31. July 2015

Anti-corruption Collective Action in the maritime industry

Cecilia Müller Torbrand is Senior Legal Counsel, Group  Compliance Officer of the Maersk Group, the container shipping industry leader and one of the founding companies of the Maritime Anti-Corruption Network (MACN). She spoke to the ICCA recently about the MACN and its work towards a shipping industry free of bribery and corruption. Mrs Müller Torbrand serves as the Chair for the network. In part for her work with MACN, Mrs Müller Torbrand has been named Compliance Officer of the Year at the 2015 Women in Compliance Awards

Please tell our readers about the Maritime Anti-Corruption Network (MACN) and how it came into existence.

I was working in Maersk Line at the time and when Maersk Line was developing its compliance programme, we started to evaluate how we could create sustainable changes on the ground and how we can support our front line staff better. We concluded that engaging our peers would be a useful first step and started to reach out within our sector and received positive feedback. During 2011 I arranged frequent meetings and invited relevant stakeholders to seek inspiration, e.g. Transparency International and UN Development Programme.

After a year we were about 15 companies that were willing to “give it a go” and we engaged a third party (Business for Social Responsibility, a global non-profit organisation) to assist in formalising and continue building the network. The network has now grown from eight members at its inception to around 60 members today.

What are the main goals and objectives of the MACN?

Business can’t solve the global problem of corruption alone. MACN is a global business network established to work toward a vision of a maritime industry free of corruption that enables fair trade to the benefit of the broader society.

As a global business initiative, MACN believes that sustainable, transformational change requires multi-stakeholder collaboration, which must provide win-win solutions to motivate and incentivise all stakeholders to contribute and adopt strong anti-corruption management practices. This is best done in dialogue with national governments and with support from intra governmental institutions such as the UN.

How can companies join the MACN?

Companies can seek more information on MACN’s website.

To become a member companies need to sign up to MACN anti-corruption principles and they need to have support and commitment from senior management to join.

Where have you seen the greatest contributions of the initiative in supporting transparency and integrity in the shipping industry?

 Three things – open dialogue, best practice sharing and multi stakeholder conversations.

  • Open dialogue: In order to tackle the problems it is important to find channels to address them. When MACN members meet, specific challenges are discussed. This is helpful for the member company representatives as they can feed that back to their own organisation.
  • Best practice sharing: Individual members are responsible for their own compliance programs, but using MACN as a platform to exchange experiences and build tools and use what other members are doing makes the process more efficient. There is no need to reinvent the wheel!
  • Multi stakeholder conversations: Discussing challenges with your stakeholders gives better perspectives, e.g. it is more efficient to have your third party in the room rather than pushing the problems to someone who isn’t there. For the shipping sector, for example, port agent service providers serve as a crucial part of ship clearance and in the interaction with government officials. Discussing challenges together with port agents therefore helps to better understand the challenges and design the solutions. The same goes for customers.

We are also better equipped to engage in discussions with governments if they know we have all relevant parties on board.

MACN has recently been named as winner of the second annual TRACE Innovation in Anti-Bribery Compliance Award (IACA). First, congratulations on this well-deserved honour. How has a Collective Action approach in particular been helpful in view of the anti-bribery compliance challenges that your company and industry sought to address through the MACN?

We are still learning how to combat illicit demands and define root causes to eliminate the problem in a sustainable manner. There is no handbook for how to carry out collective actions but we have great momentum within the membership towards solving problems collectively – which is very positive in itself!

The more members we are in the network the more we can do jointly. We are a stronger voice now compared to three years ago, as we today are over 60 members in the network. Going forward we believe it will be easier for the network to engage in dialogue with relevant governments.

Where do you see the greatest challenges, risks and opportunities in anti-bribery and compliance in the shipping industry in the near future? How does MACN, through Collective Action, seek to meet them?

Around 90% of world trade is carried by the international shipping industry. The International Chamber of Shipping states that “without shipping the import and export of goods on the scale necessary for the modern world would not be possible, and seaborne trade continues to expand, bringing benefits for consumers across the world through competitive freight costs”. Further, it has been stated several times that corruption is an obstacle to trade and to economic and social development. Improving efficiency in port operations will benefit world trade and on a root level, such improvements will enable companies to import and export more easily.

Improving efficiency often strengthens integrity. MACN wants to be a part of that journey and believes that as an industry voice MACN can provide support with tools and processes that will make the ship and cargo clearance process work better. Through our members’ experiences we can quite easily identify the challenges and work with governments to design solutions to combat issues with red tape and corruption. However governments and the private sector need  to engage and MACN sees its role as a catalyst for change. Further, the experiences gained from our collective action work in Nigeria and Argentina show that efforts and tools can in many cases be replicated and MACN is working to scale up its efforts by creating and partnering with stakeholders that can also help drive change.

The drive for change however needs to come from national governments, where “tones from the top and the middle” are just as important as they are for the success of companies’ compliance programme. Political instability and internal conflicts are risk factors when engaging in a national anti-corruption project. As for the maritime industry, MACN is just one tool which can support the development of a compliance programme. Raising the bar within our industry will help to set a common standard and make it easier for a Captain to reject illicit demands as he or she knows that the peers will do the same.

In the coming years, I would like to see MACN further grow in membership and that MACN engages in dialogue and projects with more governments to tackle corruption issues. I hope that we have been able to build more useful tools for members and that we can successfully demonstrate that together with stakeholders, we have made progress in tackling port corruption issues.

Collective Action team at the Basel Institute on Governance