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Research Paper Measuring Sustainability: An industry case study of Maersk Line

How could I forget to blog about the CSR Academic Conference I was invited to attend in October! It was a great experience and an amazing opportunity to both  meet academics and practitioners and of course to present my research paper. Above all, it was an honour for I was the only undergraduate to attend and to even present a paper. Having been the youngest, I must admit I was underestimating myself. However, my attitude changed when I realized I was the only one to discuss the VMM and the Barcelona Principles which surprised me for this is a milestone that has changed the whole industry. Besides, linking it to another topical issue – CSR, added an interesting twist to the whole paper which in my opinion makes it a unique piece of work. There were also other things that sparked my attention during the conference. For example, after presenting I was sarcastically asked if I was trying to offer a way of measuring ethics. Well, I wasn’t even intending to because obviously there is no way to do it. Why? If we simply start our reasoning from the definition of ethics (moral philosophy) we would figure out that this is something personal, something that depends on one’s own views, something that is influenced by cultural/political/socioeconomic/ historical and even age factors. In other words, what is good for me might not be good for you and vice verse. Hence, it cannot be measured. Hence, the real purpose of my paper is not to measure an organisation’s ethics but its stakeholder relationships in terms of preference, attitude and engagement regarding the company’s CSR activities, as it is the case of my paper. That’s not are quantitative data which makes it hard to evaluate even with the VMM. It is easy to prove the first four boxes of the VMM (awareness, knowledge, interest and preference) but how do you prove the last one – action, e.g. behavioural change? This is what every communication campaign should be aiming at – a behavioural change in target audiences, not just creating of buzz and that is why it is very important to constantly measure and evaluate it. The VMM offer a way of doing it but it seems to me that there are still areas of improvement and this is what I argue about in my paper. I believe there is no (and should be not) a universal formula of measuring performance because each and every industry is unique and therefore requires evaluation techniques tailored specifically to the specific communication program and organisation, in the case of my paper Maersk Line.

I forgot to mention that this paper started as a uni project and  Maersk Line’s Head of Climate and Sustainability liked it so much that I was invited to their corporate headquarters in Copenhagen! Then their Senior Director of Sustainability was very pleased with what I did which led to another invitation which I am planning to do in near future. What is more, I was quoted in their global Group newsletter as a specialist! So, this is the paper I presented:

 

Abstract

Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to prove that the new International Association for the Measurement and Evaluation of Communication (AMEC) measurement and evaluation guidelines (the Barcelona Principles and Valid Metrics Matrix) are useful tools for measuring ethical behaviour and they could and should be even applied to industries with specific requirements.

Design/ methodology/ approach – this paper evaluates the role of the Barcelona Principles and the Valid Metrics Matrix (VMM) as a useful platform for measuring the outcomes of Maersk Line’s efforts to showcase ethical behaviour .

Findings – Maersk Line tends to focus on the technical aspects of public relations; however, the new AMEC framework could further improve the carrier’s evaluation indicators by enabling the company to measure the combination of reporting its environmental footprint and its quality of building and sustaining relationships.

Originality/ value – Many companies focus their CSR efforts on customer satisfaction. However, little is done in terms of measuring performance. This paper provides an interesting perspective of this issue   and focuses on applying the new CIPR measurement and evaluation framework to sustainability business strategies.

Key words Corporate Social Responsibility, Barcelona Principles, Valid Metrics Matrix, AMEC, Maersk Line, Measurement, Evaluation

Paper type Research paper

1.   Introduction

“He who would learn to fly one day must first learn to walk and run and climb and dance; one cannot fly into flying”

NIETZSCHE

 This quote perfectly describes the long journey that the public relations industry has started in terms of developing its measurement and evaluation framework. After more than a decade of learning and improving, the public relations industry is ready to embrace these new changes which allow every public relations practitioner to “fly”, i.e. to demonstrate their success through their ability to influence change and meet objectives. That quote may also be valid for every public relations professional: one must always upgrade their knowledge and skills to remain competitive and useful for their organisations or clients. In other words, customer satisfaction starts with improved quality. Stakeholders are adding CSR to the mix of their expectations for good services. As a result, measuring public relations’ impact on businesses has never been of such importance.

