To change an industry, you need to change yourself

Volvo Penta’s SVP of Brand, Communication & Marketing, Malin Schwartz talks about the importance of diversity – when it comes to tackling the pressing issues of today – and the bravery of trying new things at the risk of failure.

Metstrade panel discussion

Strong leadership is an important aspect of the Volvo Penta culture and a topic that is close to the heart of Volvo Penta’s SVP of Brand, Communication & Marketing, Malin Schwartz.

At METSTRADE 2021, Malin had the chance to share her reflections as part of the Leadership Panel: Women in the Industry – Impact & Empowerment. METSTRADE is the largest, annual B2B event across the marine leisure industry, where this year’s activation included a series of panel discussions through the METSTRADE Connect digital platform.

Malin was joined by Soundings Trade Only publisher, Michelle Goldsmith and Navico’s Chief Sustainability Officer, Tara Norton, to discuss the future of female leadership and empowerment within the marine industry. The panel was hosted by Pernille La Lau.

Even among western nations, progress on this front varies greatly, with 47% of top leadership roles in the U.S. now being filled by women, in contrast to just 27% in Italy. Volvo Penta, however, is making strides towards its target of 35% female leadership by 2030.

“Female leadership is growing in the marine industry - whether it’s because all industries are demanding greater diversity in how they operate, or that the view on female leadership has evolved, the opportunities are increasing,” Malin states. “But you can’t sit back and wait for it to happen – it requires hard work; you need to be persistent.”

The glass ceiling may be gradually becoming a thing of the past, but – perhaps more critically now than ever before – choosing the right manager remains a case of leveraging talent and expertise rather than being a token box-ticking or politically correct PR exercise. Researching a potential candidate’s online presence will help to reveal whether they possess the ideal, forward-leaning profile, with the openness and transparency required to lead a strong team.

“I see the shift in many industries, as they respond to the outside world’s view of their companies from a value perspective,” she continues. “Diversity is an important way for them to prove they believe in these values; they need to show, rather than tell. The more diverse the company, the better their chance to deliver even stronger results, through hearing – and embracing – different or unique perspectives.”

Empathetically understanding these new perspectives, and knowing how to really listen to other viewpoints, will inevitably lead to greater innovation, producing enhanced solutions that will drive companies forward – often as a result of what may have been an unexpected change of direction.

“No matter which industry you’re in, you should be more scared of standing still than being afraid to try new things,” adds Malin. “Daring to learn, daring to try, and daring to fail are critical values to possess as a leader. We need to be flexible, agile, and visionary in our thoughts because whatever situation we are in now will not necessarily be the one in which we find ourselves in the future. Not only do you have to intimately understand the business you are in, but you also need to know where it is heading.”

Perhaps no topic illustrates the latter point quite so strongly as the importance of sustainability, especially for companies like Volvo Penta which rely on a close, respectful connection with the natural world. Businesses that fail to fully integrate environmental concerns into their processes risk dying out – or, as Malin puts it: “It is no longer a bonus point – it’s a requirement for success.”

Accordingly, Volvo Penta has set itself some ambitious environmental targets, many of which will be achieved through its firm commitment to innovation that will improve performance while reducing environmental impact. By 2050, for example, it has pledged to completely remove greenhouse gas emissions throughout its entire supply chain while, in the near future, halving emissions from its operations by 2030 and slashing absolute emissions (i.e. including those from its products and transport) by 37.5% by 2034. Two Volvo Penta sites will send zero waste to landfill by 2025 before all global sites follow their lead by 2030.

“We are proud of the sustainability targets and plan that we have,” Malin states. “Not only are these critical in an environmental or humanitarian sense, but they are also creating new possibilities in how we work, as we develop sustainable relationships with partners who share our commitment to electrification and alternative fuels.

“Likewise, we have targets in other important areas, such as human rights and eliminating accidents, whether that’s in our factories or around the equipment we produce. Business is no longer purely about the end product; it’s all about shared values. No matter your background or gender, the key requirement of a leader is to be grounded in the business, understanding every aspect of it, along with your customers, competitors, and the people you work with.”

Malin Schwartz

About the author

Malin Schwartz, Senior Vice President, Brand, Communication & Marketing

Malin has extensive experience with transformation, change management, as well as strategic and operational management across brand, communication, and marketing. Prior to joining Volvo Penta, Malin held a range of senior, strategic positions within the Volvo Car Group. She has a passion for inspiring, motivating, and driving the business forward with focus on efficiency and continuous development. Contributing to business transformation towards increased sustainability and digitalization is a top priority for her.