Sustainability Reporting by Port Authorities

The practice of sustainability reporting, beyond mere environmental reporting, started in the late 1990s. More recently, the port industry is adopting this reporting to conceptualize sustainability and as an essential basis for the license to operate. Mainly larger port authorities have started producing sustainability reports or integrated reporting on a voluntary basis in the past decade (e.g. Antwerp, Hamburg, Rotterdam). In contrast, others have been obliged to adopt the practice due to enforced legislation by governments when it comes to example-setting by state-owned enterprises (e.g. Swedish ports).

Ports increasingly follow global guidelines and standards for sustainability reporting (such as the Global Reporting Initiative – GRI). In 2016, the first Sustainability Report at the level of the European Port Industry was presented in the context of the EC PORTOPIA project (PORTOPIA, 2016). The report is set up along six dimensions (Market Trends and Structure indicators – Socio-Economic indicators – Environmental and Occupational Health, Safety and Security indicators – Logistics Chain and Operational Performance indicators – Governance indicators – User Perceptions on Port Quality indicators). It uses datasets present within the European Seaports Organisation (ESPO) and the ECOPORTS project.

Many unsolved conceptual issues and differences in approach among ports remain when it comes to sustainability reporting: (1) the scope and the boundaries of the reporting i.e. organizational, functional, or geographical boundaries; (2) the perspectives of performance and the calculation/definition of indicators, and; (3) the integration of stakeholder perspectives.

Further reading: Geerts, M., Dooms, M., 2017. Sustainability reporting by port authorities: a comparative analysis of leading world ports. IAME 2017 conference, Kyoto, paper no. 317