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Panama Canal Appoints Chief Sustainability Officer

January 25, 2024

Ilya Espino de Marotta (Photo: Panama Canal Authority)

Ilya Espino de Marotta (Photo: Panama Canal Authority)

The Panama Canal announced that Deputy Administrator Ilya Espino de Marotta will now also serve as the Canal’s first Chief Sustainability Officer (CSO).

As CSO, Espino de Marotta will spearhead the development of a comprehensive sustainability strategy focused on decarbonization, adaptation, and transition. Working with the International Finance Corporation (IFC), part of the World Bank Group, the Canal is already in the process of finalizing an inventory of its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and aims to complete a climate risk assessment by the end of the year. 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.

“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,” said Panama Canal Administrator Ricaurte Vásquez Morales. “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.”

In addition to appointing a CSO, the Canal is integrating responsibility for climate action across its entire leadership team and embedding its commitment to sustainability across the entire business. According to Chief Financial Officer, Victor Vial, “this includes embedding sustainability into over $8.5 billion in expected capital investments through the next five years.”

“While the Panama Canal has long focused on sustainability, the accelerating implications of climate change require stronger action,” said Espino de Marotta. “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.”

“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,” she added.

Espino de Marotta began her career at the Canal as the sole female engineer on the shipyard. She eventually became the Executive Vice President for Engineering, overseeing the ground-breaking Panama Canal Expansion Program; and then she was appointed Vice President of Operations for the Panama Canal. In January 2020, Espino de Marotta took office as Deputy Administrator, making history as the first woman to ever hold the position.

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