G+ Chair and Head of Safety, Security and Sustainability in New Energy Solutions at Equinor, Tove Lunde calls on the offshore wind industry to be not only safe but sustainable in G+’s The Right Guidance1: “We have to strive for zero harm to our people and the environment that we operate in.” A collaborating partner of G+, the International Marine Contractors Association (IMCA) has been working for over 25 years continuously improving the performance of marine construction. In May, IMCA published its new Recommended Code of Practice on Environmental Sustainability2. Developed by its members under its Environmental Sustainability Committee, the voluntary Code sets the expectation on our industry for how pivotal environmental and climate-related topics associated with offshore marine construction are managed. Key areas outlined in the code include emissions reduction, energy management and efficiency, life below water, the circular economy, supply chain engagement and reporting.

The Code covers two strands of environmental sustainability; climate and nature. Energy companies have expressed clear targets on environmental sustainability, with aims of reaching net zero by 2050 or even 2040. At the same time, they share in a commitment to protect the environment and planet, including, managing their environmental impact in the marine environment and seeking to make a positive contribution to biodiversity.  A review of reporting by marine contractors shows similar targets, illustrating our shared responsibility for environmental sustainability in the marine space.

Energy generated from offshore wind plays an important role in helping to achieve these targets, particularly related to the low carbon transition. Offshore construction may impact on the marine environment, both negatively and positively.  Knowledge of these impacts is growing over time. In the case of offshore wind, noise from installing foundations may, for example, affect foraging, reproduction, be disorienting or cause injury to marine life, including to mammals and fish. Similarly, cable-laying may cause seabed disturbances affecting marine ecosystems.

The Life Below Water section of the Code addresses the 14th UN Sustainable Development Goal of conserving and sustainably using the oceans, seas and marine resources. Members are encouraged to adopt good practices such as implementing environmental management systems and environmental management plans, which outline commitments, responsibilities and mitigation measures in place for specific activities. It also refers to guidance on mitigating the impacts of offshore wind construction and decommissioning on biodiversity.

Another key area covered in the Code of relevance to offshore wind is the circular economy, moving beyond a linear model. The Code suggests various circularity strategies, such as recycling or reuse, which can be applied to waste management and to end-of-life assets. With the first wind farm installed in the world three decades ago and the tremendous expected increase in offshore wind developments globally, both areas are important factors to tackle through a sustainability lens. Similarly, they will require engagement with the supply chain, which is also covered in the Code.

To learn more about the principles and practice of environmental stewardship, take a look at our At a Glance publication3 which outlines the key areas of focus where concerted action is needed.  Let’s do this together.

Foot notes

  1. The Right Guidance
  2. Recommended Code of Practice on Environmental Sustainability
  3. Environmental Sustainability at a Glance