Shout about your CSR message

Deliberations at the IMO's environmental committee meeting prove the importance of CSR policies at ports Deliberations at the IMO's environmental committee meeting prove the importance of CSR policies at ports

COMMENT: It’s hard to keep one’s eyes off the newsfeeds, whether it be Brexit, tariffs, uncertain financial markets, or feeds poisoned by clients of Facebook, writes Barry Parker.

In the maritime world, news has also been flowing on the important deliberations underway at the IMO, with the MEPC 72 meeting regarding shipping’s stance on greenhouse gas emissions towards 2050 taking place as I write this article. The issues are complex, pitting low lying island nations against developing nations on a path, albeit gas emitting, towards industrialisation. What is the role for ports in this messy scrum?

As I’ve written before, “cargo is king”, “cargo pays the freight”, and so on. With the prevalence of social media, bad guys can be called out. When there are newsfeeds on the subject of poor corporate citizenry or lack of corporate social responsibility, fingers will be pointed at the pocket which is deepest in terms of accountability to a public at large. The target might be shipowners or carriers, who are mainly privately owned, but many of them hide from such accountability even though their financial pockets may be very deep.

The “cargo interests” by contrast, could be the subject of badmouthing that hurts at the till, which in turn works back into share prices and ability to participate in large contracts.

To date, no beneficial cargo interest has been explicitly called out for chartering vessels with high emissions - although the ratings infrastructure to identify them certainly exists in some sectors of the market. But it’s only a matter of time.

The IMO deliberations have placed unprecedented attention on shipping, which is presently outside the realm of international agreements on climate change. This attention will not disappear when the IMO delegates return home. Indeed, the IMO has now moved into the crosshairs of mainstream governance organisations, from way outside the transport business.

For the media representatives at ports who might be reading this article, step outside the box just a bit and think of the incredible opportunities for port promotion. Ports compete in a variety of ways to become, and then remain, nodes in the supply chains of beneficial cargo interests.

Observers from outside the business –think of the most shipping-ignorant non-governmental organisation you can find – will dissect these supply chains and disseminate their findings. Much like a higher emitting vessel can be identified and tied to a particular charterer, so it goes with ports; those incentivising good environmental practices should be celebrated, in a way that will draw in business.

Many ports have well-crafted websites or brochures describing their good citizenship and reflecting their good environmental practices. But the CSR message is one that needs to be trumpeted; turn up that noise. And if ports’ CSR policies become infused with beneficial cargo interests’ newsfeeds that can only be a good thing

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