It is interesting to see how one particular industry has responded to the challenge.  For the maritime industry in particular, these new trends of measurement mean that their PR has entered new waters. Even though most of the concepts of Corporate Social Responsibility have been spreading through businesses in all sectors, some of the conglomerates in container shipping, like Maersk Line, are already far ahead in their proactive approach compared to other industries which is an interesting field to explore.

Back in 1994, the International Public Relations Association predicted the gradual priority of outcomes over outputs, but it took until 2010 to secure the introduction of a new measurement framework, i.e. the Barcelona Principles (INTERNATIONAL PUBLIC RELATIONS ASSOCIATION 1994; INTERNATIONAL PUBLIC RELATIONS ASSOCIATION 1994a). The Barcelona Principles marked both the death of the Advertising Value Equivalents (AVEs) and the start of a new era in measuring public relation’s impact on businesses. Here we can ask: can we measure everything? Can the Valid Metrics Matrix (VMM) be applied everywhere? The new toolkit still does not provide all the answers but it is the backbone for showing the real value that public relations can bring to business quality.

This paper evaluates how the maritime sector has responded to the new CSR trends by examining Maersk Line’s sustainability agenda. The paper then applies the VMM to Maersk Line’s green strategy with the attempt to argue that definitive research needs to be done to prove to businesses that the new measurement and evaluation guidelines could and should be applied everywhere, even to industries with specific requirements like container shipping. Finally, the paper suggests that the VMM should be further improved in order to provide more accurate ways of proving public relations’ positive contribution to managing reputation.

2.    Corporate Social Responsibility and the Container shipping industry

Corporate Social Responsibility is one of the most important issues and developments of the 21st century. Within the field of sustainability two major CSR movements could be identified: environmental and social. Environmental issues are often the sole focus on sustainability programs (as seen in CLIFTON and AMRAN 2011; HOGAN 2010; DUCKWORH and MOORE 2010; HORRIGAN 2010; REGESTER and LARKIN 2008) with societal activities usually overlooked, especially in sectors that are hugely exposed to environmental disasters. Nevertheless, increased activity in environmental management can be evidenced by actions taken by both the government and private sector resulting in proactive or reactive management company policies (FISK 2010; HADDOCK – FRAISER and TOURELLE 2010; PEACH 1987; TENCH and YEOMANS 2009).  Where does container shipping stay on the proactive – reactive agenda axis? Unfortunately, the marine industry is one of the most passive sectors in terms of measuring and reporting its environmental footprint. Protecting the environment is the biggest sustainability challenge for container shipping and yet no international regulatory framework exists despite the fact that international shipping, according to recent studies, carries more than one third of the world trade with a rapidly growing demand expected to grow even more (WORLD SHIPPING COUNCIL 2011; INTERNATIONAL MARITIME ORGANIZATION 2010). Subsequently, it is further exposed to possible unethical practices (PRUZAN – JORGENSEN and FARRAG 2010; KANTER 2010).

However, this provides only a partial explanation of the whole problem. When the social CSR movement has started shifting from a mere “shareholder as stakeholder” concept  ( as seen in HADDOCK – FRASER and TOURELLE 2010) to a beware–of-the–activists one, i.e. emphasizing on the importance of end users in sustainability reporting (as seen in HADDOCK – FRAISER and TOURELLE 2010; JOHAR, BIRK and EINWILLER 2010), the marine industry still fails to make reputation and legitimacy within a society key value propositions, let alone measuring its performance and relationships with stakeholders.

