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Green Marine celebrates its 10th anniversary today!

October 23, 2017

On October 23, 2007, 10 years ago today, the Green Marine environmental program was officially launched at the Port of Quebec. The voluntary initiative then counted 34 participants, compared to the 114 now in the program. In this festive day, we suggest you a behind-the-scene tour of the program’s inception through this genesis story written by journalist Julie Gedeon in the Green Marine Magazine Spring 2017 issue. 10 years and counting…

A noteworthy decade of environmental excellence and continual improvement 

Green Marine is celebrating its 10th anniversary. The North American environmental certification program that officially turns a decade old this October 23, 2017 has surpassed the expectations of many of its early organizers.

“It’s nice to acknowledge the accomplishments to date with more than 100 participants in Canada and the United States and as far away as Australia engaged in the program,” says David Bolduc, Green Marine’s executive director. “It’s also a good time to take stock as we broaden our horizons with new and continually revised objectives.”

Marc Gagnon, Fednav’s director of government affairs and sustainability, headed the St. Lawrence Economic Development Council (known as SODES in Quebec), when some of the first ideas for Green Marine were anchored.

“SODES issued a one-page environmental statement on the St. Lawrence River,” Gagnon recalls. “It was a modest but initial collective effort to state that relevant stakeholders recognized the need to minimize the impacts of shipping on the river.”

Knowing sentiment had to be supported by action, Gagnon asked Claude Mailloux, the SODES expert on such matters, to devise a plan. “Claude was just about to leave SODES, but he drafted a comprehensive action-oriented framework to deal with basically all of the environmental issues related to maritime transportation on the St. Lawrence River.”

At the same time, the Chamber of Marine Commerce headquartered in Ottawa, Ontario, also realized the shipping industry was coming under pressure from environmental groups calling for the shutdown of maritime commerce in the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence region. The spread of aquatic invasive species (AIS) through ballast water had prompted increasing media attention and public concern.

“The shipping industry wasn’t yet doing a great job at conveying its efforts to stop AIS,” relates Ray Johnston, Green Marine’s president and the Chamber’s former head. “Nor were we effectively conveying the environmental advantages of maritime transportation.”

CEO leverage

Recognizing the situation’s gravity, Chamber and SODES representatives met to discuss a better response.

“We quickly acknowledged that while our associations could and would play an important role, nothing would really happen without the industry’s direct involvement,” Johnston recalls. “So a meeting was called with some key CEOs for May 30, 2005.”

The association representatives presented the CEOs with the perceived situation along with information about how the mining and forestry industries had dealt with similar challenges.

“One thing was clear: no one was interested in a mere greenwashing campaign to counter the negative media,” Johnston emphasizes. “The CEOs wanted a reliable framework to clearly measure and relate their environmental progress – one that welcomed maritime companies, regardless of size or resources, as long as they committed to continual improvement.”

Talks led to a trio of CEOs officially accepting to lead a cohesive effort and encourage others to come aboard.

Countless volunteered hours

Numerous discussions were held about the kind of program that the founding CEOs and initial organizations wanted. Other maritime associations, shipping companies and port authorities soon joined the deliberations.

“It still amazes me how generous our founding members were in volunteering countless hours in meetings, conference calls and subsequent follow-ups to hammer out our program’s official framework,” says Bolduc, who was involved as a SODES coordinator at the time.

Marilyn Baxter, the Port of Hamilton’s Environmental, Health and Safety manager, recalls the numerous early discussions. “Our port was looking for an environmental management system, and Green Marine was tailoring one with a clear focus on the environmental themes common to the maritime industry and a thorough understanding of how our business works,” she says.

“By Green Marine seeking and establishing CEO approval from the outset, I’ve always had the support of our senior management to volunteer my time,” Baxter adds. “The opportunities to share ideas, knowledge and experience continue to be of great value to our port.”

The new organization’s initial priorities were AIS, pollutant air emissions, greenhouse gases, cargo residues, oily water, and community conflicts because of port or terminal activities generating noise, dust, odours, excessive light or other nuisances.

“We came up with the Level 1 to 5 ranking so that people outside the industry could easily understand the level of achievement based on the program’s criteria,” Bolduc says.

Key collaborations

The founding CEOs insisted on having a way to ensure that the results determined by each participant through a detailed self-evaluation report were credible and transparent. “There was definitely some resistance by companies that weren’t used to being so open with information about their operations,” Johnston recalls, “but the CEOs were insistent on a review by an independent verifier on a regular basis so that we’d have confidence in publicizing the results.”

