Guest Blogger: Implications of Business Practices in the Shipping Industry on Environmental Sustainability

My brother-in-law, Dr. Giorgos Kokkoris, is a professor at the University of the Aegean, on the island of Lesbos, Greece. Since his specialty is Mathematical Biology and Effects of Invader Species on Ecosystems, we frequently discuss issues related to invader species.

An invader species is one that does not normally belong in a habitat, but has been introduced there, either intentionally or unintentionally. The invader may have beneficial or detrimental impacts to that ecological community and can be either plant or animal.

One such example is kudzu. Kudzu was a plant native to Japan that was brought to the United States to control erosion; it ended up becoming a nuisance plant because it grew too well in the South. Many introductions of invader species are not intentional but still can cause great harm to the environment.

The invader species usually do not have predators and will eventually crowd out the native species, creating a loss of biological diversity in the habitat.

This is a global problem and can happen to any habitat in the world. Frequently when large ocean-going vessels leave a port with their bilge tank full of water from their port,  and travel to an area of warmer water and dump their bilge tank water, they introduce invader species that can wreak havoc on the new ecosystem.

The Mediterranean is already having problems from overfishing. Dr. Kokkoris has proposed that certain areas near the coastlines be protected from commercial fishing so the fish population can recover. While this plan will help the fish population recover in a few years, what can we do about the invader species carried in ship bilge water?

Like kudzu, the fish that live in colder areas will thrive in the warmer Mediterranean waters and will either eat or displace the natural fish in the area. The situation presents a double whammy to the fisherman. He will not be able to catch any fish due to overfishing, and also will not have native fish due to invader species taking over their habitat. This is a significant impact on their livelihood.

So what can be done? Some countries are looking at regulations on bilge water, like sterilization of the bilge water before discharge, and other requirements. Sterilization by chlorine could also kill the local biota as it is discharged from the ship. Alternatives to chemical sterilization should be considered and become standard in the shipping industry.

How do such regulations get enforced? In Greece there are also regulations that the small sailboats not dump their wastewater into the sea near swimming areas, but some boaters do it anyway. People report it to the Port Police but there is not much they can do.

They say they have to rely on the boat operators to do the right thing. Many a time on my vacation I had to get out of the water until the waste dissipated. Who is going to police these large ships to see if they are doing the right thing?

Meanwhile, the standard practices of the shipping industry are creating a global issue and damaging the long-term environmental sustainability of the ocean ecosystem. This is not a short-term issue, like wastewater dumping, but can have long-term damage to the ecosystems. Don’t forget to factor in the other manmade pollution that is entering the ports from the land,  and its additive detrimental effects to the ecosystem.

The U.S. and Canadian governments are trying to take action by requiring open ocean ballast water exchange (emptying the bilge tanks at sea), around 200 nautical miles off the coast, but what will this exchange do to the ecosystems in small areas of the open ocean? An inspection program and enforcement are also necessary to assure compliance with the requirements. Such measures have to be rigorous to maintain compliance.

As students, what can you do? You can be familiar with the global environmental issues and factor environmental sustainability into all your business decisions.

Please share your comments on this topic.

Elizabeth Phillips has over 30 years of Environmental Management experience. She has worked in private industry as a consultant and government contractor, Tennessee State Government as a regulator and the Department of Energy as a program and project manager. She has a B.S. in Geology from Vanderbilt University and she completed her M.S. in Environmental Engineering. She has participated in the Project Management Certification program and her current responsibilities include management of remediation projects at the Y-12 National Security Complex, and Program Manager for the Environmental Technology Development Program.

Elizabeth’s hobbies include volunteer work in science education, youth soccer, and community service programs. She has received the President’s Volunteer Service Award and the Secretary of Energy Community Service Award. She is the past President of the Oak Ridge Chapter of Women in Nuclear, Vice President for Programs of Federally Employed Women, Federal Women’s Program Manager, Science Club Coordinator for Bearden Elementary School, YWCA Board, AYSO Board, and currently serves as Secretary of the FBI Knoxville Citizen’s Academy Alumni Association. She is married and is a soccer mom to two children.

