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Emerging business trends always attract the business academics and their definitions.  Conference chair, ABS’ Stewart Wade, ably steered the speakers and the audience towards the conclusion that corporate social responsibility is just that, “responsibility” and some bright spark boiled the subject down to 3Ps – Planet, Profit and People.  So, avoiding all the formal definitions, here’s a few of the quotes used at the conference:


“Being good is good for business” (Anita Roddick)


“There is no such thing as business ethics….There’s just ethics; and we all have to practice them every day in everything we do.”   (Peter Drucker)


“Is the company you read about in the annual report the company you work for?”   (Jack Welch)


When it comes to treating people, the community and the planet properly and ethically, there was consensus that in these skill-short times, employees, as well as customers and suppliers, are much more attuned to a company’s ethics and behaviour than in the past and will vote with their feet if they’re not happy. 


So, image and public perception aren’t enough.  They may attract staff or customers in the first place, but if companies want to demonstrate good CSR then the key, according to Adrian Jones, MD of MOL Europe, is to build a culture where people are personally committed to those around them.  “CSR becomes PR without substance if the company pays it lip service and does not take it seriously.”


Spinnaker’s Chairman, Phil Parry, made the point that if the internal reality does not match the external perception of a company, staff will not only leave but they will spread the word (this is the Facebook generation after all).  People join organisations which they perceive to be attractive but they leave organisations which they discover fall short of the mark.  The flipside is that your staff and former staff will become evangelists for your company if the reality matches the employer ‘brand’.


Allan Graveson from seafarers’ union Nautilus acknowledged good responsible practice on the part of many in the industry.  Echoing a comment from the audience that CSR is a journey with no end, he noted with realism that CSR is not universally achievable and that the bad apples don’t attend conferences such as this.  Asking, if the industry has the will to rid itself of its rotten underbelly, he challenged some of the industry’s behaviour and reminded us all that it is not CSR:

·         Not to tackle particulates (“the new asbestos”) in heavy fuel oil

·         To expect seafarers to work a minimum of 91 or 98 hours per week

·         For 40% of industry not to bother training any cadets


“It is regrettable,” said Allan “that seafarers are not involved in the boards of classification societies,” but he added that 5-7% of cadet intake is now women.  Promoting a career in shipping rather than just at sea is particularly important for women seafarers.


Carla Limcaoco, MD of Philippine Transmarine Carriers announced that her company, which employs 13000 crew, has an impressive 86% retention record.  PTC’s initiatives are impressive.  She explained how PTC:

·         Creates a sense of belonging by reaching out to crews’ families.

·         Set up a housing and community project which gives staff access to government credit.

·         Supports education of street children.

·         Set up the Women in Maritime Association of the Philippines

·         Regards women seafarers as a potential solution to the problem of skills shortages


And finally, Tom Erik Klaveness, Chairman of The Torvald Klaveness Group summed up the conference with an impressive overview of the CSR journey his company is making.  They put CSR on the map a year ago and, working with DNV, performed a risk analysis of over 200 CSR issues, selecting five as priorities – the environment, conduct & ethics, treatment of partners, HR and safety at sea and HR onshore. 


Torvald Klaveness do similar things to PTC such as their Philippines children’s village for displaced children, children’s summer camps and the “Seafarers’ Wives Association Klaveness”.  It is quite clear that in the Philippines the wives are in charge, so, Tom Erik said, when we needed to get safety messages across to the crews “we got the wives to tell their husbands to be careful”.


And just in case you still think this is all airy-fairy trendy nonsense Tom was very proud to announce that his company have just won a ten year contract and that as part of the process his staff were able to respond to the customer’s enquiries about the company’s CSR credentials.  Expect to see a lot more of this.


Of course, it’s impossible to reproduce a two-day conference in one short article.  Changing Course is all about people, so we’ve focused on the people bits.  To see the presentations, visit

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