If you gather 150 people in a room and ask them what Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) means for shipping, it is likely you will get many varied answers. But just like giving enough monkeys sufficient time and typewriters and getting the collected works of Shakespeare, eventually you may find some useful answers emerge.
For the 4th year running, Capital Link recently gathered a collection of the great and good of the industry together to tackle the issue of CSR. Trying to find best practice, pointing those who may be floundering in the right direction and gently reminding those gathered that shipping is in the spotlight and needs to step up.
For some, CSR is about the need to be nice, some to protect the environment, while others roll their eyes, catch up on emails and wait to be told what it should mean to them and of how they will make more money from it.
The very concept of CSR in shipping is perhaps as nebulous as the concept of the shipping industry itself. We all work in shipping, but the roles we have, the business services we provide often run such a wide gamut that trying to apply catch-all concepts and one-size-fits-all approaches only serve to weaken the journey towards a sustainable, conscientious and proud industry.
Ships moving cargoes, seafarers operating ships, managers ashore overseeing the process, executives making decisions, moneymen throwing cash around, and insurers soaking up the risks…all have very differing challenges and perceptions. However diverse though, we need a route forward, and Capital Link thankfully provided some cause for hope and inspiration to get the ball rolling.
To really engage with the concept of CSR is the first hurdle. The challenge “to care enough to care enough” is about a corporate leap of faith. One in which the bottom line becomes about more than money alone. Shifting from fixating on Pound signs to the “3 P’s” of sustainable business remains the vital key to developing and embracing CSR.
A business which looks to “People, Planet and Profit”, is one that will go beyond survival. It will be capable of thriving in the new commercial landscape of the future as transparency, accountability and reputation matter ever more. Legislators, investors, politicians, and clients, all demand more, and a foundation of good, honest and realistic CSR will be vital.
No-one pretends that businesses are automatically set up for these challenges – shifting from grabbing profit and opportunity into hugging the world is a massive leap for some. It was stressed that vision, courage and willingness are essential components of any business stepping up and moving forward.
The rewards are there though, and the International Maritime Organization Secretary General Emeritus, Mr Mitropoulos stated that shipping needs to be guided by its social and moral compass to deliver on the needs of the world, and for demands of business.
So the time has come for shipping to take a bearing and to set course for a future with CSR at its core.