In our special column this time, we have the pleasure to host an interview with Mrs. Christine Valentin, Board Member & Chief Operating Officer, World Ocean Council (WOC) who explains us the vision of WOC toward ocean sustainability as well as her career path, inspiring us to believe in ourselves and support every professional choices we make.
As Chief Operating Officer, Mrs. Valentin travels a lot, invests time in networking and has the opportunity to showcase the leadership capacity of business in sustainability as well as to tackle with environmental and gender issues; for all these reasons, Mrs. Valentin is very excited to be part of this global, cross-sectoral ocean industry leadership alliance . Moreover, she is an active member of WISTA, highlighting that ‘improved gender balance is the key to more sustainable operations and to answering more efficiently the challenges of the 21st century’.
SAFETY4SEA: How did it come about that you joined shipping industry and your field of expertise specifically?
Christine Valentin: I have always been fascinated by the capacity of “traditional industries” to invent, adapt and increasingly integrate sustainability into their operations while maintaining excellent safety standards. My corporate career related more to land and the outer space, and it was only a few years ago that I discovered the fascinating activities and industries operating on 70% of our planet. One of the most important and ancient of these industries is shipping, confronted with challenges of monumental proportions and necessitating the need for innovative perspectives in order to continue to grow and thrive.
Five years ago, I met the founder of the World Ocean Council and was thrilled by his vision of a cross-sectoral alliance of leadership companies around responsible operations. Before then, I had spent 15 years in a number of companies focusing on transversal projects and initiatives. I knew the challenges and had developed skills and expertise on how to better engage stakeholders crossectorally.
I was therefore interested in being part of such a vision, helping grow the organization and being in a unique corporate ecosystem where sustainability is at the core of the capacity of these activities to innovate, grow and perform better.
S4S: What about your current job/ role most excites you and why?
Chr.V.: Quite a lot of things excite me in my job as COO of the World Ocean Council:
- The WOC is a global organization catering to the entire diverse ocean business community. I am constantly engaging and exchanging knowledge with people of different cultures, languages and ages from a variety of backgrounds such as business, government, research or other communities. This diversity means that to be efficient, one needs to listen and understand different people’s way of thinking and speaking. This effort needed to ensure the efficiency and value of our engagement with stakeholders is crucial.
- I am also constantly working on the strategic and operational fronts of a range of fields, including communications, finance, law, marketing and management.
- I travel and speak around the world. I build new networks and connect people and ideas in an ever-changing corporate environment – this networking keeps me on the alert at all times!
- Last but not least, my job allows me to showcase the leadership capacity of business in sustainability and engages me fully in environmental and gender issues, which are at the core of my personal motivations and the center of successful future business models and financial performance for the ocean business community.
S4S: When you think of the word successful who’s the first person who comes to mind and why?
Chr.V.: Success can mean so many things! Alexandra David-Néel, the early XXth century Belgian-French philosopher who died at the age of 101 years after a life of explorations in Central Asia and China, is the first person who comes to mind.
She was a singer, explorer, writer, lecturer, photographer, architect, Sanskrit grammarian and Buddhist philosopher. She was also the first Western woman explorer of Tibet to enter the sacred city of Lhassa. David-Néel organized herself to be financially autonomous and always followed her passion wherever it took her.
She was a true feminist and had a level of confidence which led to the realization of her passion for exploration, irrespective of whether it was deemed possible for a woman. Furthermore, this passion has been kept alive in the numerous books and studies she wrote.
S4S: Who is/was the most influential person/mentor to you & why?
Chr.V.: The most influential person/mentor to me is a woman by the name of Simone Veil, a French politician who recently passed away and one of the most impressive persons I have had the opportunity to meet. After having lost all her family in the concentration camps during the second World War she became a fervent European and believer in the European Union as a core element of peace in the region. She was also instrumental in defending women’s rights.
What influenced me the most is her capacity to change society in a very resolute manner, and her resilience and determination to stand strong against all odds. She never gave in to hate, aggression or extremism even though she was the target of violence both physical and mental and was always positive, balanced and peaceful in her actions.