 Against an obvious lack of regulatory standardization Maersk Line’s decision to become the first carrier to take actions of compliance and subsequently of adoption of a proactive sustainability business strategy seems to deserve admirations. World’s largest container shipping company measures, reports and reduces its environmental footprint and has recently started increasing its transparency  and end user engagement. But how does the conglomerate measure its performance?

 3.     Measuring sustainability

 Most businesses still view and measure quality in terms of customer satisfaction and container shipping is no exception. Maersk Line has already introduced various programs and initiatives to both showcase best practice of measuring and reporting its environmental footprint and to encourage other carriers to follow this fine example (see Appendix…) However, this is the technical aspect of public relations – whether there are no errors, no pollution, delays, no mechanical breakdowns or no customer complaints (as seen in INTERNATIONAL PUBLIC RELATIONS ASSOCIATION 1994). These aspects are doubtlessly very important, especially for high risk industries like the maritime business. What about the managerial aspects of quality? Both service and process require quality. Service delivery is of course of greatest importance; however, process plays a vital role in terms of quality performance. Therefore, some marine companies, like Maersk Line, have realized the essential role of performance in achieving their goals.

 “The company has always had a good reputation of strong values so now we have a solid foundation to build on. However, 3-4 years earlier there was almost no communication to stakeholders but this has changed. The decision to communicate much proactively is a great opportunity to take the lead and win by doing so…We are trying to mobilise the whole company in order to meet our customers’ needs…We are going to develop a special training program for our staff that will be delivered this year”

                                                Maersk Line Head of Climate and Sustainability

 The key to understanding corporate reputation has become the measure of the relationships it is based on, especially with the rise of CSR. The world’s largest container shipping company has obviously become concerned about it, implementing it into its long – term strategy. The need for transparency, reliability and lower costs are already exerting pressure on International Maritime Organization (IMO) to eventually introduce a global regulatory framework, and thus on business operational models in the industry where customers are already greening their supply chains. As a result, the urge for proof of ethical behaviour has changed the perception about organisations. However, is it enough for Maersk Line to only measure its environmental footprint when it is now seen more as a strategic innovation partner rather than a mere cargo carrier? When the levels of communication channels surrounding sustainability have increased and altered the way businesses manage relationships with their various stakeholders? The result is an increase of the importance of these relationships. Therefore, building, managing and measuring them is fundamental to an organisation’s success. Thus, it could be argued that understanding how to measure should become a part of the sole focus of Maersk Line’s strategy: if relationships can be measured then they can be improved, and so could communication effectiveness and overall performance (PAINE 2011).

4.    The Valid Metrics Matrix

 According to Fraser Seitel, a former vice president for public relations for the Chase Manhattan Bank (as seen in INTERNATIONAL PUBLIC RELATIONS ASSOCIATION 1994), the underlying concept in all definitions of public relation is the word performance. In other words, performance becomes a communicative concept which in turns makes public relations the key to managing an excellent reputation. But what does excellent reputation mean for container shipping? How do we know it is well managed?

The recently introduced Barcelona Principles and VMM are a solid platform that could be used to measure excellent reputation and stakeholder relationships in a time of great uncertainty in the maritime sector. However, these guidelines are not the definite rules of measurement for public relation’s impact reaches different audiences and appears in a variety of forms, i.e. crisis communication, reputation building, community engagement. In other words, there is no universal metric for all PR activities, even though the industry was entirely used to the already doomed AVEs (CIPR 2010). Thus, to truly communicate the value that public relations activities add to achieving business goals, measurement was agreed to be seen as a continuum of metrics – a combination of outputs and outcomes that ideally leads to achieved business results tailored specifically to match the program’s objectives (AMEC 2011a)(Figure 1: A Very simplified way of how PR works).

 

Figure 1: A Very simplified way of how PR works

As seen in Figure 1, the Matrix is a simplified representation of how PR functions – starting with disseminating information (PR Activity) to third parties (Intermediary) which then communicate the message to stakeholders (Target Audiences). Generally, the philosophy behind the Matrix lies in the concept of behavioural change: moving from mere target market awareness and knowledge created by PR activities to preference and action amongst target audiences (Figure 2: The Valid Metrics Matrix).

