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Q&A with Thomas Grégoire, program manager

December 7, 2021

November 21st marked five years since Thomas Grégoire joined Green Marine as the program manager based in the Halifax, Nova Scotia, office. Since his arrival, Thomas has worn many hats in contributing to the environmental program’s evolution and membership: he provides support to the program’s East Coast participants; coordinates the external verification process; and, manages the membership’s partner engagement. Over the last five years Thomas coordinated the Great Lakes Advisory Committee, which he is now pleased to hand off to his new colleague Brittney Blokker as he focuses on managing the newly formed North Atlantic Advisory Committee. Thomas also leads the annual meetings of the Landside Technical Committee held in English. His program development contributions include overseeing the ship recycling working group that developed the newly introduced performance indicator, and currently leading a working group to develop an environmental and sustainability leadership indicator for the ship owners participating in the program.

Q: What led you to work at Green Marine?

A: Like many in the shipping industry, my journey here was indirect to say the least. After earning a Bachelor of Science in Biology from Acadia University with a focus on molecular and conservation genetics, I followed my wife out west so she could study white sturgeon in the Fraser River as part of her Dalhousie Ph.D. work. A happenstance meeting in Montreal en route to B.C. connected me with the B.C. Chamber of Shipping, which offered me the position of security and policy analyst soon after my arrival. The following two years served as the best primer in shipping one could hope for, offering me the opportunity to work closely with the Chamber’s vice president, Bonnie Gee, and president, Captain Stephen Brown. I was a sponge, quiet in the corner absorbing everything. The variety of the Chamber’s committee meetings not only taught me the many perspectives and current challenges faced by our industry, but also introduced and helped me to develop relationships with valued industry colleagues. I’ll be forever grateful for the opportunity Bonnie and Stephen gave me, the foundation they helped me to establish, and especially for the way they and the Chamber’s board members treated my wife and me during challenging times. After my wife’s fieldwork wrapped up, we moved back to Nova Scotia so she could finish writing and then defend her Ph.D. thesis, which is also when the stars aligned with Green Marine posting for an East Coast program manager.

Q: What is your favourite part of being a Program Manager and what drives you most?

A: You mean aside from working with the dream team that we’re so fortunate to have? Being on the phone with current and prospective members. Connecting people, helping them work on shared challenges and contributing towards their sustainability goals. It honestly feels great being part of an organization that offers a meaningful program like ours that I can passionately get behind. I feel like what we do makes a difference, and I have no doubt that passion shines into my daily conversations, particularly in recruiting calls, but that’s only because I believe so strongly in our mission. To quote something I read recently, “What gets measured gets managed” and, in today’s world, it’s more important than ever that we all do what we can to manage our impacts. My two beautiful little girls are my driving force and the need to know that, when I look back, I’ll have done and said all I could to leave the world as a better place for them.

Q: November 21st marked your five-year milestone with Green Marine. What is your greatest achievement so far?

A: Membership growth, particularly on the East Coast, would likely be my most significant contribution to the organization so far. This year, I also led the introduction and implementation of a CRM (Customer relationship management) tool to support our continued expansion and earning that buy-in from my team is something I’m proud of. But the greatest achievement so far? That’s a tough question. I think just making it. The last few years certainly haven’t been without their major challenges, and five years ago, had you asked me if I thought a voluntary environmental certification program would survive both significant financial crises and a global pandemic, I’m not sure I would have been so optimistic. The fact that we not only survived but grew stronger as an organization and brand during the last few years is a testament to our members’ genuine commitment to sustainability, the program’s quality, and the dedication of our team. I can’t wait to see what the next five years holds for Green Marine.

Q: When developing a new performance indicator, such as the ship recycling one added to the program in 2020, or the leadership PI you’re currently developing for ship owners, what do you find most challenging?

A: Green Marine’s program development requires achieving consensus across a broad range of stakeholders, including participants, government agencies and environmental groups. Finding that middle ground and agreeing on which actions beyond regulations would most meaningfully address specific issues, and then striking a balance between ambitious yet achievable isn’t always easy. With respect to the development of the ship recycling performance indicator, we were fortunate that we could pull from the existing Hong Kong Convention and EU Ship Recycling Regulations, given both are not yet in force in North America. We were also very fortunate to have several experts around the table and certain members who really stepped up to play a leadership role in that working group. Another challenge in developing any performance indicator is ensuring it’s applicable to all participants, regardless of their type or size of operations.

Q: If you could pick one participant to visit in person, which one would it be, and why?

A: Another loaded question! I’m particularly interested in the latest and greatest technologies at the forefront of innovation, especially related to green tech (no pun intended), AI and automation. But if I had to pick one… I guess I’d like to head down south to visit our members in Louisiana, having never been. Living in Nova Scotia where there’s a strong Acadian culture, I’ve always been interested in following the story of the French peasants who were deported to Louisiana from the Maritimes in the late 1700s and later became known as the Cajuns.