COSCO: Implementing Sustainability

Posted: 7 May 2012

See all articles by Christopher Marquis

Christopher Marquis

Cornell University; Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS)

Lynn Yin

University of International Business and Economics (UIBE)

Yang Dongning

Peking University - Guanghua School of Management

Date Written: November 3, 2011


In January 2005, China Ocean Shipping (Group) Company (COSCO) announced it would join the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC). At that time, COSCO initiated sustainability reporting practices in line with the UNGC, and over the next six years these efforts evolved into an information technology platform integrating all the company's sustainability processes and indicators. In fall 2011, the company's leadership considered the following strategic questions: To what extent should COSCO refer to international and domestic sustainability standards in the platform framework? How far should COSCO go in promoting the sustainability system as a stand-alone product? What were the next steps in sustainability reporting, and should COSCO try to attain even higher reporting standards in the future? Moreover, related issues facing the company included: What would be the value in reaching higher sustainability and reporting standards, and how would internal and external stakeholders react? What challenges lay ahead for the consistent implementation of higher standards across COSCO's subsidiaries?

Learning Objective: To examine a company's sustainability management systems and implementation, and in particular its sustainability reporting design and compilation processes.

Suggested Citation

Marquis, Christopher and Yin, Lynn and Dongning, Yang, COSCO: Implementing Sustainability (November 3, 2011). Harvard Business School Organizational Behavior Unit Case No. 412-081. Available at SSRN:

Christopher Marquis (Contact Author)

Cornell University ( email )

363 Sage Hall
Ithaca, NY 14853
United States


Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) ( email )

79 John F. Kennedy Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Lynn Yin

University of International Business and Economics (UIBE) ( email )

10, Huixin Dongjie
Changyang District
Beijing, Beijing 100029

Yang Dongning

Peking University - Guanghua School of Management ( email )

Peking University
Beijing, Beijing 100871

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