Q&A: Crowley’s Meaghan Atkinson on sustainability

Written by Heather Ervin
Meaghan Atkinson with Crowley

Meaghan Atkinson

Last month, Crowley promoted Meaghan Atkinson to vice president of sustainability. In this role, Atkinson leads Crowley’s sustainability efforts and drives action to decarbonize across the company’s operations and value chain to reach net-zero emissions by 2050.

Marine Log (ML): What can you tell us about your new position?

Meaghan Atkinson (MA): The vice president of sustainability role reinforces Crowley’s commitment to our sustainability ambition and is responsible for advancing decarbonization efforts across our operations and value chain. We’re fortunate to already have a great sustainability team at Crowley with subject matter experts focused on decarbonization, digitization and engagement.

Corporate Safety and Facilities Engineering are also critical to the success of our sustainability mission. Safety is embedded in our core values of Drive, Sustainability, and Integrity—and we cannot succeed in our ambition to lead in sustainability without a culture that invests in safety as the foundation. Defining the way that we develop properties or build facilities of the future is the job of our facilities engineering team and we’re embedding sustainability knowledge and decision-making in that process, as well.

ML: How did you originally get involved with Crowley and what’s your background with sustainability?

MA: I joined Crowley in 2021 as the director of sustainability and regulatory affairs. My background includes 15 years of increasing responsibility in sustainability and environmental compliance roles in Florida state government and CSX Corporation.

I started my career as a hazardous waste inspector for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and enjoyed talking to small business owners about the nexus of heavy industry and environmental stewardship. I had the opportunity to improve the efficiency and reduce the waste output, and therefore the regulatory risk, for many small businesses across Northeast Florida.

While still a graduate student, I studied the impact of climate change on coastal ecosystems and later how to build resilient infrastructure as the climate continues to impact how and where people build communities and industrial needs.

I spent 10 years as part of the environmental team at CSX, and during my time, we worked to drive down operational and facilities-based emissions. At the same time, we increased fuel efficiency and optimization while eliminating 40% of Scope 2 emissions through energy efficiency projects, office consolidation, and refining of operational facilities.

ML: Sustainability is such a hot topic in maritime right now. What is it that you see the industry starting to do right and what areas still need work as far as sustainability goes?

MA: The maritime and logistics industry is doing so much to define the path forward. There are many efforts underway to test new fuels and technologies, partner across value chains and with customers on promising opportunities as well as upskill our collective workforce to understand their role in sustainability transformation.

Crowley is leading the way with its all-electric tugboat, the eWolf, currently being built and to be delivered in 2023. We’re also piloting biodiesel and renewable diesel in parts of our fleets, with expansion planned. Crowley is also investing in companies that are accelerating the research and development of hydrogen, carbon capture, and ocean data mapping.

Crowley is working with its supply chain to identify opportunities for reducing emissions in this important segment of our footprint, known as Scope 3 emissions. This is the biggest portion of Crowley’s emissions and collective action is needed across Scope 3 emissions more broadly. The good news is that every customer that signals the need for sustainability action puts collectively more pressure on the same suppliers, creating emission reduction not just for one value chain but many.

ML: What are some achievements you’re proud of during your time with Crowley so far, and what do you hope to achieve in the near future?

MA: Our team has developed the first comprehensive greenhouse gas inventory for Crowley, and we’re working with Salesforce Net Zero Cloud to make that an automated process in the future. Going forward, we hope to have the ability to model various changes to our operations and the impact those changes have on emissions.

We published our first sustainability report in June 2022, and you can follow our progress in annual sustainability reporting that will be published each summer. People can access the report at crowley.com/esg.

ML: Finally, any news you can reveal about Crowley’s work in decarbonization and sustainable shipping?

MA: Crowley is at the beginning of its sustainability and decarbonization efforts, and there are initiatives underway across our organization to test new technologies. We’re embedding sustainability across our business units, and this is a time of learning and development that will accelerate as we find what works, what doesn’t, and further clarify the path ahead for both the near term and long term.

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