What do you bring back home?
What do you bring back home?
On the leg between Naha and Ishigaki in Japan, Norwegian leaders from business and public administration manned Statsraad Lehmkuhl. What did they learn along the way?
Seminar is a familiar term, conference, congress, and workshop as well. But none of them fully covers what this group took part in, sailing between two small Japanese islands, far out in the sea east of Taiwan and north of the Philippines.
The idea to bring together managers from businesses ranging from giant Equinor and NORCE to the small municipality of Alver, came from Bergen Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
- We started planning this seven years ago, says Marit Warncke, the director of the Chamber. Now the ship has been sailing for over a year, we've had to change the route because of corona, so finally being able to embark the ship was absolutely fantastic, she says.
Began in Tokyo
Before embarking in Naha, Okinawa, the participants met with Japanese business leaders in Tokyo.
- Norwegian Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeldt was also there, says Warncke.
Both Japan and Norway are maritime countries, and have many common challenges. Several of the Norwegian companies that took part in the voyage already collaborate with Japanese businesses.
But it was the days at sea the participants remember the best. They had to work regular shifts on board, set and salvage sails, keep lookout, and scrub decks, while also discussing the green transition.
Set aside time
- Busy, says Sara Hamre Sekkingstad, mayor of Alver municipality. Alver is located north of Bergen, with 29,784 inhabitants and 843 large and small islands.
- I feel that this week, both in Tokyo and here on board, has given me the opportunity to reflect more than I would have been able to at home, says Sekkingstad.
- The reason is that we have set aside time, we have had good discussions in groups, and then I have taken those thoughts and reflections with me both into the dinner and up in the rigging. At home, you might go to a two-hour presentation, but you don't have time to reflect on it in the same way as we have done here. And being able to work together with people from business, finance and the public sector, finding solutions together, and then discovering that yes, maybe we could do things in other ways, she says.
Under the skin
Elisabeth Birkeland is director of technology at Equinor, one of the real heavyweights in Norwegian business. There she is responsible for carbon capture and storage, hydrogen, ammonia and low-carbon fuel.
- What has fascinated me is that everyone has the same problems. Now we have really had time to get under each other's skin, and had time to discuss, she says.
The challenge, as she sees it, is to create a sustainable future, while at the same time we must bring about an energy transition.
- It's a big job, a job we have to do together, moving in the same direction. And that is exactly what we have done now, on board Statsraad Lehmkuhl, says Birkeland.
But, on much of this voyage we have sailed with an average speed of 3.5 knots, but we would prefer 15. We need to increase the speed also of the green transition, how do we do that?
- We have discussed this, yes. It is one thing to understand the problem, but someone must dare to step forward, be visible, dare to take risks and do things differently, take leadership and responsibility and drive the transition forward. How to make this happen is extremely important. We are not talking about a little bit faster, we have to get up to a really great pace, says Birkeland.
Next management meeting
So when you go into the next management meeting at Equinor, what do you tell your colleagues Birkeland?
- I want to start by telling them about the wonderful experience we have had at Statsraad Lehmkuhl. What it has done to me as a leader, making me humble in relation to what is required to achieve what we need. It has given me new friendships and new partners that I can cooperate with further, she replies.
- But it's not enough to just talk about it at a meeting, sustainability must come into everything we do. We must understand how what we deliver affects the entire energy transition, the CO2 footprint, people and the environment. And we have to work with this in everyday life, get it in as part of the culture, not just do it occasionally, but have it with us all the way, she says.
Did you come up with a concrete idea that you really liked?
- We agreed to really putting Norway on the map in relation to the energy transition. And in relation to creating enough energy at a price that people can handle, but still sustainable, with as low a CO2 footprint as possible. We have done some at Equinor, but we cannot go all the way alone, we have to work together with others to move forward, says Birkeland.
Hans Kleivdal, deputy EVP at NORCE, helped plan the professional program on board. He also participated in one of the working groups, and they proposed establishing a Norwegian Sustainability Fund.
- We have a Paris Agreement and a framework for sustainability, we know what we want to achieve, but not quite how we are going to do it. So we propose to establish a coordinating unit, which will handle how climate taxes can be routed into investments in new green solutions. The Norwegian Sustainability Fund will receive CO2 tax and perhaps something from the oil fund, and then use the funds to establish a market for green solutions and technologies. Many are sitting on the fence now, it is perceived as risky to invest in green technology, he says.
Kleivdal will use the fund to reward green investments, and reduce the risk for investors.
- We who were part of the working group, people from business, research, finance, the county council and the local democracy, will meet again when we are back in Norway.
The plan is to take the proposal forward to the government, and Kleivdal aims for the Sustainability Fund to be in place next spring.
Bjørn Kjærand Haugland is already working on restructuring. He leads Skift, a business organization where 55 companies collaborate to bring about the green transition in Norway. As on board Statsraad Lehmkuhl, The Skift members are a good mix of people from different industries within Norwegian business.
- The challenges for Norway and Norwegian business are that, despite nice words, many plans and many breakfast meetings, we are still unable to reduce our emissions. We have approximately the same emissions as we had in 1990. But, by 2030, we are committed to reducing our emissions by 55 per cent, both in accordance with the Paris Agreement and vis-à-vis the EU. A formidable task, he says.
Why haven't emissions been reduced?
- The obvious answer is that we have not really addressed emission reductions. We have always set our goals very far into the future, and when we don't reach the goals, we just push them even further.
Skift works to shorten the time horizon, and specify reductions sector by sector.
- Instead of talking about what we are going to reduce by 2030, we are talking about what we are going to reduce in 2023, 2024, 2025, sector by sector, ton by ton. Such an approach is absolutely crucial if we are to achieve the green transition, explains Haugland.
- It costs very little to pollute the atmosphere with CO2. We have been talking about CO2 pricing for a very long time, and I think it is time for businesses to support this kind of means to a greater extent, he says.
The will is there?
- Yes ..., Haugland takes a short pause.
- But it is not so easy to separate what is real will and what is sweet talk. In Norway, there are many with knowledge, but a little too few who really want to act on it. A restructuring means that we go from one state to another, and I feel that there are too few who are real drivers to bring about that restructuring, he says.
According to Haugland, to be passive may be foolish.
- We believe that the companies that go first, will gain a competitive edge, positioning themselves more strongly towards the future. Fortunately, much more is happening at a European level than at a Norwegian level. Being at the forefront therefore also means that you position yourself more strongly in relation to the European market, which is our largest market as of today, he says.
Only the beginning
For Bergen Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the days on board Statsraad Lehmkuhl were only the beginning of a process that will continue after the participants are back in Bergen. The plan is to present the results during One Ocean Week, a week-long conference that kicks off when Statsraad Lehmkuhl docks in Bergen on 15 April 2023.
Right now, when the bags are packed and everyday life awaits, all the participants praise the good mood on board, and the feeling of being part of what the One Ocean Expedition is all about. The ocean.
- Getting up at four in the morning and coming out under the starry sky, and starting the day by working together after sleeping shoulder to shoulder. We really got under each other's skin. Pull the ropes, make the ship go where we want, make sure we do everything in a safe and good way, watch the sun rise. The team feeling, the victory when we get it done, that's what I remember best, and what will stay with me for a long time, says Elisabeth Birkeland.