 

 

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20 thoughts on “Guest Blogger: Implications of Business Practices in the Shipping Industry on Environmental Sustainability

  1. Thank you Ms. Phillips for that article. I had no idea that this was even an issue or problem, but as future leaders, we must be aware of what is going on around us that could affect our business, our distribution, our consumers, and our territories. One such thing was the reports of bedbugs in IKEA packaging. With so many reports, IKEA has managed to limit the problem, however it was never made public by the company that there was a problem. They had to be reactive with the reports that they received, strategic in how to deal with this issue, and proactive to limit the exposure to consumers. If my son had not told me, I would have never heard of it. However, since he informed me also to inspect my packages, I still plan on purchasing items from the store in Atlanta, but I will be a knowledgeable consumer and protect myself.

  2. Thank you for the post this week.

    For those of us who are going to be future leaders of business, we must be fully aware of the environmental impact our companies make. As the inline video mentioned, it is often not immediately apparent what is going on in the environment, but by the time is is noticeable it might be too late to alter course and make impacting changes. This is the reason we must make decisions, not only regarding the bottom line, but be fully cognizant how our decisions and the ramifications of those decisions affect the environment.

    • I know, Michael, wasn’t that absolutely insightful? That statement is applicable to life in general. Often things are getting bad long before you can “see” them.
      This is why I think that the Sustainability Revolution is divinely inspired. How in the world could one person start something that is so vast. We not only need to change the way that we do things, but we need to be a catalyst in how our neighbors do things. We have to look at microcosmic to cosmic in this endeavor because everything that one country does effects another country and everything that our planet does effects other planets, and so on.
      This necessitates the partnerships for sustainability with other people, other cities, states, countries, however it does not necessitate some kind of world order.

  3. The following was written by Eric Olson for his presentation on environmental initiatives, “Reset the World: crucial external drivers have changed, reshaping the environment and the priorities of our members and the broader CSR community–
    Resetting the world is exactly right. That is what is going on with the sustainability revolution; it is why it is being heralded as a revolution. Everything we do is changing. It is a fascinating journey and a costly journey. It is enlightening as well, for as Christians we all have just though that everything on the planet God gave us to use, invent, or eat. We didn’t embrace our resources in the past. Most of us just did not realize what we were doing as we depleted our resources, but now that we do, we must make changes. We have to foster a greater sense of community with the world. All that we do has consequences and affects something or somebody else in the universe. This change must be systemic. Mr. Olson says, “Integration–blurring boundaries brings the need for more cooperation, collaboration & partnerships.” We must be cutting edge in our R & D; as we continue to globalize we will remain competitive.

    Olson, E., BSR, April 19, 2011
    Environmental Initiative – Business & Environment Series: Best Practices For Leading Sustainability Initiatives
    Identifying Priorities: Materiality Assessment and External Stakeholder Engagement
    http://www.environmental-initiative.org/events/event/best-practices-for-leading-sustainability-initiatives

  4. As future leaders we all must be aware of what is going on around us in regards to anything that can affect our business and economy. One of the first things that caught my attention in the blog was the discussion of Kudzu. I personally have been affected by the eco-invasion of the Kudzu as well. My family has been fighting a battle to keep this spreading and thriving plant under control for many years. I learned from the Univeristy of Kentucky that kudzu was first introduced in the U.S. in the late 1800s as an “ornamental and later grown as a forage crop and soil stabilizer” (par. 1).

    Sadly we are involved in things all the time that unknowingly have the capabilities to destroy ecosystems and the environment without even knowing it. Like the video stated, many times it is too late to stop or help the damage by the time we realize what is going on. We all must take a stand professionally and personally to try and help.

