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Maersk enables businesses in Myanmar to global trade

The A.P. Moller-Maersk Group contributes to continuous growth and development in Myanmar. Using a framework consisting of UN Guiding Principles of Human Rights and Business, the due diligence process not only aims at minimizing risks but also to build business and enable trade.

Following speedy reforms, Myanmar was opened for business in 2012 with companies from the US, Europe and beyond. Maersk also eyed the opportunity to do business in Myanmar. They received their permanent license to operate container business activities in the country by February 2014. Maersk is aware of the risks in a market, which was influenced by the intense focus of NGOs and the media.


The presence of Maersk in Myanmar goes back to 1992. Up until recently Maersk has kept a low profile because of the years under harsh military junta. Until 2011 the risks of violating human rights were considered too high in the context of the very sensitive political environment. Due to the UN Guiding Principles on Human Rights and Business (hereafter: UN Guiding Principles), which were launched in 2011, this has changed and they decided to make a change."We started to ask ourselves, whether it is possible to turn our approach to risk management up-side down? Instead of a doing-no-harm approach, we decided to investigate how to implement UN Guiding Principles and to use them as a framework for a doing-good approach", says Jens Munch Lund-Nielsen, Head of Emerging Market Projects, Group Sustainability, who has been part of the process from the very beginning.

The UN Guiding Principles as a practical tool

Maersk was among the first in the world to implement the UN Guiding Principles and had to co-create answers and solutions in partnerships with leading Human Rights organisations, networks and governmental bodies.

We try not to talk about human rights since it is rather abstract. We take the UN Guiding Principles on Human Rights to an operational level and in our business context it has mainly to do with health and safety-issues, aspects of labour rights and corruption continues Jens Munch Lund-Nielsen, Head of Emerging Market Projects, Group Sustainability.

Maersk formed an internal risk guide helping own companies globally to handle with risks related to their industry by screening business partners and by checking that own employees live up to internal policies.

Further to dialogues between Maersk, The Danish Institute for Human Rights and the Institute for Human Rights and Business was the foundation of a resource centre on responsible business in Myanmar. The purpose is to guide companies, NGOs and governments on responsible business conduct in Myanmar. In July 2013 "The Myanmar Centre for Responsible Business" was a reality and ready to begin its work from their office in the outskirts of Yangon.

Building a future in Myanmar: Enabling trade and sharing knowledge

Maersk provides knowledge, expertise and technical support to business partners making Myanmar better equipped to enter the global market economy in the future. In Maersk’s business safety is at the core and in Myanmar, Maersk is working closely together with local business partners to increase knowledge and awareness in order to promote a safe working place. At terminals and depots the operational staff was among the first to wear safety equipment.

While a milestone has been reached there is a lot of work to do in the process. Myanmar Country Manager from Maersk Line and MCC Transport, My Therese Blank, is convinced

-that the most important way in how we are creating value for Myanmar is our contribution to enabling trade and to improve the competitiveness of the country in comparison with the other SEA countries.

Read more about A.P. Moller - Maersk CaseThe A.P Moller Maersk Group's Sustainability Report 2012 - Going for GrowthThe A.P Moller Maersk Group's Sustainability Report 2013Maerskpress.comThe Myanmar Centre for Responsible Business

Three good pieces of advice

  1. Go and see for yourself - talk to people at all levels and draw your own conclusions. You need to bee involved in day-to-day business and to stay in Myanmar for a while in order to really understand the risks and opportunities.
  2. Do things right from the beginning - it pays off in the long run.
  3. Be patient and support your business partners to increase their CSR standards.