   .Figure 2: The Valid Metrics Matrix (AMEC 2011)

This appears to be the focal point of every campaign for two primary reasons. Firstly, this very box shows the final outcome of any communication program, i.e. whether the business objectives were achieved or not.  Secondly and most importantly, the last grid is said to serve as a proof of the positive contribution public relations practitioners make to an organisation’s reputation management. Therefore, measuring the impacts of PR activities on target audiences is crucial. Demonstrating the shift from Awareness, to Understanding, to Interest/ Consideration, to Preference could easily be done through the application of a continuum of metrics which, most of the times, even overlap (see Figure 3: Reputation Building). How could it be proven that effective public relations activities were the heart of a company’s successful end results? Was PR the reason behind the increase in Maersk Line’s market share, profit, customer demand or cost savings in 2010 and if so could it be measured and explained using the VMM?

 

Figure 3: Reputation Building (AMEC 2011)

The launch of the first global standard for PR measurement allows a careful analysis and evaluation of the managerial impact of quality to sustain Maersk Line’s reputation. In 2010 A. P Moller–Maersk Group reported both record–breaking net profits and hitting of sustainability performance targets ahead of schedule (WRIGHT 2011; A.P MOLLER–MAERSK 2010). In contrast, demand rates have been continuously dropping in 2011 despite the expected demand in growth, the progression in creating sustainable shipping that led to customer satisfaction and increased visibility to end users (MAERSK LINE 2011). The VMM can easily illustrate public relations’ positive impact on the shift and increase in Awareness, Knowledge, Interest and Preference levels (Figure 3: Reputation Building). How can we demonstrate that behavioural change has taken place?

The new framework improves the company’s evaluation indicators because it enables it to measure the results of its efforts in terms of building and sustaining relationships; in terms of improving its communication channels. To illustrate, Maersk Line has been awarded various prizes because of its investments in sustainable growth and transparency and has also won plaudits from their ethically conscious customers and media, including the Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal and the Guardian (www.maerskline.com; MAERSK LINE 2011; JOURNAL OF COMMERCE 2010; www.changingthewaywethinkaboutshipping.com) This certainly proves that the company has already entered the Preference Grid (see Figure 3: Reputation Building). The launch of Maersk Line’s various initiatives certainly proves that Awareness, Knowledge, Interest and Preference have been created:

“We see our customers putting more and more emphasis on environmental issues and now they started looking at transportation as well. We can choose to do nothing and risk losing out business but we can also respond. But we want also to help this trend grow, we want to drive that demand and create solutions…The decision to communicate much proactively is a great opportunity to take the lead and win by doing so”, Maersk Line Head of Climate and Sustainability*

Maersk Line manages successfully to combine corporate continuity and sustainable trends. It has already set a solid foundation for measuring and reporting its environmental footprint in order to develop a greener and more transparent company. Even though the world’s largest ocean carrier is a pioneer in adopting its ethical performance in a rather unethical industry, it still has areas to improve. It could be argued that Maersk Line tends to focus on the technical aspects of public relations, i.e. its carbon and C02 footprints or its supplier performance.  The complex and changing nature of relationships between an organisation and its publics not only requires measurement and evaluation of the outputs but also of outcomes to provide competitive insights. It could be argued therefore that the Barcelona Principles and the VMM could be a useful platform for measuring Maersk Line’s performance: a combination between the carrier’s efforts to showcase ethical behaviour by reporting its environmental footprint and its quality of managing relationships in and outside the organisation. However, it seems that the new PR measurement and evaluation framework proves to be insufficient in terms of driving behavioural change in target markets. Therefore, it could be argued that the VMM should be further reevaluated and improved in order to ensure more accurate measurement of public relations’ effective impact on managing business reputation.