Green Marine started out with one verifier. It has since oriented, tested and certified 25 others.

Another innovative approach involved Green Marine’s founders extending an invitation to other relevant stakeholders to take part in the organization’s evolution. “Rather than perpetuating the standoff that had developed by our industry’s former reluctance to speak with representatives of these groups, we invited environmentalists, scientists, as well as government agencies to sit down with us and provide their knowledgeable input,” Bolduc says. “We currently have more than 50 supporters involved in shaping our program – a collaboration that makes Green Marine unique.”

Working in partnership

Green Marine’s obvious early need for some kind of initial administrative management led to the Chamber and SODES forming a tag team for a while. “It worked amazingly well,” Gagnon recalls. “The Chamber, led by Ray, managed the CEO involvement and further recruitment at that level, while SODES, led by myself with a lot of David’s involvement, worked with company representatives to iron out the program’s details and then put them into effect with the approval of Green Marine’s new board of directors.”

Virtually all of ship owners, port authorities, as well as a good number of terminals, based and/or operating on either the Canadian or U.S. side of the St. Lawrence and Great Lakes were invited to participate. “Having a binational program with all of the relevant stakeholders was a priority from the very beginning,” Johnston recalls. “The seven maritime associations involved with Green Marine’s first board of directors were true ambassadors that actively encouraged their respective membership to take part.”

Michael Broad, the president of the Shipping Federation of Canada, recalls contacting his organization’s members without hesitation. “It just made sense to recommend the program to our membership rather than having companies reinvent the wheel,” he says. “It was also obvious that we could have a larger impact if the shipping industry spoke with a cohesive voice.”

Under new management

Within two years, the not-for-profit Green Marine Corporation had a sufficient membership base to merit its own executive director and Bolduc – who had enthusiastically been involved from the outset – was regarded as the logical choice.

“I don’t mind taking credit for initially hiring David for SODES and subsequently letting him go to Green Marine,” Gagnon jokes. “He really has done a superb job of managing and expanding the organization.”

The founders had not intended on expanding beyond the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence region but reconsidered after the Prince Rupert Port Authority asked to take part. “The development of our comprehensive approach to environmental sustainability aligned closely with Green Marine’s goals of environmental excellence and continual improvement,” says Jason Scherr, the port’s environmental sustainability manager.

Green Marine carefully examined the possible consequences of expansion before the board of directors gave its approval. “It’s essential to us to stay responsive to regional environmental concerns as we become a larger organization,” Bolduc explains. “We’re achieving this core principal through our regional advisory committees.”

Steady expansion

The program is now expanding more rapidly – particularly in the United States. “We currently have an equal number of Canadian and U.S. port authorities participating with the American number expected to increase shortly,” says Bolduc.

U.S. expansion has significantly contributed to a tripling of Green Marine’s initial participating membership and is anticipated to be a major focus of the organization’s growth over the next few years as additional maritime enterprises become aware of the environmental program’s advantages.

Green Marine made a major commitment to its current and future U.S. participants by opening its second regional office in Seattle, Washington, in the fall of 2014 and hiring Eleanor Kirtley as the West Coast program manager.

Increasing membership also prompted last year’s hiring of Thomas Grégoire as the new East Coast and Great Lakes program manager based in a new Halifax, Nova Scotia, office. His addition gives Véronique Nolet, more time to primarily focus on her role as St. Lawrence program manager, as well as special assignments.

Reflecting upon the last 10 years, Johnston and Bolduc concur that Green Marine’s success to date is a testament to the genuine commitment of marine industry stakeholders to protect the environment.

“Looking forward, I’m certain Green Marine will continue to play a central role in establishing new and higher standards for environmental excellence regarding all aspects of shipboard and shore-based maritime operations,” Johnson says.

“The upward curve in the annual results of our participants’ environmental performance demonstrates the effectiveness of this voluntary initiative to benchmark and continually improve the industry’s sustainability,” Bolduc adds. “It’s also so motivating to see our participants willingly accept the challenge of new emerging issues.”

You can read more stories on the genesis of the environmental program and other relevant sustainability topics in the online flipbook of the magazine.

Marc Gagnon and Gerry Carter unveiling a plaque commemorating Green Marine’s inception. They were respectively president of the SODES and Canada Steamship Lines when the environnemental program was officially launched.