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Elusive corporate social responsibility (CSR) in global shipping

Helen Sampson (Seafarers International Research Centre, Cardiff University, Cardiff, UK)
Neil Ellis (Seafarers International Research Centre, Cardiff University, Cardiff, UK)

Journal of Global Responsibility

ISSN: 2041-2568

Article publication date: 11 May 2015




This paper aims to, using the example of the highly globalised shipping industry, shed light upon the practice of corporate social responsibility (CSR) and the extent to which it might be relied upon to fill international regulatory gaps.


The paper draws upon findings from a questionnaire study of shipboard accommodation.


The paper finds that seafarers’ welfare remains under-considered by many companies. It suggests that the consolidation of regulation pertaining to seafarer living conditions under the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC) has been timely. However, a priority for the international community should be to develop the relatively low standards currently required by existing regulation to provide for better standards of seafarer welfare across the global fleet.

Research limitations/implications

This evidence from the shipping industry challenges arguments for the normative basis for CSR and lends weight to those suggesting that the apparent exercise of CSR by multinational companies should broadly be understood as an exercise in public relations.

Social implications

The research points to the need for the MLC to be amended to raise the mandatory standards of shipboard accommodation in the merchant shipping industry.


The paper contributes unique data on seafarers’ living conditions and augments the body of knowledge concerning the exercise of CSR in global sectors.



This research was generously supported by The Lloyd’s Register Educational Trust which was assimilated into the Lloyd’s Register Foundation on 1 March 2013. Lloyd’s Register Foundation helps to protect life and property by supporting engineering-related education, public engagement and the application of research.


Sampson, H. and Ellis, N. (2015), "Elusive corporate social responsibility (CSR) in global shipping", Journal of Global Responsibility, Vol. 6 No. 1, pp. 80-98.



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