Respecting the Rights of Individuals is Fundamental to Business Sustainability

Will the momentum for specifically addressing human rights grow throughout the shipping industry?  

A successful business makes money, has a good reputation, adapts, develops and remains resilient during adversity. There needs to be quality leadership and people working together to achieve clear goals.

Employees contribute to an organization’s success because they carry out the company’s mission. They get the job done, and along the way they can help reduce costs, boost revenue and build customer trust and satisfaction.

Business coaches recognise this and would then go on to recommend fostering motivation, personal development, teamwork but underpinning all of this, there is a foundation that needs to be set: the recognition of, and respect for, human rights.

Without this, a business is not meeting commitments as laid out in the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.

Rights and Principles

 The United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights call on businesses to comply with all applicable laws and to respect human rights. They state that businesses should have policies in place, a due diligence process and a process for remediation. This should be ongoing; human rights risks may change over time as operations evolve.

Rights to consider include the right to a safe work environment, a family life, rest, to be protected from arbitrary attacks on reputation, to have freedom of thought, equal pay for equal work and freedom from slavery and discrimination.

Some maritime businesses have responded to the call, and here are some of the approaches being taken:

CSL Group

In its latest Corporate Sustainability Report (2019)[1], CSL specifically includes human rights in its Materiality Matrix, the outcome of stakeholder engagement on the relative importance of specific environmental, social and governance issues. Human rights were considered to be highly material to the company’s stakeholders. CSL’s Code of Corporate Responsibility specifically calls for respect of human rights in all of the countries in which it operates. It also calls for fair and competitive employment terms, the promotion of equal opportunity employment and for all employees to be treated fairly and according to all applicable laws and regulations.

To ensure its supply chain reflects CSL’s strong commitment, a supplier code of conduct was developed containing general expectations in terms of human rights, anti-corruption, environmental responsibility and health and safety. In 2019, CSL joined IMPA ACT, a not-for-profit program developed in 2016 by the International Marine Purchasing Association to create a global standard for responsible purchasing in the shipping industry.

CSL strongly encourages its employees, customers and the public to report any violations of CSL’s policies and commitments. To this end, CSL uses EthicsPoint, a confidential and anonymous, third-party reporting service. In 2019, the company investigated 17 alleged violations of CSL’s policies, and the company continues to provide training on ethical conduct to its employees.

2019 saw the introduction of a series of initiatives aimed at bringing greater flexibility to the workplace and improving engagement and productivity. CSL has reduced its voluntary turnover rate by two percent due, in part, to these initiatives which included a flexible work arrangement policy and easy access to training and development resources. Moving forward, CSL’s initiatives include continued efforts to improve crew experience and to accelerate CSL succession for key positions.


A.P. Møller – Mærsk’s 2019 Sustainability Report[2] also specifically addresses human rights. In 2019, a comprehensive Code of Conduct for employees was launched which covers sustainability issues including human rights, supplier relationships, labour standards, anti-corruption and environmental responsibility. The company has applied a materiality approach for four years and most recently addressed the EU Commission’s 2019-updated guidance for non-financial reporting. The guidance clarifies that non-financial reporting should include material societal risks and also material risks to the business.

In 2019, jointly with the Institute for Business and Human Rights, the RAFTO Foundation and the Danish Institute for Human Rights and Anglo American, Maersk co-hosted two roundtables on human rights in the shipping industry. This led to the publication of the report: Navigating Human Rights – a guide to human rights in the shipping industry. Maersk also contributed to a new human rights guide by Danish Shipping which includes guidance on how to conduct human rights diligence.

Evergreen Marine

report describes the company’s human rights policy. It notes that risk assessment and management mechanisms are in place to guard against discrimination, sexual harassment, bullying, forced labour and child labour. In 2019, over 99 percent of employees received human rights training, and the company notes particular emphasis on gender equality and respect for diversity, particularly regarding nationality. The company has initiated a complaints procedure to address any concerns.Evergreen Marine’s 2019 Corporate Social Responsibility

The Way Forward

Will the momentum for specifically addressing human rights grow throughout the shipping industry? What management practices will actually make a difference to individuals, companies and ultimately our global community? Time will tell; meanwhile companies leading the way should be recognised for their efforts, and they should track and communicate their experiences.

press release

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