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Professor Murray Silverman places third in the international oikos Case Writing Competition

News + Events : Professor Murray Silverman places third in the international oikos Case Writing Competition


The College of Business (CoB) at San Francisco State University congratulates Professor Murray Silverman for placing third in the 2013 oikos Case Writing Competition for his case: “Protecting Our Oceans: Sustainability at Holland America Lines.”

Murray Silverman, Ph.D. Professor of Management at San Francisco State University, College of Business

Murray Silverman, Ph.D., Professor of Management at San Francisco State University, College of Business

This is Management Professor Murray Silverman’s second top-three finish in oikos for his thought leadership in corporate sustainability.

The annual oikos Case Writing Competition, which is overseen by the oikos Foundation for Economy and Ecology at the University of St. Gallen, Switzerland, aims to promote the development of new high quality case studies in the field of sustainability management, strategy and social entrepreneurship.

Since 2003, leading academic, policy and business voices around the world have gained recognition through the competition for their thought leadership on reimagining profitability, branding, and corporate processes in the framework of high corporate ethics.

In Professor Silverman’s award-winning case, the $30-billion per year cruise line industry is viewed through the lens of sustainability and corporate ethics.

There is a focus on Holland America Lines (HAL) as a sustainability leader in the industry. The cruise line industry, and the maritime industry in general, have significant impacts on the oceans through their emissions, discharges and shore practices. These impacts are not necessarily the primary stresses on our oceans, so the case also provides a broad perspective on the threats to the oceans and the associated regulatory environment.

Holland America Line (HAL) and Environmental Sustainability

One important supply chain issue addressed in the case is the sustainability of seafood.  In 2010, Holland America Line (HAL) partnered with the Marine Conservation Institute (MCI) to protect marine ecosystems. MCI is a non-profit organization working with scientists, politicians, government officials and other organizations around the world to protect essential ocean places and the wild species in them.

The HAL/MCI program is entitled “Our Marvelous Oceans” and includes the purchasing of sustainable seafood to be served on board, the development of a series of video programs about the oceans to be shown to guests and support for MCI to provide grants to graduate students and young scientists engaged in historical marine ecology.

As part of the “Our Marvelous Oceans” program, MCI evaluated over 40 species of fish for HAL. MCI classified fish options within each species for HAL—scoring each choice for sustainability.

The highest score, “Best Choice,” was given to seafood items that are 1) abundant 2) caught or farmed in an environmentally friendly way. Mid scores, “Good Choice,” went to fish evaluated by MCI as acceptable although there may be some environmental concern. In those cases, Best Choice alternatives were sought. Unacceptable scores were given to “Not Sustainable” seafood of which HAL discontinued purchasing.

Top management levels at HAL embraced the “Our Marvelous Oceans” program even though certain purchasing costs increased as a result. Fully committed to the program, HAL took the sustainability scores back to its seafood suppliers.

In many cases where there were sustainability issues, suppliers worked hard to find alternatives for HAL. In a few instances, alternatives were not available forcing HAL to eliminate specific menu items. However, in some cases, they were able to find an acceptable substitute for a menu item they really wanted to retain (e.g. sustainably fished Dover sole caught with hook and line).

Reducing Holland America Line’s Carbon Footprint

In addition to the “Our Marvelous Oceans” program, HAL made a commitment to reducing its fuel use, which was done on a per passenger berth, per nautical-mile-traveled basis. The outcome of this initiative originally positioned HAL to lower its carbon emission intensity by 20% between 2005 and 2015. They achieved this goal by 2011.

San Francisco State University’s College of Business

“Protecting Our Oceans: Sustainability at Holland America Line” was written with support from San Francisco State University’s Center for Ethical and Sustainable Business. The SF State College of Business is dedicated to developing leadership, research and publications on sustainability, social entrepreneurship, social justice and corporate responsibility.

Throughout writing the case, Professor Silverman worked closely with Holland America's corporate headquarters in Seattle. He also had assistance from the Cruise Line Industry Association in Washington, D.C. and the Marine Conservation Institute.

Holland America’s Kelly Clark, J.D., chief ethics officer and general counsel at Holland America, was featured at SF State’s 2012 Ethics Week and spoke on, “Empowering Ethics in the Workplace.”

Clark has developed an award-winning Ethics and Compliance Program at Holland America. She also works in tandem with compliance teams in key departments to ensure the sustainability of the business and the health of the environment.

For More Information

For more information about the award-winning case, “Protecting Our Oceans: Sustainability at Holland America Line,” please contact the office of Murray Silverman, Ph.D. at the College of Business by email: or phone: (415) 338-1212.

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