Maersk: being ethical in an unethical industry

30 Jan

Maersk, the world’s largest container shipping company, has recently won an European Business Award in Paris. Based on its environmental agenda, the Group was awarded the “Environmental Awareness Award” in a field of entrants that ranged from skincare to aircraft. I was very pleased that a shipping company won such an award as this industry is generally very dirty business. I think Maersk deserved to be awarded for its integration of environmental sustainability into the business strategy, and especially Maersk Line’s commitment to transparency and open innovation.

Maersk proved that moving closer to customers can actually be beneficial! As shippers became more concern about their carbon footprints shipping companies had to make a move. Maersk was a pioneer in introducing slow – steaming and hybrid engines in order to lessen its environmental footprint. Since then the Group has been agressive in its efforts to reduce its vessels carbon emissions and to turn that reduction into a competitive advantage by differentiating itself as the greenest carrier.

For instance, the company announced it is getting independent third-party verification of its carbon dioxide emissions and introduced the so called CO2 Dial in its monthly customer scorecard, so each customer can see what its footprint has been by shipping with Maersk Line over the last month, and also can see how that compares to what it would have been if they shipped with an industry-average carrier.

Maersk also set three goals for reducing its environmental footprint: cutting CO2 emissions by 25 percent by 2020; eliminating sulfur oxide emissions altogether; and reducing the overall impact of its vessels on the marine environment by purifying its ballast emissions, using non-toxic paint in vessel hulls and making sure there are no oil spills, or having procedures in place to cope with them if they occur.

By doing so Maersk has not only reduced its customers’ carbon footprints, but it has also reshaped the whole industry! All other carriers have already started following this fine example. For instance, APL, the world’s sixth largest carrier by fleet capacity introduced slow-steaming in 2009. What is more, the company already has a separate website devoted to its environmental initiatives!

Ocean carriers are realizing that helping their big customers lessen the environmental footprint of their supply chains also can reduce ship costs and maybe even give them a marketing edge. The World Ports Climtate Initiative that will introduce the International Ship Index, the Clean Cargo Working Group of Business for Social Responsibility, the support of the Global Compact, the CO2 Dial are only a part of all initiatives Maersk started. I’m very happy that there is such a company that’s not “greenwashing” but is actually really “green” and good, especially in such an industry! I recently read that this month Maersk has donated 300 ships worth 500 000 dollars to help a charity called Advance Aid to ship emergency kits to Africa!

Maersk has been very proactive in its efforts to be ethical and I think companies from all industries should take this as a great example of how to be good! Recently I read a statement somewhere which said that a company can’t increase its profit being environmentally friendly. Well, by exceeding its previous $4bn forecast for annual net profit I think Maersk just did the opposite!


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Posted by on January 30, 2012 in CSR, CSR in container shipping


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