environmental protection barriers to contain debris and pollutants, thereby helping to protect local sea life and communities. On the other side of the world, we advised on the delicate removal of fuel supplies after a ship sunk near South Korea. Using the latest technologies, including remote controlled vehicles, fuel was safely removed from the wreck, helping to protect the precious marine ecosystem in the region. In these times of great change, it is difficult to predict what 2022 holds in store for the world.

What we do know, however, is that our commitment to sustainability is unwavering. We see our sustainability strategy as a vital part of our role as a responsible business. We are looking forward to reporting on our progress as we work towards meeting our net-zero target and take great pride in helping to lead the wider maritime sector, as well as other North East businesses, in working towards a greener future.

We are proud to have such a long and illustrious history here in the North East and feel privileged to have the expertise and enthusiasm of our people in delivering real change around the world. The North East has always been at the heart of innovation. From the Industrial Revolution to the present day, businesses in our region have always been prepared to step up and be bold and ambitious in striving for change.

The sustainability challenge we all face now is no different – and it requires us all to act quickly, transparently and proactively to protect our planet and its people.

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