M

 
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Posted by on February 2, 2012 in CSR, CSR in container shipping, PR

 

Becoming green: how small things can have a big impact

Sometimes small changes can make a big difference and Holland & Barrett are a good example. Nowadays Corporate Social Responsibility is becoming an important issue for all industries and that’s why it’s crucial for companies to take a lead on their support for the environment.

 Linking the banning of plastic bags into its 25-year of a butterfly conversation project positioned Holland & Barrett as the first high street retailer to lead the way on a major environmental concern. Under the banner “The Butterfly Effect”, Pegasus PR launched a campaign aiming to highlight H&B’s corporate responsibility, its 25-year sponsorship of the Large Blue butterfly conservation project and achieve significant media coverage. The campaign, launched at London Zoo reached an audience of more than 56 million and was featured in major press including the BBC and the Daily Telegraph. Through the PR campaign, H&B successfully raised the profile of its corporate responsibility towards green issues and its overall environmental credibility. It also won a Gold CIPR Pride Award for Corporate Responsibility and therefore I decided to have a closer look at it as an example of best practice. The campaign was quite creative employing the well-known “Butterfly Effect” theme to add an interesting twist to the story. The strategy was clear: to raise awareness of H&B as an environmentally aware retailer and communicate social responsibility to its eco conscious target consumer. What seems really interesting to me is the fact that they added a political angle to capture the attention of the business media by releasing comments from H&B’s CEO challenging the UK government to encourage other retailers to follow its positive lead by introducing a tax on plastic bags. Furthermore, this controversy was used to grab media attention on an old topic: introducing half measures such as plastic bag charges or a total plastic bag ban?

The campaign was measured by attendance at the briefing, number of press cuttings, total audience reach and equivalent PR value. In terms of their objectives it seems that the campaign hit its targets and even exceeded them. However, in my opinion measurable outcomes should have been set to make the campaign look even better, i.e instead of just aiming to raise awareness of H&B as an environmentally aware retailer a clear percentage could have been given and then compared to the initial perception of media and target audience.

 
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Posted by on January 30, 2012 in CSR, PR

 

Maersk: being ethical in an unethical industry

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!

M

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

 

Eco-friendly tourism: is it possible?

Today I participated in a facilitated discussion with other students. The topic was very interesting: eco-friendly tourism. To be honest I never actually thought about it even though I go on holiday quite often.

The discussion was really interesting and made me think: is eco-friendly tourism really possible?

Considering the fact that building a hotel or a resort already causes damage to nature, how could a resort be eco-friendly? Or if it is in terms of enery-saving, low carbon etc. then what about its suppliers? or employees? does such a resort exist anyway?

Certainly yes. For instance, in Bulgaria there is the so called “village tourism” where visitors live in ancient small villages preserved during the centuries. There are no cars or modern roads and the idea is simple: back to basics. Of course houses are well equipped with everything but people just escape from big cities’ life, all the noise and stress. And the resort is apparently eco-friendly!

However, is this possible when it comes to contemporary resorts? I think it is the norms of the society in which organisations operate that influence the environmental impac, i.e society should become environmentally friendly in order to create a sustainable world.

M

 
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Posted by on January 30, 2012 in CSR

 

Measuring sustainability: an industry case study of Maersk Line

The Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) and PRIME Research launched a national student fellowship award in May 2011. The participants had to submit a paper on a measurement and evaluation topic and the theme was sustainablity. My paper was amongst the three finalists and it offers an interesting and different perspective of CSR and measurement:

“He who would learn to fly one day must first learn to walk and run and climb and dance; one cannot fly into flying”
                                                                             NIETZSCHE
This quote perfectly describes the long journey that the public relations industry has started in terms of developing its measurement and evaluation framework. After more than a decade of learning and improving, the public relations industry is ready to embrace these new changes which allow every public relations practitioner to “fly”, i.e. to demonstrate their success through their ability to influence change and meet objectives. That quote may also be valid for every public relations professional: one must always upgrade their knowledge and skills to remain competitive and useful for their organisations or clients. In other words, customer satisfaction starts with improved quality. Stakeholders are adding Corporate Social Sustainability to the mix of their expectations for good services. As a result, measuring public relations’ impact on businesses has never been of such importance.  It is interesting to see how one particular sector has responded to the challenge. For the maritime industry in particular, these new trends of measurement means that their PR has entered new waters. Even though most of the concepts of Corporate Social Responsibility have been spreading through businesses in all sectors, some of the conglomerates in container shipping, like Maersk Line, are already far ahead in their proactive approach compared to other industries which is an interesting field to explore.
Back in 1994, the International Public Relations Association predicted the gradual priority of outcomes over outputs, but it took until 2010 to secure the introduction of a new measurement framework, i.e. the Barcelona Principles (INTERNATIONAL PUBLIC RELATIONS ASSOCIATION 1994; INTERNATIONAL PUBLIC RELATIONS ASSOCIATION 1994a). The Barcelona Principles marked both the death of the AVEs and the start of a new era in measuring public relation’s impact on businesses. Here we can ask: can we measure everything? Can the Valid Metrics Matrix be applied everywhere? The new toolkit still does not provide all the answers but it is the backbone for showing the real value that public relations can bring to business quality. This paper attempts to argue that definitive research needs to be done to prove to businesses that the new measurement and evaluation guidelines could and should be applied everywhere, even to industries with specific requirements like container shipping.
Measuring sustainability
Most businesses still view quality in terms of customer satisfaction and container shipping is no exception. This is the technical aspect of public relations – whether there are no errors, no mechanical breakdowns or no customer complains (as seen in INTERNATIONAL PUBLIC RELATIONS ASSOCIATION 1994). These aspects are doubtlessly very important, especially for high risk industries like the maritime business. What about the managerial aspects of quality? Both service and process require quality. Service delivery is of course of greatest importance, however, process plays a vital role in delivering high quality services. Therefore, some marine companies, like Maersk Line, have realized the essential role of performance in achieving their goals. According to Fraser Seitel, a former vice president for public relations for the Chase Manhattan Bank (as seen in INTERNATIONAL PUBLIC RELATIONS ASSOCIATION 1994), the underlying concept in all definitions of public relation is the word performance. In other words, performance becomes a communicative concept which in turns makes public relations the key to managing an excellent reputation. But what does excellent reputation mean? How do we know it is well managed?
The key to understanding corporate reputation has become the measuring of the relationships it is based on, especially with the rise of Corporate Social Responsibility. In recent years, organisations have become concern about it, implementing it into their long – term strategies. This rise of sustainability to the top of management agenda is happening at a time when stakeholders’ demands for greater reliability, transparency and lower costs are already exerting pressure on business operational models. As a result, their demand for proof of ethical behaviour has changed the perception about organisations. Now businesses are seen more as strategic innovation partners rather than mere service/product providers. Subsequently, the levels of communication channels surrounding sustainability has increased and altered the way businesses manage relationships with their various stakeholders. It resulted in the increase of the importance of these relationships. Therefore, building, managing and measuring them is fundamental to an organisation’s success. Moreover, for some organisations understanding how to measure has become a part of the sole focus of their strategies: if relationships can be measured then they can be improved, and so could communication effectiveness and overall performance (PAINE 2011).