    Blair, M.P., & Whitt, W.W. (2005). Kudzu Identification and Control in Kentucky. UK Cooperative Extension Program: UK College of Agriculture. Retrieved from http://www.ca.uky.edu/agc/pubs/agr/agr186/agr186.pdf

  5. Thank you, Mrs. Phillips, for being a guest blogger this week. You bring up some very valid points of concern for businesses. Businesses must make ethical and socially responsible decisions when it comes to environmental conservation and sustainability. It is quite sad that occurrences happen like the ones you described, and little is done to stop it. It is a bit ironic how we condemn those that harm animals on an individual basis, yet we only give a slap on the wrist to those that are quite possibly destroying entire ecosystems. While relying on one’s integrity is honorable, sometimes it is not in the best interest of all parties to do so. Hopefully, businesses, as well as society, will continue to improve their decision making processes for issues concerning environmental sustainability as part of the companies’ social responsibility policies. The changes that have to occur must first begin with us.

  6. Thank you for joining our blog this week, Mrs. Phillips. This is very informative and relevant information for our class. The threat of damage to ecosystems and the loss of invader species must be taken into consideration when conducting business. The sustainability of countless ecosystems and habitats depend upon it. Just as you spoke of the ships leaving port and emptying their bilge in warmer waters where the invaders species will thrive, many people are causing the same devastation by releasing exotic animals into the wild. As the pets become too large to take care of, people will turn them loose in the wild, where they can invade a habitat and completely change the complexity of the ecosystem and the livelihood of the native species. As stated by an article on the National Wildlife Federation’s website, “When an ecosystem is out of balance and native plants and animals are struggling, species from other parts of the world can take advantage of the changed conditions to establish themselves” (nwf.org, 2011). This mirrors a statement from the video you provided us with about the Great Lakes. One example that was given in this article was the Burmese Python and its man-driven invasion of the everglades. Owners must be more responsible if they decide to get an exotic pet, and not turn it loose in the wild where it can invade an ecosystem and threaten its sustainability.

    Wild places-Everglades (2011). National Wildlife Federation. Retrieved from
    http://www.nwf.org/Wildlife/Wild-Places/Everglades.aspx

  7. Thank you for joining us this week. It’s hard to see all the implications that can be found from even the smallest things. It never thought that releasing the water from these ships could have such harsh environmental effects, it is an eye opener. This is something I’ve never even heard about happening, and I would imagine not many others would have heard of these environmental effects. It seems like if more word could be spread about this issue then more of a motion to solve the problem could be made. People could be the driving force to the change that is needed(Gamble and Thompson, p.58). Of course, it still depended on those who are in the position to initiate the changes, but I think multiple voices of change could help the process.
    Gamble, J. E., & Thompson, A. A. (2011). Essentials of strategic management: The quest for competitive advantage. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill/Irwin.

  8. Thanks for the posts. I am happy to see that I have opened your eyes to an issue that you have not heard of before and you can all relate to (kudzu, exotic animal infestations, bedbugs, inequality in justice, etc.) Some of the reasons you have not heard about it is that it is not in businesses best financial interest to deal with the problem because it has not reached a crisis situation yet. The environmental laws did not come into effect in this country until the 1970’s when a river was so polluted that it caught on fire! That was a crisis that brought about change! We cannot wait until this becomes a crisis because by that time it will be too late to make the oceans healthy again.You have to be the leaders to lead the sustainability movement.
    Thank you for inviting me to your class.

  9. Thanks for your post. This is something that hits home to me and anyone else living in east Tennessee. There are numerous accounts of such things happening in our own beloved Smokies. The largest of these being a infestation of beetles threatening the national parks forest. People need to become more mindful of the hazards that our environments face when outside species enter its ecosystem. It is imperative that we understand environmental issues so we can help prevent them.

