The Dutch Seaports are some of the world’s key logistics hubs for the storage and trans-shipment of international cargo flows. Traditional flows such as coal, minerals, cocoa, coffee and tea, as well as new cargo flows, supporting the transition towards biobased and circular economies. In some cases, the production of these flows involves environmental damage, poor working conditions or human rights violations, while enforcement and supervision are flawed.

The OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises (MNE’s) calls upon all actors in the trade chain to proactively reflect upon their position, potential responsibilities, and corresponding actions. The Dutch Seaports agreed to act together upon this call and asked Sustainalize to support.

Together we carried out a CSR assessment on current and prospective cargo flows. The result was a comprehensive list of cargo flows which need more focus by the port authorities. Furthermore, a step-by-step approach was developed on how to conduct due diligence. The approach helps individual ports to form their own plan at their own pace, while highlighting elements where cooperation between ports is required. Finally, we conducted two small pilot studies on the role, influence, and possibilities for seaports to promote responsible palm oil and e-waste flows.

The project was an important step in propelling the collaboration on CSR risks among Dutch Seaports forward. It enhanced mutual reliance and cohesion and it created a level playing field. Even more importantly, it showcased how the port sector can have a positive impact in multiple supply chains. Furthermore, the project has increased the exchange of experience and knowledge between the Dutch Seaports. This year marked the start of structural meetings between the Sustainability Managers of the Dutch Seaports. The knowledge thus developed, has made the ports serious interlocutors for different stakeholder groups (NGO’s, Government, traders, and customers) and has therefore enhanced the ports’ license to operate.

For more details, take a look at: ‘Dutch Seaports – Applying the OECD Guidance for Responsible Business Conduct’ on


*The Dutch Seaports won the World Ports Sustainability Award 2020 in the category Governance & Ethics! They have been acknowledged by the IAPH for their efforts to examine how to manage International CSR risks in their supply chains, such as Palm and E-waste.