The Gliese Foundation reports:

The 138-page Sustainability Report by MSC has one feature that only one more of the companies that submitted a report for the period from January 1st, 2019 to December 31st, 2019 shares — there is almost no data, no numbers, no cold and objective numbers (except for some about its assets in pages 8 and 9, and more numbers in the chapter that maybe by mistake was called Social Inclusion because it does not deal with social issues but with intermodal, freight corridors, and other logistics issues).

The environmental section, for instance, has 32 pages, but one finds only a few numbers about the company on page 63. That is all. Nothing as appendix, either. Environmental reporting is only partially about narrative, about telling stories, but it is mainly about presenting objective numbers through which the public and the stakeholders of the company can gauge the environmental advances of a company.

MSC is the second largest liner in the world, transporting about 16% of total world cargo. MSC has been called for years a very secretive company since it is a family emporium, a privately own emporium, and, regrettably, we can see that on its environmental reporting: despite releasing a 138-page report, one can feel that secrecy since contrary to all the other liners, there are almost no numbers related to environmental reporting. MSC ignored one of the most basic tenets of company reporting—to provide data, because, without data, one is left with narratives, stories, anecdotes. Even less known and smaller companies such as Wan Hai are presenting much more environmental data.

We would have been given only 3 stars out of 5 to MSC; however, the narrative in different parts of the report is laborious, engaging, story-telling, so we consider that 3.5 stars are a fair score. We thought about shaving 0.5 stars to the companies that did not release their Sustainability Reports during the first semester of 2020 (six months should be more than enough to publish their reports). That would have affected COSCO (July), Evergreen Marine (August), and CMA CGM, Yang Min, Wan Hai, and MSC (September).

We did not find the COVID-19 pandemic as an excuse for the late release when even heavily battered cruise companies such as Aida, Genting HK, Royal Caribbean, TUI, or Virgin, released their Sustainability Reports during the first semester. However, given that this is the first year we are writing our independent reviews, we decided to ignore the date of the release even if the prompt release by Maersk (February) or in good timing by Hapag-Lloyd and ZIM (April) would have deserved at least those 0.5 stars difference. But that is a criterium we will apply until next year: companies that will release their reports during the first semester versus companies that will release theirs during the second one.

Besides the lack of numbers, the MSC Sustainability Report lacks information in other areas where most liners are providing information. For instance, the report argues that the company has carried a materiality assessment; however, contrary to any other company that has done that exercise, MSC does not reveal the matrix, only a vague figure on page 31.

The matrix is important because it shows the priorities of the company and its stakeholders to environmental and other sustainability issues. Regarding the impact on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), MSC makes the mistake that most liners do: believing that is impacting all 17 SDGs, when, as we said in the review about HMM, no company in the world can claim that is impacting in all of them (the MSC report presents the SDGs impacted at the beginning of each chapter; if one puts all of them together, it results that the company is impacting all of them).

Different sections of the report, however, are quite interesting. First, the section about IMO 2020 was quite illustrative. Contrary to other liners that are relatively brief on this topic, MSC provides more information into the challenges that being compliant with the new regulation implied for its fleet: “Fuel tank preparation was a major focus. Provisions were made for the emptying of main and overflow fuel tanks and the transfer of any remaining heavy fuel oil (HFO) to sludge tanks. Across the MSC-owned fleet approximately 4,000 fuel tanks, including storage tanks, and settling and service tanks, required cleaning to be ready to bunker 0.5%S fuel oil (…) Fuel tank cleaning at MSC began with the recruitment of dedicated teams from MSC Crewing Offices and selected vendors. More than 300 personnel were engaged worldwide in the onboard task of cleaning fuel tanks in the 10 months leading to implementation of the IMO 2020 regulation.

Tasks related to tank cleaning and preparation were mostly carried out during navigation of the vessel, to avoid service disruption. MSC worked with a qualified maritime expert consultancy to develop a Ship Implementation Plan (SIP) for each vessel to ensure full and timely compliance with IMO 2020.”

Another section that we found particularly useful is the one related to TiL. Liners tend to omit references to the terminals they own or make only some passing comments. MSC presents one of the best sections we have found about terminals, and with numbers! What a pity that the work for the core of the business—the fleet—was much weaker. Here are some excerpts: “TiL records and monitors a range of energy efficiency indicators to ensure that its strong business performance runs in parallel with responsible environmental management.

For example, TiL has achieved a 14% increase in the number of TEU moved per quay metre and a 16% increase in the number of TEU moved per hectare of yard space, since the end of 2016. Fuel consumption per move at TiL has been reduced by 25% since 2017. In a further reflection of improvements in operational efficiency, berth productivity, measured in terms of the number of moves per hour, has increased from 55 in 2016 to 60 in 2019 (…) The optimisation of operations by TiL has wider benefit for emissions reduction, beyond the company itself. For instance, average truck turnaround time at TiL terminals has been reduced by six minutes (15%) since 2016, meaning less time idling or queueing.”

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