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Corporate social responsibility in Philippine maritime sector

CSR in Philippine maritime sector
January 27, 2018

THE Philippine maritime industry has a broad range of subsectors that require the integration of their corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities to ensure that they adhere to applicable laws, international conventions and standards.

This comes out of the need to conform to good governance practices, uphold the rights and promote the welfare of maritime employees and workers, and contribute to the preservation and protection of the environment.

CSR should be adopted by businesses, maritime-oriented or not. Once they do, their operators would show that they’re not only profit-oriented, but also striving to achieve the “triple bottom line”—attaining financial sustainability, meeting social goals, and promoting ecological preservation and environmental sustainability.

In the maritime industry, there are major areas that should be considered in adopting CSR principles. Companies or business organizations should focus, first of all, on their financial obligation to their shareholders. They also have to satisfy other conditions impacting other stakeholders. These include legal and ethical responsibilities, as well as their obligations to their host communities in particular and society in general.

Doing the right thing

From a legal perspective, regulatory agencies play important roles in making maritime companies operate within legal bounds. The Maritime Industry Authority (Marina), tasked to regulate and supervise the maritime industry’s major sectors, has to ensure the implementation of policies, codes, international standards and obligations among these sectors that include shipping lines, shipbuilding and ship repair, marine manpower management, and fishing.

Other agencies, such as the Philippine Ports Authority and the Philippine Coast Guard, also have to monitor their adherence to their respective policies, laws, and standards on maritime concerns.

While there are penalties that provide leeway for companies that unintentionally fall on the wrong side, some take advantage of them and break laws in exchange for greater gains. Companies that adopt CSR strive to always do the right thing and avoid compromising their integrity. They choose to forego higher profits if the means to attain it would bring counterproductive consequences to others, including their competitors.

Marina and other oversight and regulatory agencies maintain that they are maximizing their efforts to enhance collaboration and cooperation with maritime companies, so that these are well-guided on legal matters and would avoid breaking rules.

Low reputational risk

There are different kinds of threats and risks that should be managed and mitigated by businesses in order to attain sustainability and stay competitive. Those consistently alerted and penalized for irregular activities would put themselves on what’s called reputation risk.

Reputational risk diminishes the value of a company and may put it in a bad light, which would then cause damage and unnecessary costs. Companies’ illegal, irregular or unprofessional conduct may cause them to lose the confidence of their clients and other stakeholders, including their employees.

A socially responsible company can avoid reputational risk if it strictly adheres to ethical standards. Thus, CSR must be integral in any business, including maritime companies.

In the maritime world, shipping companies recognize the need for their officers and crew to always connect with their families, if possible. In a way, when seafarers are assured of the well-being of their families through constant communication, they are focused more on their jobs and improving their productivity. Thus, some companies see to it that they have proper and adequate communications equipment, so that their crew and officers are able to connect with their families, whenever the situation allows.

Ecological responsibility

Some maritime-oriented businesses, like shipping companies, are now becoming actively involved in CSR, not only in fulfilling their obligations and enhancing their image, but also for the betterment of their host communities and society at large.

One of them is Maersk-Filipinas Crewing Inc., which received a CSR Company of the Year Award in the prestigious 2017 Nordcham Awards in Makati City last March. This was in recognition of the company’s significant contribution to employment generation, investments, economic growth, and CSR in the Philippines.
Its president and general manager at the time, Capt. Renel Ramos, is the one who initiated the company’s CSR project as Maersk’s response to the United Nations (UN) Global Compact Principles on the Environment.

Ramos said that, for a three-year reforestation project in Mariveles town, Bataan province, Maersk partnered with farmers and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to plant 10,000 fruit-bearing trees. He said that, even if he is no longer with Maersk and after the project’s completion, he will continue to support the farmers and the community through RightNav Maritime, a consultancy firm that he established with friends and associations last October.

Ramos said environment sustainability and ecological preservation should be integrated with a company’s core values. The Maersk project is intended for carbon sequestration and is expected to contribute to oxygen emission to benefit the lives of about 20,000 people.

In addition to cleaner air, the project would also help the Mariveles farming community gain sustainable livelihood. Once the trees have matured and started bearing fruit, the project would augment the farmers’ income and subsequently uplift their families’ living conditions.