Shipping firm pledges to disconnect itself from rainforest destruction

By Karimeh Moukaddem, mongabay.com
May 25, 2011

 Maersk shipping containers, each with a wood floor, stacked up along the Panama Canal. Photo by: Rhett A. Butler.
Maersk shipping containers, each with a wood floor, stacked up along the Panama Canal. Photo by: Rhett A. Butler.

The Danish shipping giant Maersk pledged this week to stop purchasing containers with floors made from uncertified tropical hardwood, reports Deutsche Welle press.

In an effort to reduce illegal logging and combat climate change, the company will be turning to recycled plastic, bamboo, and tropical wood certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) for its flooring. The Copenhagen-based firm is the first cargo company to transition to 'green containers' as part of a sustainable business strategy.

"Achieving sustainable development and environmental conservation will not be possible without the full engagement of the private sector, and we hope this bold move will inspire other businesses to follow suit," Stephen Kelleher, Deputy Head of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Forest Conservation Program said in a press release.

 Container ship out at sea. Photo by: Rhett A. Butler.
Container ship out at sea. Photo by: Rhett A. Butler.
According to Deutsche Welle, a German media conglomerate, the shipping industry creates demand for 1.2 to 1.5 million cubic meters of tropical hardwood annually through its purchase of containers—likely illegally logged and highly damaging to rainforest ecosystems. Jacob Sterling, director of Maersk’s climate and environment division, explains that tropical hardwood is pursued by the industry because it is sturdy and inexpensive.

While Maersk expects to pay more initially for containers with green floors, the company states that it aims to "turn our success with sustainability into a competitive advantage for our company."

Maersk has already purchased 64,000 new containers that comply with the company's updated standards and will buy as many as 3 million more over the next five years. The company plans to have its entire fleet of containers outfitted with environmentally-friendly floors by 2029. Sterling stated that the company prefers containers with floors made from recycled plastics, but will support the manufacture of containers made from bamboo and tropical hardwood certified by the Forest Stewardship Council in order to diversify supply.

Because Maersk is a massive conglomerate, its decision to no longer purchase containers made with uncertified timber will lower demand for tropical hardwood by approximately six percent within the shipping industry, reducing deforestation and combating climate change.

Transitioning to green containers is the company's most recent step on a path to natural capitalism, a business strategy that utilizes strong environmental and energy policies to cut costs, innovate, and prepare for a changing business climate given new environmental realities.

Maersk is also a signatory of the United Nation’s Global Compact for ethical business behavior and joined Global Compact LEAD in 2010 when the company adopted a formal sustainability strategy.

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By Karimeh Moukaddem, mongabay.com (May 25, 2011).

Shipping firm pledges to disconnect itself from rainforest destruction.