  10. Thank you, Mrs. Phillips, for being a guest blogger this week. You are right we can be familiar with the global environmental issues and factor environmental sustainability into all our business decisions. I believe we should educate ourselves every day, in every little action that we do because in some way will impact somebody else life and/or nature. Since our impact on the natural world is powerful, widespread and often detrimental, new perspectives are arising regarding our place in nature (Edwards, 2005, p. 113). If regulations are not enough to stop some practices, maybe by educating companies and employees about the impact of their actions have on environment, and demonstrate the impact of what they can do to cease the issue will have in the future. I had no idea that this was happening in this scale, and maybe they do not either, education makes us more willing to collaborate with better actions and help us to pass it on, like I will.

    Edwards, A. R. (2005). The sustainability revolution: Portrait of a paradigm shift. Gabriola, BC: New Society Publishers.113

  11. The implications that you made with this post are interesting, however, while using a small window of time to look at exotic species effects on a habitat it has been shown that extinction is still a random event although the effects can be relatively disastrous to a particular species. Additionally, the Red Queen Hypothesis argues that adaptations (increased competitive strength) will be made over a period of time to maintain a species’ relative fitness within its environment because all species within the biosphere are co-evolving. In the case of kudzu, while it is an invasive species in the United States per se, as to imply that it would not eventually cross continents “naturally” is unlikely but it still possible. However, there are natural competitors to kudzu, such as people for one, as there are major commercial and medical applications for the plant and grazing animals as well as it is quite nutritious. Reducing the impact of commercial trade is becoming more and more legislative and costly while the impact may have not been preventable and the impact not thoroughly analyzed for potential benefits.

    Van Valen L. (1973): “A New Evolutionary Law”, Evolutionary Theory 1, p. 1-30.

  12. There is a definite rift between the legislation of environmental protection and the realty of man’s impact on the world. For example, laws can be enacted with stiff penalties, but crossing international waters leaves much room for interpretation. How can this problem be managed globally? Simple roadside littering, however hefty the state mandated fine, is still rampant. In fact, Almer and Goeschl argue that there is no significant evidence to cite the effectiveness of environmental law in any arena (722).

    It seems the central issue that always finds a place in this debate involves whether or not ethics and human decency should be legislated. As a people, we can only attempt to protect each other and our surroundings. It is for this reason that we must guard our wildlife and oceans, but also manage their protection with a watchful eye in keeping oversight sound, reasonable, and guided.

    Almer, C., & Goeschl, T. (2010). Environmental Crime and Punishment: Empirical Evidence from the German Penal Code. Land Economics, 86(4), 707-726.

  13. Thank you, Ms. Phillips, for your post. I recently read an article about weed travel. Seeds can get stuck in tires and travel for miles. If the conditions are muddy, seeds can get stuck in the mud and attach to the tires of a car or truck. This means the seeds can “transport almost indefinitely” (wssa.net). The mud dries and the seeds come off during the next rainy day. This transports species of weeds to non-native areas, possibly causing an overgrowth of the new species and the dissolution of the native species. I think we should all be aware of things like this. Even something as small as a weed seed can cause disruptive changes to the environment. With so many products being transported by trucks, this is something we need to be aware of. I can’t think of much of a solution, unless something is invented that can be put into the tires or sprayed onto the tires to prevent the germination of the seeds.

    Weed Science Society of America. UNLIKELY STOWAWAYS: WEED SEEDS TRAVEL TO FARAWAY PLACES ON CARS, TRUCKS AND ATVS . Retrieved from http://wssa.net/WSSA/PressRoom/WSSA-WEED-DISPERSAL-BY-VEHICLE.htm

  14. Thank you very much Ms. Phillips for posting this engaging blog. I love nature and the interplay that plants, animals and humans have with one another. Ever since the beginning of life on earth there has been a battle for subsistence between existing species, especially with limited resources. It is no different now. Plants and animals are in a constant struggle for survival and at the mercy of not only their own predators and surroundings, but are also endangered by constant human encroachment. The sad part of the story is that other species are practically defenseless against the selfish and insensible actions of humans. As you mention, it is imperative to develop a responsible mindset to monitor our behavior and to respect the environment with its ecosystems. We have to remember that we are not alone in this beautiful planet; nor are we entitled to disregard the lives of other species occupying it. Our purpose in life should be to make of this world a better place for our descendants, which includes protecting plants and animals from extinction.

