Maritime economy: Insights on corporate visions and strategies towards sustainability
As the ocean has moved into the focus of the political discourse on the “blue economy“, ocean industry plays a key role in shaping “blue growth” as sustainable. However, little is known about the meaning of sustainability and the status of its implementation by corporations invested in the maritime economy. The present paper addresses this gap. Drawing on the discourse theory of Laclau and Mouffe (2001 ), the study explores the discourse on corporate sustainability. It was found that of 396 surveyed companies only 61 provide commitments to and reporting on the issue of sustainability. A detailed analysis of these companies showed that there has been a shift from a voluntary to a mandatory commitment to the concept as a direct consequence of being exposed to massive pressures to meet the expectations of their employees, customers and shareholders to prevent any harm to the environment, to save resources, and follow international regulations. It is argued that Laclau and Mouffe's discourse theory provides an approach to help to explain the practice of corporations in re-framing these challenges as an entrepreneurial opportunity to save costs, i.e. by avoiding fines, lawsuits, and clean-up costs, to optimize efficiency in all business sectors, to stay competitive, and to gain a better public image. The paper concludes that it is likely that the current efforts of companies with regard to the anticipated increases in the exploitation of marine resources will not be sufficient to preserve ocean health in the long run. However, there are corporate opportunities for strengthening the SDGs and contributing to a “sustainable blue growth”.