S4S: What is the best and what was the worst piece of advice you’ve ever been given and why?
Chr.V.: I was given this piece of advice 15 years ago, when I was leaving a company and country to engage in something completely new:
“Until one is committed there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative and creation, there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, providence moves too. All sort of things occur to help one that would never otherwise occur.”
The worst piece of advice I have been given was to never trust anyone.
S4S: What is the most worthwhile career investment (in energy, time, money) you’ve ever made?
Chr.V.: There are three worthwhile career investments I have made thus far:
- The first would be my three months at Harvard Business School’s Executive Program. The career break gave me a breath of fresh air that was unique both on a personal and professional basis. It was an opportunity for me to bring a new dimension to life, and a way to create lifelong friendships and grow very operational and useful networks.
- The second would be my engagement with a number of non-profit organizations as a volunteer treasurer and board member over the past 18 years. This has helped prepare myself for a role as COO of a non-profit, which requires communicating with other non-profit stakeholders. I had never imagined this skillset would come to use in enhancing my efficiency and performance in my current job, and in utilizing my corporate and finance background.
- The third investment would be my participation in the first national session of IHEDN, the National Defense University, focused on Strategic Maritime Challenges in 2016 which provided a full vision and understanding of the ocean ecosystem in terms of strategic issues, future challenges, and political, economic and social forces shaping oceanic and maritime developments.
S4S: If you could give a piece of advice to your 18-year-old-self one thing, what would it be and why? What piece of advice should you ignore?
Chr.V.: Believe in yourself always and ignore those who make you think you need to become someone else to become successful or to follow certain types of careers. Whatever choice you make professionally, as long as this is your choice, it is the best one for you.
S4S: In the last five years, what new belief, behavior, or habit has most improved your business life?
Chr.V.: As when one is on the seas in an ever moving and changing environment, the need to adapt to surrounding conditions and to know how to change direction or speed is the surest and fastest way to arrive safely in port. I have learned how to let go, be patient, and be better prepared to seize opportunities and handle a variety of scenarios. By doing so I become more efficient and successful, more so than trying to keep control of everything, when dealing with increasingly variable and un chartered environments.
S4S: What would you like to change in the current maritime landscape and your area of expertise specifically and why?
Chr.V.: The current maritime landscape is confronted by multiple challenges, including increasing pressure on ocean health and the need for industries in this ecosystem to become more sustainable as they grow and as new activities are developed. The importance for leadership companies to engage their peers and for all companies and sectors to collaborate where they share common governance and environmental issues has never been more distinct. The World Ocean Council (WOC) is the global, cross-sectoral ocean industry leadership alliance committed to “Corporate Ocean Responsibility”, developed by and for the private sector, with a unique and multi-sectoral approach to address cross-cutting issues affecting ocean sustainable development, science and stewardship of the seas. We believe that responsible and coordinated Ocean Business Community efforts are essential to a healthy and productive global ocean and its sustainable use, development and stewardship. We are working to accelerate the capacity of the industries to adapt and become more efficient representatives of the Blue Economy and ensure sustainability is increasingly engrained in their operations. As a feminist and active member of WISTA (Women’s International Shipping and Trading Association), I also believe that improved gender balance is a key to more sustainable operations and to answering more efficiently the challenges of the 21st century.
S4S: What is your personal motto?
Chr.V.: Stay true to yourself, your values, your ethics. Be confident in what you can do and your capacity to realize your dreams and go for it!
Christine is leading the WOC efforts to develop and drive strategically focused action to ensure sustainable growth and visibility to the members of the ocean business community who believe in “Corporate Ocean Responsibility”. She has almost 30 years of senior positions in multicultural contexts in S&P 500 companies and smaller management owned businesses in France, the Netherlands and the US. Since 2002, she has worked in sustainability and environmental consulting, engineering and services firms designing environmentally friendly and climate change adapted solutions. In 2012 Christine created Batzine Consulting to help organizations accelerate and grow sustainably using gender, ecology and financial performance together as a competitive advantage.