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Leading Voices in Global Sustainability

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Øistein Jensen

Chief Sustainability Officer, Odfjell SE

10 Questions to Change The World

April 2022

How do you think climate change and the global sustainability agenda will
impact your industry over the next 3-5 years?

Shipping represents 2-3 % of global CO2 emissions, and this number will grow as the demand for shipping grows and other sectors are decarbonizing. At the same time, shipping is the most environmentally friendly way of transporting large volumes over large distances. Over 90% of all transported goods are carried by sea. So shipping is not only the problem, but also part of the solution.


To become more sustainable, the shipping industry has embarked on the most significant transition since we moved from sail to engines, and this transition will be a top priority in the coming years. Our industry needs to find solutions to realize zero carbon operations as soon as possible, latest in 2050. This does not only impact the technology onboard; it also includes infrastructure, regulation, pricing, and access to renewable energy. The goal of zero emissions is a herculean task, as there are today no commercially available alternatives to a combustion engine and fossil fuels for deep-sea shipping. However, it is also one of the most important challenges we have ever faced, and we are determined to do our best. 

What is one ‘sustainability hack’ you’d recommend to an organisation wanting
to transform into a more sustainable operation?

Do your risk assessment and materiality assessment. Find out what is most critical for you and your stakeholders, and start there. Then, integrate sustainability measures throughout the organisation, and make it a competitive advantage, not just a compliance matter.

Do your risk assessment and materiality assessment. Find out what is most critical for you and your stakeholders, and start there.

Why have you embraced sustainability in your professional career?

I believe climate change is the single most important challenge we face today, and I want to do what I can to make a difference. Climate change represents a risk for people, societies, and businesses, and we need to make decisions today that we, and coming generations, can live with in the future. 


Also, sustainability goes beyond the Environment. The ESG’s  Social and Governance pillars are vital to secure healthy business and operations, for example, when it comes to fighting corruption, and improving diversity and inclusion in our industry. I have for many years worked with anti-corruption. Corruption is a significant obstacle to sustainable development, as it affects all five pillars of sustainable development – people, planet, prosperity, peace, and partnerships. 

As for diversity: We cannot solve tomorrow's problems with yesterday's solutions. We need access to the best talents. I believe that diversity of mind will lead to better solutions, and I want to work towards realising a more diverse and inclusive shipping industry. 

What are some of the wins you have achieved in your career to date?

The ESG’s Social and Governance pillars are vital to secure healthy business and operations

I am proud of being a part of the journey Odfjell has taken towards a leading position within sustainability. We have worked systematically and can show solid and documented results. Our work has been recognized with several awards and top ratings, but I think it was a landmark when we issued the world's first Sustainability Linked bond in our industry in 2021. This bond cemented our commitment to reach our ambitious climate targets.

What do you want to have achieved before you retire?

That Odfjell has a zero-emission capable vessel in our fleet, and that businesses no longer need a Chief Sustainability Officer because Sustainability is integrated into all business parts.

What advice would you give for organisations looking to start or advance on their sustainability journey?

Learn and read. Build knowledge, go to the sources and take part in the conversation. Try to understand climate change and technology and do the math. There are so many statements that are not backed with proper calculations and facts.

Who do you go to for inspiration in this space?

I believe that diversity of mind will lead to better solutions, and I want to work towards realizing a more diverse and inclusive shipping industry.

I try to go to the sources. Like the IPCC reports, the EU regulations, consult our technical experts, academic studies, etc.


I also find a lot of inspiration in Blackrock's CEO, Larry Fink. In his letters to CEOs and Shareholders, he is able to find the good integration of sustainability capitalism, risk and opportunities.


- Øistein Jensen -

How do you offset your own footprint?

I try to be a good citizen and recycle as much as possible, and I have changed my hybrid car to fully electric. 


But I do not believe in offsetting as a principle. To me, offsetting is a "license to pollute". To me it is more important to act on the problem, take responsibility and do my part.

What is your one ‘guilty / non-eco’ pleasure? (that you can’t live without)

Flying… I think we have a responsibility to talk about sustainability in our industry, share experiences and learn from others. Although much can be said about the efficiency of digital meetings, the value of sometimes meeting face to face cannot be underestimated. We also need to be close to our operations in various part of the world to fully understand the impact of our business locally, and act accordingly. This means that travelling still is necessary, and flying is most often the most efficient way to get from A to B..

If you had to choose one person, organisation or community to lead the world in sustainability, who would it be and why?

I do not think that there will be one person, organisation, or community that could lead the world on Sustainability. The challenge is that what works in one place does not always work in other places. Global regulation is always challenging as it will need consensus. 

As an example, the UN International Maritime Organisation is the only organisation that can regulate global shipping. And the IMO is frequently challenged on the organisation's lack of actions and ambitious commitments because it is difficult to get consensus on ambitious climate actions. Still, we also need to understand that the IMO is not only for developed countries but also for developing countries – and the actions and commitments we take should leave no one behind. That is why we need broad international collaboration and understanding. 

I think access to knowledge, facts, and broad collaboration will drive companies, organisations, and countries to make better and sustainable decisions.  


Are you our next Leading Voice?

If you have a story to tell, we want to tell it…


"If working apart we are a force powerful enough to destabilise our planet, surely working together we are powerful enough to save it. In my lifetime I have witnessed a terrible decline. In yours you could - and should - see a wonderful recovery.”


-​ Sir David Attenborough

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