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Corporate Social Responsibility at NORDEN

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Major shipping company NORDEN has taken a lead in deeply anchoring Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) into its organisation – and begun to do the same beyond its doors, in co-operation with its suppliers. It describes 2013 as “an exciting year” in the CSR journey.

This was the message from the Copenhagen-based enterprise’s CSR director, Ulla Eithz Nielsen, when she briefed a visiting group of members of WISTA Denmark, led by WISTA Denmark president Irene Rosberg, on the business’s action plan.

Ms Rosberg said later: “NORDEN presented a truly impressive picture of how it has put into practice its CSR strategy, under the inspiring guidance of Ulla Eithz Nielsen. There are lessons here for many other businesses in the shipping industry.”

Ulla Nielsen, CSR Director of Norden

Ulla Eithz Nielsen, CSR Director of Norden

NORDEN says that its CSR is business-driven – for instance, its initiatives in CO2 efficiency are enabling a reduction in fuel consumption, a key consideration at a time when fuel prices account for 60% to 70% of total voyage costs. Progress towards meeting a range of CSR targets are detailed on the company website, and in the 24-page printed report ‘CSR Report 2012 – On the right course.’

Listed on NASDAQ OMX Copenhagen, DS NORDEN dates back to 1871, making it one of Denmark’s oldest internationally operating shipping companies. The independent operator has one of the largest fleets of handymax and panamax dry cargo vessels and has considerable activity in the handysize and post-panamax sectors, in capesizes and in product tankers. It operates a mix of modern owned and chartered tonnage.

NORDEN’s main board in 2008 appointed a CSR Executive Body to oversee the company’s efforts and keep in tune with the climate debate. The executive body, headed by chief financial officer Michael Tønnes Jørgensen, reports to the board, which has overall responsibility for ensuring that NORDEN has a systematic management approach to environmental and social sustainability.

A CSR Department was established in January 2011 to anchor CSR in NORDEN “and ensure that it is always linked to our business strategy.”

With tanker, dry cargo and other departments in dialogue with customers on a daily basis, the company sees it as essential that employees possess the latest knowledge of its CSR efforts.

The purpose of the strategy, the company says, is to focus on “issues which are important to our business and to our stakeholders; to make CSR part of our value proposition to our customers, business partners, investors and employees; to strengthen our position as part of our customers’ and business partners’ responsible supply chain; and to communicate and measure our CSR ambitions and efforts.” Employees will be trained in CSR and how it should be integrated into their daily work.

Irene Rosberg

Irene Rosberg

In 2012, NORDEN established an employee code of conduct and updated its anti-corruption policy.

Research identified 17 relevant CSR issues, which were consolidated into seven focus areas.  The next step was to create a detailed action plan for each focus area to ensure that the targets set could be met. The strategy covers the period 2013 to 2015.

Among other goals, NORDEN aims to reduce CO2 emissions from its owned vessels by 25% before 2020 from the 2007 level, in line with the target set by the Danish Shipowners’ Association. To reach this target, NORDEN will concentrate on technical improvements, speed optimisation, and maintaining a young, modern and fuel efficient fleet.

NORDEN has a ‘whistleblowing’ system named SafeLine to provide employees, executive management and board members with what it terms safe access to report any violations of law and regulation, and the employee code of conduct, policies and guidelines, and to notify irregularities. This is designed to “encourage and safeguard our high standards and best practices.”

In co-operation with other Danish shipowners, NORDEN has developed a “common industry toolbox” for responsible supply chain management, including a supplier code of conduct, a supplier self assessment questionnaire and an implementation plan. This is based among other points on the general principles of the UN Global Compact, the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, and the International Bill of Human Rights. Besides human and labour rights, this will encompass environmental and anti-corruption issues.

As part of the campaign to anchor CSR in the company, several internal CSR ambassadors have been appointed, charged with embedding the CSR strategy and employee code of conduct in the daily operations of their respective departments.

Norden’s continuing dialogue with WISTA Denmark is proving beneficial for both sides: Ms Rosberg warmly welcomed Ms Eithz Nielsen as the latest senior executive to join the Danish section of the Women’s International Shipping & Trading Association, which is represented in more than 30 countries. By engaging with leading and innovative businesses serving the maritime and related industries, WISTA Denmark is pursuing a strategy furthering the international association’s guiding principles of enhancing and sharing knowledge at management level.

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