Navigating Emissions Reporting in the Shipping Industry: An Exploration of Emissions Reporting and Stakeholder Expectations

Tobias Brunsgaard Børglum & Mikkel Holbæk Mørch

Student thesis: Master thesis


This paper explores the role of emissions reporting in the shipping industry, focusing on the risks and disadvantages of not disclosing emissions in compliance with stakeholder expectations. The shipping industry’s resistance to disclose company information poses challenges to accurately determine its environmental impact, despite the industry’s significant contribution to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Employing a sequential mixed methods approach, this study combines a quantitative analysis of emissions reporting efforts in the industry with thematic analyses of 16 interviews with shipping companies and industry stakeholders. The analysis reveals a discrepancy in emissions reporting expectations among stakeholders, posing a challenge for shipping companies to meet these diverse expectations. The study highlights different reporting efforts across segments and geographical locations, as companies are encouraged to adhere to varying reporting expectations. Non-compliance with stakeholder expectations exposes companies to financial, reputational, and competitiveness risks. Despite their limited immediate impact, the consequences of these risks will increase significantly over time. It is recommended that shipping companies do not disregard emissions reporting in the short term, as it enables them to shape their narrative and develop necessary reporting competences. By employing institutional, stakeholder, and sustainability reporting theory, this study proposes implications that contribute to the practical and theoretical understanding of the results. Isomorphic pressures are shaping the reporting efforts of shipping companies, as emissions reporting is converging towards a license to operate. Nevertheless, the paper accentuates the significance of understanding the specific stakeholder landscape and the necessity for companies to distinguish themselves through reporting efforts. Rather than mandating uniform reporting across the industry, a concurrent application of hard and soft law is advocated, as it enables the elevation of stakeholder expectations while allowing companies to differentiate themselves.

EducationsMSc in Finance and Investments, (Graduate Programme) Final ThesisMSc in International Marketing and Management, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2023
Number of pages299
SupervisorsKristjan Jespersen