Corporate Social Responsibility in Seaports: Confronting Innovation to Economic, Social and Environmental Objectives



Corporate Social Responsibility in Seaports: Confronting Innovation to Economic, Social and Environmental Objectives

Authors

Thierry Vanelslander, University Of Antwerp

Description

Seaports have gained further importance in the latest years: for most of them, freight traffic volumes keep on increasing, which increases their role as important international trade gateways. Seaport operations have also featured fundamental changes. Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has gradually been introduced also in the ports sector. One of the impacts in on the level and type of innovation. This paper focusses on the way that CSR emerges among company goals in seaports, and the extent to which a selected set of innovation initiatives responds to the goals raised. A list of port company goals is tested through a Delphi approach and scored on how well selected port innovation initiatives respond to the raised goals. To draw conclusions from the obtained scorings, Fuzzy Set Qualitative Comparative Analysis is applied.

Abstract

Seaports have gained further importance in the latest years: for most of them, freight traffic volumes keep on increasing, which increases their role as important international trade gateways. With that increase, also the number of jobs, the amount of value added, tax income for governments, etc. also increase. Seaport operations have also featured fundamental changes. First of all, operators are much more globalized than before. That is true on all sides: demand (shipping companies, shippers) and supply (terminal handling operators). Second, like in many other economic activities, societal pressures have increased. Surrounding inhabitants require seaports to be less disturbing in terms of noise, emissions, congestion-generating effects, etc. Governments play into this by strengthening corresponding regulation. Unions and governments also put forward rightful limitations with respect to allowable accident levels. General labour conditions, sometimes more debatable, also feature strengthening, mainly from the union side. Witness to that are strikes which lately emerged in European, Asian, African and US seaports, although sometimes tied purely to remuneration power play.

A consequence of these pressures is that port-related companies have become more and more aware of operating conditions and impacts generated. Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has gradually been introduced also in the ports sector. This also reflects in their operating decisions and investment strategies. One of the impacts in on the level and type of innovation. Still, transportation in general, and seaports as a part of that, do feature innovation levels which are below those of the economy in general. Nevertheless, companies seem to have acquired interest in bridging this gap, and in particular in benefiting from the economic gains that innovating can bring. Various process and technological innovation initiatives are started up by the various port-related operators.

This paper focusses on the way that CSR emerges among company goals in seaports, and the extent to which a selected set of innovation initiatives responds to the goals raised. To do that, a two-step approach is applied. Starting from scientific literature, an initial set of economic, social and environment-related port-related company goals is drafted. This list is tested through a Delphi approach among a set of port-related operators, so as to end up with a validated list of goals. In a second step, a scoring of how well selected port innovation initiatives respond to the raised goals is applied. To draw conclusions from the obtained scorings, Fuzzy Set Qualitative Comparative Analysis is applied. This way, it can be derived how relevant a specific innovation action is to a specific company goal, and to which extent it actually contributes to achieving the goal.

The results allow making an initial typology of actions and conditions that contribute to innovation ‘success’. The lessons learned are particulary useful to the various actors concerned. First of all to the operators concerned: companies get insight into which types of innovation and which conditions allow achieving better results with respect to company goals. Second, also governments are concerned: not only should they know which types of innovation require more stimuli in view of the societal impacts they generate, but also should they get insight into which conditions (level and type of regulation, amount of start-up subsidies needed, etc.) are required for innovation be more succesful. Finally, technology developers should get a feeling of the type of innovation that is most desired by operators in line with the company goals they want to achieve. The paper can be a step-up for further research, for instance into specific types of innovation.

Publisher

Association for European Transport