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Panama Canal Chief Sustainability Officer (CSO) Ilya Espino de Marotta: 4 Things to Know

January 31, 2024 by Joe Panettieri

Panama Canal Deputy Administrator Ilya Espino de Marotta is taking on the additional role of chief sustainability officer (CSO).

Here are four things to know about Espino de Marotta and the canal's sustainability strategy.

1. Panama Canal Scope and Scale: The canal is a 51-mile waterway that connects the Atlantic Oceon with the Pacific Ocean. The canal's design requites 52 million gallons of fresh water (on average) to move each ship through the waterway, according to Wikipedia. A severe drought in 2023 forced the canal to reduce ship crossings by 36% in January 2024, according to the Associated Press.

Amid that backdrop, the Panama Canal will embed sustainability into over $8.5 billion in expected capital investments through the next five years, according to Chief Financial Officer Victor Vial.

Victor Vial, CFO, Panama Canal
Victor Vial, CFO, Panama Canal

2. Ilya Espino de Marotta's Experience: Espino de Marotta began her career at the Canal as the sole female engineer on the shipyard in 1985. She earned multiple promotions and became executive VP for engineering in 2022, according to her LinkedIn bio. In that role, Espino de Marotta oversaw the Panama Canal Expansion Program; and then she was appointed VP of operations for the Panama Canal. In January 2020, Espino de Marotta took office as deputy administrator.

3. Chief Sustainability Officer (CSO) Responsibilities: As CSO, Espino de Marotta "will spearhead the development of a comprehensive sustainability strategy focused on decarbonization, adaptation, and transition," according to a news release. The effort includes working with the International Finance Corporation (IFC), part of the World Bank Group, to finalize an inventory of its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. A climate risk assessment is expected to be completed by the end of 2024, the news statement said.

From there, new short-, medium-, and long-term targets will also be set, with the goal of "implementing aggressive emissions reduction targets starting in Fiscal Year 2025."

Ricaurte Vasquez, CEO and Panama Canal Authority Administrator

4. Executive Perspectives: In a prepared statement, Panama Canal Authority Administrator and CEO Ricaurte Vásquez said: “Sustainability is not new for the maritime route, as the Canal’s legacy is rooted in, and depends on, sustainability. However, we recognize that we must be more ambitious, something we have been moving toward for some time. As the Canal, we have an outsized influence to enable the transformation of the maritime industry, and we see an opportunity in leadership to diversify, grow and improve the way we do business. To help us seize this opportunity, I am proud to announce the appointment of Ilya Espino de Marotta as our first Chief Sustainability Officer. Ilya will build on and expand our existing efforts, creating a more robust and global strategy for the evolving landscape we now operate in.”

Added Espino de Marotta: “While the Panama Canal has long focused on sustainability, the accelerating implications of climate change require stronger action. As an international trade hub, we have an opportunity to not only drive sustainability at the Panama Canal, but also help shape a more sustainable and productive ecosystem for global trade.”

She concluded: “Our ambition is to reach net-zero GHG emissions by or around 2050. In the next six months, we will publish the results of a best-in-class GHG inventory and commit to science-based targets backed by a tangible implementation plan. This is not just about new projects, this is about transforming our business, enabling our customers and employees to transform, so that together we navigate climate risk and succeed in a new climate economy."

Chief Sustainability Officer: Why Technology Partners Should Care

By 2027, 25% of Global 2000 companies will have assigned a chief sustainability officer (CSO) responsible for meeting their organization’s ESG goals and making ESG-related IT purchasing decisions, according to IDC.

The bottom line: Technology partners need to extend their sales, marketing, engagement and support strategies to successfully fulfill those CSO customer needs, Sustainable Tech Partner believes.

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