  15. Thank you for joining us Ms. Phillips; we are glad that you are here with us this week. It is obvious that some kind of change has to occur. It seems that regulations do not hold much weight in punishing violators. One way to help make the needed changes would be to have hefty consequences for committing such crimes. Another way to bring about change by understanding the driving forces. This can be done by identifying the driving forces, establishing if they are individual or collective, and determining what strategy changes must be made (Thompson and Gamble p. 58).

    Gamble, J., & Thompson, A. (2011). Essentials of Strategic Management. The Quest for Competitive Advantage. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Irwin.

    • Paul,
      I agree that something has to be done, however; as you stated regulations do not hold much weight to punishing violators. It seems that all too often governments freely write laws without doing the research on how to enforce them. The problem with any law that governs shorelines or water ways is the mere vastness of the territory that has to be patrolled for violators. Perhaps in the future this is an area that the new satellite policing that is used in home land security would also be effective.

  16. Thank you, Mrs. Phillips, for being a guest blogger this week. The impact that mankind has had on the environment for most of the industrial age has been negative. Often the implications such as the kudzu were due to the lack of foresight by the decision makers of that time period. But events like that of the gulf oil spill , the exotic reptile explosion in the Everglades, and the devastation of the native fish population on coral reefs by Tiger fish should not have occurred in our current society that is more environmentally aware than our forefathers.

    Even recently an incident of farm raised salmon was found in two different rivers one in Maine, one in New Brunswick that could threaten the wild salmon population (Holyoke, 2011). As it has been mentioned the issues is regulation and enforcement of those regulations especially across international borders. Due to culture and different political agendas creating a standardized environmental regulation will be a very difficult task. Public awareness of environmental impacts to our shorelines and waterways by organizations like the Metcalf Institute for Marine & Environmental Reporting may be the best approach to address the issues and gain support at the ground level .

    Holyoke, J. (2011, September 16). Escapee salmon discovered in Maine, New Brunswick [Maine Outdoors ]. Maine Outdoors, Bangor Daily News (Maine). Retrieved from http://bangordailynews.com/2011/09/16/outdoors/escapee-salmon-discovered-in-maine-new-brunswick/?ref=relatedBox

    URI Graduate School of Oceanography. (2011). Metcalf Institute for Marine & Environmental Reporting. Retrieved 11-11-2011, from Metcalf Institute for Marine & Environmental Reporting: http://metcalfinstitute.org/index.htm

  17. KEEP 200 WORDS INITIAL12/6/11 (original post 11/8/11)The following was written by Eric Olson for his presentation on environmental initiatives, “Reset the World: crucial external drivers have changed, reshaping the environment and the priorities of our members and the broader CSR community–
    Resetting the world is exactly right. That is whats going on with the sustainability revolution; it is why it is being heralded as a revolution. Everything we do is changing. It is a fascinating journey and a costly journey. It is enlightening as well, as Christians we all have just thought that everything on the planet God gave us to use, invent, or eat. We didn’t embrace our resources in the past. We have to foster a greater sense of community with the world. All that we do has consequences and affects something or somebody else in the universe. This change must be systemic. Mr. Olson says, “Integration–blurring boundaries brings the need for more cooperation, collaboration & partnerships.” We must be cutting edge in our R & D; as we continue to globalize we will remain competitive.
    Olson, E., BSR, April 19, 2011, Environmental Initiative – Business & Environment Series: Best Practices For Leading Sustainability Initiatives

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