How two young women make the shipping industry more sustainable

‘’Me and Astrid are exceptions within the shipping industry. We are young women with an innovative idea’’, says Isabel Welten. Together with Astrid Sonneveld, she has introduced a program to make the marine industry more sustainable. ‘’Shipping sea containers cause a substantial amount of CO2 emission on a global scale. The expectation is that in [...]

‘’Me and Astrid are exceptions within the shipping industry. We are young women with an innovative idea’’, says Isabel Welten. Together with Astrid Sonneveld, she has introduced a program to make the marine industry more sustainable. ‘’Shipping sea containers cause a substantial amount of CO2 emission on a global scale. The expectation is that in 2050 17% of the total emission will be caused by this industry.’’

How would you describe The Goodshipping Program in one tweet?

‘’The Goodshipping Program makes it possible for companies to transport their products in a sustainable way.’’


What does The Goodshipping Program do?

‘’The program is a spin-off from Goodfuels, a pioneer in renewable fuel within the shipping industry. The main goal is to make the container shipping process more environmentally friendly. The additional costs for shipping products in a green fashion by using clean fuels are not for the ship owners, but are being paid for by the companies that ship their products.’’


Are you offering a product or a service?

‘’We offer a service for a more sustainable method of sea transport. The way we operate is by replacing fossil fuels with a more renewable alternative in collaboration with GoodFuels. The fuel is made from waste materials that do not compete with the food or logging industry. We only offer our clients our green option of shipping their products; they can use their own logistical partners for the actual shipping.’’


How did the concept of Goodshipping originate?

‘’We worked for GoodFuels, which was founded almost three years ago. During this period, we have had multiple successes in the shipping industry. The container industry is a different segment altogether. The main approach is different because of over-capacity. We noticed early on that billing the additional costs of green transportation to the shipping companies, like Maersk or Hapag Lloyd, wasn’t the right way to do business. Instead, we try to approach the companies who hire them – for example Heineken, Ikea or H&M.‘’


Are those companies interested in using your program?

‘’Yes, it fits the current sustainability trend. We notice that companies are mostly looking for sustainable alternatives within their offices. This means the CO2 emissions from transport gets overlooked most of the time. They don’t think about the environmental consequences that come with the current way of transportation. We aim to create awareness among people that are involved with this industry.’’


Are there any global agreements on CO2 emissions within the shipping industry?

‘’There are no current emission goals within the shipping industry. Such goals weren’t included in the Paris Agreement. As a result, making this industry more sustainable remains a free choice for the companies.’’


Is the industry itself setting sustainability goals?

‘’The shipping industry is the dinosaur of the transport and logistics sector. They have been doing the same thing for years without any major changes in the process of sustainability. Other segments are years ahead of this sector. It still is one of the cheapest ways of transportation; so cheap that it isn’t even comparable with other delivery methods. It is cheaper to order a package from China using sea shipping than to deliver the same package with a regular van in Amsterdam. ‘’


How big is the air pollution caused by regular shipping?

‘’If we take CO2 emissions as an example, we can measure the environmental pollution in grams of carbon dioxide per container per kilometer. If the container is shipped for a kilometer, then the CO2 emissions will be around 60 grams. This is an average value that is dependent on trade route, type of container and the size of the ship. For example, the route between Rotterdam and New York is more polluting than from Rotterdam to China.’’


Are CO2 emissions the only pollution factor?

‘’When you burn oil, it releases damaging chemicals like: sulphur, nitrogen, and fine particles like black carbon. These chemicals end up on our polar caps and accelerate the process of ice melting. Fine particles also have a damaging effect on the health of human beings. Almost 60,000 people die every year because of breathing in these particles.’’


Is there any competition within your industry?

‘’We do not know of any similar concepts that do the same as us. The biggest competitor that I can think of will be CO2 compensation. The actual documented CO2 emissions are compensated by companies using certificates. This doesn’t change the fact that the CO2 emissions are still there. We aim to really make a difference using our program.’’


What is the biggest advantage of The Goodshipping Program?

‘’As soon as a customer joins the program, we take over the responsibilities. We calculate the amount of fuel needed to ship the containers sustainably, contact the shipping company, and we then supply the right fuels. The client hardly supervises anything and can – without considering his other operations – contribute to a cleaner planet.’’


How do you picture the business model?

‘’That is very simple: the client pays per container, per kilometer a fixed price per year. This gives him an assurance for his yearly budget. As a matter of fact, our program arranges the desired fuels. For this, we request a small management fee per liter. Considering market demand, we expect to break even by the end of the year. We see so much potential in the program, which encourages us to continue with it in our full capacity.’’


What is your view on female entrepreneurship?

‘’Astrid and I are 26 and 27 years old respectively. We both have a technical background thanks to our studies in Delft and are working in a conservative industry mainly dominated by older men. It stands out in conferences, usually in a positive sense. We don’t only have an exceptional story, but are also recognized by it. This is exactly what I believe to be typical for this program. The program is just like us: refreshing and renewing; and as young women in the shipping industry, we want to break the clichés and use our female entrepreneurship to create as many advantages as we can.’’

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Which characteristics are essential for female entrepreneurs?

‘’If you are passionate about the matter, you are working ahead and you believe in your own product or service, you can achieve a lot as an entrepreneur. For women specifically, I believe that especially your emotional intelligence is a help to understand and empathize with your customer. For a new program such as the GSP, there are usually no budgets, which means that you’ll have to come up with creative solutions for the customer to justify the sale internally, and consider which benefits you can achieve externally.’’


Which milestones did you reach since your attendance at the Accenture Innovation Awards?

‘’Three weeks after the award from the Innovation Awards, Astrid won a TEDx- award. The publicity and the attention that came with it, gave us and the program a huge positive impulse. The recognition from Accenture as well as from TEDx was very valuable. The fact that they have faith in our concept gives us even more reason to continue on this course. Besides, our collaboration launch with Tony’s Chocolonely took place, and around Christmas, we announced our partnership with DHL Global Forwarding.’’


What were you able to offer Tony’s Chocolonely?

‘’The cacao beans used by Tony’s Chocolonely, which come from Ghana and the Ivory coast, are being processed into chocolate in Antwerp and subsequently exported from Rotterdam to America.
For them, it was the right choice to start making their delivery line between Rotterdam and America sustainable, to ensure that the chocolate bars were shipped sustainably. Tony’s Chocolonely is a good example of a client with whom we developed a business case together.’’


Can you tell us more about your partnership with DHL Global Forwarding?

‘’DHL has announced their personal goal to become emissions free by 2050. Before this, DHL offered customers two options in this area: either to ship the products on the most efficient ship for an additional fee, which lowered the fuel emissions, or CO2 compensation. Now, DHL has the option to ship containers fully ’green’ via The Goodshipping Program.’’


Which advice would you give the AIA 18 Participants?

‘’Making your own start-up a successful one is like seeing an iceberg. On the outside, only the positive signals – the tip of the iceberg – are visible. Below the water level, however, you’ll have to put in a lot of work. Sadly, it’s not the case that one success follows the other. Disappointments are sometimes inevitable and being turned down also. That is why you’ll have to work hard and be persistent. However, it is this tip of the iceberg that drives you to work hard and see your efforts bear fruit. Live for your passions and ambitions and keep on believing in yourself.’’

*) The Goodshipping Program won the 2017 Accenture Innovation Award for the theme: Clean and Affordable Energy.

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Author: Studio Stomp


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