These sustainability trends have an impact of a wide variety of industries, including maritime business. Recent studies (HADDOCK – FRASER and TOURELLE 2010; FISK 2010; CLIFTON and AMRAN 2011) emphasise on the importance of end users in environmental sustainability reporting and point out that, depending on their position in the supply chain, companies that are closer to end users tend to be more proactive because they are more “visible” to this particular stakeholder group. As mentioned above, container shipping industry is less visible to consumers and therefore it is not massively targeted by activist groups. Therefore, it could be argued that most of carriers avoid having to measure their performance and  tend to adopt basic Corporate Social Responsibility models rather than proactive, societal ones (PEACH 1987, as seen in TENCH and YEOMANS 2009).
Despite being the most environmentally – friendly transport mode for bulk cargo (container shipping is still a modest contributor to global C02 emissions – 2.7% in 2007; 3, 3 % in 2009 (INTERNATIONAL MARITIME ORGANIZATION, 2010; INTERNATIONL MARITIME ORGANIZATION 2009)), the industry is now about to face new social and environmental regulations and stakeholder expectation that have forced changes at all levels of the sector. According to a report on sustainability trends in the container shipping industry (PRUZAN – JORGENSEN and FARRAG 2010), in the upcoming years market, stakeholder, customer, and regulatory pressures related to sustainability will drive significant changes in the way international container shipping lines operate and do business. Such environmentally motivated regulations have already become the most important cost – driver, as governments and corporations raise their bar of expectations. All of these micro-level changes will be compounded by four wider societal mega-trends: hyper-transparency, regulated carbon and resource constraints, rise of rights and local governance, and socio-economic shifts (PRUZAN – JORGENSEN and FARRAG 2010).
So, the answer is that the PR function can take a lead, encouraging businesses such as container shipping to join the transparency revolution. Considering that the industry transports about 60 percent of the value of global seaborne trade and represents a heavy social and environmental footprint, these trends will have a far – reaching impact in a variety of other sectors (WORLD SHIPPING COUNCIL 2011).
 Maersk Line seems to realise the importance of these trends to both remain competitive on the market, where big customers are already greening their supply chains (as seen in LEACH 2010), and to adjust to the new economic climate. For example, it produced its first Annual Report in 2009, introduced the CO2 Dial Program for its customers and has been developing the so called Responsible Procurement Program for its own suppliers (for detailed information see Appendix One Research Report: Being ethical in an unethical industry: a case study of Maersk Line).
We see our customers putting more and more emphasis on environmental issues and now they started looking at transportation as well. We can choose to do nothing and risk losing out business but we can also respond. But we want also to help this trend grow, we want to drive that demand and create solutions…The decision to communicate much proactively is a great opportunity to take the lead and win by doing so”
        Maersk Line Head of Climate and Sustainability*
Maersk Line manages successfully to combine corporate continuity and sustainable trends. It has already set a solid foundation for measuring performance in order to develop a greener and more transparent company. Even though the carrier is a pioneer in measuring its ethical performance in a rather unethical industry, it still has areas to improve. It could be argued that Maersk Line tends to focus on the technical aspects of public relations, i.e. its carbon and C02 footprints or its supplier performance (see 5. Appendix One Research Report: Being ethical in an unethical industry: a case study of Maersk Line). However, the launch of the first global standard for PR measurement – the Barcelona Principles allows a careful analysis and measurement of the managerial impact of quality to sustain a collective reputation management. In other words, the new framework would further improve Maersk Line’s evaluation indicators because it would enable the company to measure the results of its efforts in terms of building and sustaining relationships; in terms of improving its communication channels. The complex and changing nature of relationships between an organisation and its public not only requires measurement and evaluation of the outputs (i.e. the technical aspect of public relations) but also of outcomes to provide competitive insights. It could be argued therefore that the Barcelona Principles and the Valid Metrics Matrix could be a useful platform for measuring Maersk Line’s performance: a combination between the carrier’s efforts to showcase ethical behaviour by reporting its environmental footprint and its quality of managing relationships in and outside the organisation (see 6. Appendix Two: Valid Metrics Matrix applied on Maersk Line).
*The researched carried out a face-to-face interview with Maersk Line’s Head of Climate and Sustainability
M
 
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Posted by on January 30, 2012 in CSR, CSR in container shipping