Green Shipping: Governing Sustainable Maritime Transport

Date01 May 2015
Published date01 May 2015
AuthorJane Lister
Green Shipping: Governing Sustainable
Maritime Transport
Jane Lister
University of British Columbia
Maritime shipping is integral to the global economy. Over 80 per cent of traded goods travel by ship. While states and
the International Maritime Organization (IMO) have stalled in the regulation of the environmental impacts of ocean
transit, new private green shippinginitiatives are emerging. These are supported by powerful corporate actors, in par-
ticular the largest container shipping customers multinational brand retail companies. As debated in the private gov-
ernance literature, this can be both a global governance opportunity and a worrying trend. This article traces the
importance of retail power in inf‌luencing the rise of private environmental governance in shipping as a business strat-
egy for market certainty and advantage. In evaluating the implications for the architecture and effectiveness of the
regime, the article argues that the well-established, focal authority of the IMO offers it the potential to orchestrate
green shippingprivate initiatives alongside international efforts to spur policy innovation, coordination and state regu-
latory cooperation. In conclusion, the article offers guidance to the IMO on the importance but also caution in govern-
ing private governance to ensure, as Susan Strange appealed for almost four decades ago, the management of
maritime shipping in the public interest and not just for private benef‌it.
Policy Implications
Greater state response and global policy coordination is required to address the lag in regulating the environmen-
tal impacts of international shipping.
Private initiatives are shaping transnational green shipping standards, and governments and the International Mari-
time Organization (IMO) need to monitor and better understand the politics driving these efforts (motivations and
power dynamics among nonstate actors; convergence or divergence of norms) and the global policy implications
(alignment with IMO goals; environmental outcome effectiveness).
As the central, global environmental regulatory authority in shipping, the IMO has the potential to cautiously
orchestrate private green shippinginitiatives as a supplementary governance mechanism alongside international
processes to spur policy innovation, coordination, and greater state regulatory cooperation.
Maritime shipping is the oldest transnational business
and an essential sector of the global economy. Yet, over
the past several decades it has been virtually ignored in
global policy and political economy research. Revisiting
Susan Stranges appeal of almost four decades ago for
more research on the problem of managing world ship-
ping in the public interest(1976, p. 367), this article
brings the collective action problem of achieving effec-
tive environmental governance in the maritime sector
into present day focus. Drawing on, and contributing to,
the literature on private governance, the paper evaluates
the opportunities and challenges of the emerging trend
of increasing transnational private green shippinginitia-
tives arguing the need and potential for the International
Maritime Organization (IMO) to more closely oversee as
well as cautiously consider leveraging these private
efforts as a supplementary means to spur greater indus-
try response and state regulatory cooperation, coordina-
tion and progress within a lagging international shipping
Retail, shipping and the global economy are closely
intertwined. The production and sale of consumer goods
is an engine of global commerce and the competitive-
ness of the over $15 trillion retail industry hinges on
cheap, eff‌icient container shipping. The transport of
goods by ocean vessel is a linchpin of international trade
with over 80 per cent of the worlds traded goods by
weight and 70 per cent by value travelling by ship.
Within the world economy, multinational brand compa-
nies have gained concentrated buyer power to inf‌luence
where, when and how products are made and sold
around the globe (Gereff‌iet al., 2005; Hamilton et al.,
2011). In recent years, they have announced unprece-
dented corporate social responsibility goals to achieve
©2014 University of Durham and John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Global Policy (2015) 6:2 doi: 10.1111/1758-5899.12180
Global Policy Volume 6 . Issue 2 . May 2015
Research Article

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