Management Talk

An ocean of opportunities

Even Aas, Group Executive Vice President, believes 2019 was the year the world finally began to understand the seriousness of the situation. Based on the UN’s sustainable development goals, KONGSBERG develops sustainable solutions for customers with exacting requirements and complicated challenges.

  • Text:Håkon Sandland

    Photo:Einar Aslaksen

 “As a professional with many years of experience in this field, I believe last year represented a crossroads in the history of the world. The world truly began to understand that it was time to turn words into action and that we all have to actively contribute and commit to the environment and climate issue. As a world-leading technology company, we are convinced that we can make a difference to the efforts being made to overcome global challenges linked to sustainability, security and environment. We have been developing sustainable solutions for many years, and it is clear that most customers, investors and other stakeholders are increasingly seeking sustainable solutions from us,” says Even Aas, Group Executive Vice President Public Affairs, Communication and Sustainability at KONGSBERG.

At the turn of the year, Aas’ responsibilities were increased to include sustainability within the group. However, this is a topic he is not unfamiliar with, as he has worked within the field of sustainability, environment and climate for many years. His work has been varied too: His thesis for his economics course was about integrating the values of the forest into the national wealth, for the Earth Summit in 1992 and the Oslo Accords in 1993 and he previously worked for the Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions and as secretary of state for shipping at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

In other words, he worked on a wide variety of projects before he settled down at Kongsberg in 1998, where he has stayed since.

"As a world-leading technology company, we are convinced that we can make a difference to the efforts being made to overcome global challenges".

“I’ve been working for the company for more than 20 years and have been on an incredible industrial journey during that time. Since I joined the company, the number of employees has more than trebled and turnover has increased five-fold. We now have a presence in 40 countries, along with offices worldwide. The company has really changed and I am proud to have been part of it all. In many areas, we are now a technological leader with an impressive number of highly skilled colleagues. We are strategically important for customers and nations alike, and I am convinced that we are continuing to make a difference as regards climate, security and environment.”

Aas believes Kongsberg is a unique company. We have both solutions and technology from the ocean floor right up into space. Eighty per cent of our turnover is linked to the ocean and we understand how important the ocean is for the Earth’s future. Aas is in no doubt that the company is part of the solution in the efforts being made to solve global challenges

“That makes it motivating to go to work. We are one of the few companies making a real difference and I believe all my colleagues are truly proud of that,” says Aas.

Aas believes Kongsberg is a unique company. We have both solutions and technology from the ocean floor right up into space.

SUSTAINABILITY PAYS

The world is facing many challenges as regards climate and the environment. International shipping is responsible for large quantities of greenhouse gas emissions and there is no doubt that these challenges must be overcome if we are to achieve our climate goals. In this area, there is not only considerable sustainability potential, but also considerable commercial potential.

Aas believes that it is in—and on—the ocean that many of the opportunities of today and the future lie. “Battery and low—and zero—emission solutions are just the start of a revolution in the maritime industry, which we believe will become vital going forward. Remember that 70 per cent of the Earth’s surface is ocean, 80 per cent or more of all goods are transported by ship and 90 per cent of all biomass occurs in the ocean. Today we are utilising just two per cent of this. Imagine how much value there is there and what we could do with it using Kongsberg technology,” says Aas.

According to Aas, demand for sustainable solutions has increased dramatically in recent years. This is the result of desire, demand and economics for society and customers. This presents our technologies not only with demanding challenges, but also with many exciting possibilities.

Aas believes that it is in—and on—the ocean that many of our commercial opportunities lie. “Thirty thousand vessels are already using our equipment. No one is better than we are at seeing and hearing under water. We are the world’s largest downloader of satellite data for Earth observation and the leader within autonomy, hybrid and zero-emission solutions of the future.”

Eighty per cent of our turnover is linked to the ocean and we understand how important the ocean is for the Earth’s future.

Today, illegal fishing represents a major challenge for the world. Of all catches, around 20 per cent are currently caught illegally, which is unsustainable according to Aas.

“We are part of the solution here too, because we can identify illegal fishing using satellite data, enabling individual nations to take action. This is helping to save not only fish populations, but also vulnerable marine areas.”

COLLABORATION IS IMPORTANT

Sustainability forms an integral part of KONGSBERG’s strategy. The various business areas are responsible for the day-to-day innovation and development of technology. Extensive collaboration is under way across the group, partly through the Technology Forum. We have many examples where technology within one business area has a major application within another. For Kongsberg, collaboration with other stakeholders is also vital. This applies to both environmental organisations and international institutions, such as the UN.

“Today’s climate and sustainability challenges must be overcome through international collaboration. In this context, public-private partnerships will be vital if we are to achieve the UN’s 17 sustainable development goals. Goal number 14 is linked to sustainable development of the ocean. It is here in particular that we can make a difference. That is why I see our contribution within the UN as being both important and meaningful. I am proud that we can contribute in this arena and am convinced that technology is part of the solution,” says Aas.

Marius Holm, general manager of ZERO and Even Aas, Director of Communications, Public Affairs and sustainability at KONGSBERG.

One of the collaboration partners is the environmental organisation, Zero. In February, KONGSBERG and Zero signed a three-year agreement, with the aim of accelerating the switch to renewable and zero-emission solutions.

“Zero is one of the organisations which has been determined to identify technological solutions. The point is that we must learn from each other, monitor trends and understand the direction we need to take and what is possible.”

BORN OPTIMIST

KONGSBERG’s sustainability initiative is broad and inspired by the UN sustainable development goals and entails responsible business management, sustainable innovation, health, safety and environment for employees and corporate social responsibility in the supply chain. The project portfolio is substantial, but some of the projects attract more attention than others.

“It is of course easy to be most proud of what is most visible, such as autonomous zero-emission vessels. Yet it is not one single big story, but a series of small, good stories which make up Kongsberg’s sustainability initiative today. It is the overall effort from all the projects that we should be proud of,” believes Aas.

The bar has been set high, but the Group Executive Vice President is cautious about saying he is satisfied. He is in any case convinced that KONGSBERG as a company will thrive and be able to make the right sustainability choices over the coming years.

“I’m a born optimist. I still believe it is possible for mankind to turn things around.

“It would be very dangerous to say we have succeeded, because there is a risk we might become complacent. We cannot afford to be complacent about our efforts relating to sustainability; we must always strive to improve. However, our sustainability reports are probably the closest we can get to a solution. We must also remember that, although climate issues are important, good sustainability work also means that social factors and the commercial management model are in place.”

Are you personally concerned about the future?

“I’m a born optimist. I still believe it is possible for mankind to turn things around. There will undoubtedly be choppy waters ahead, but I truly believe that we will manage it. It’s just the way we are made. I’m fortunate enough to work in a place where we want to be involved and contribute to solutions which we and the world need.”

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