By Julie Gedeon

Expanding horizons — QSL signs the Global Compact


Many new challenges form part of QSL’s participation in the UN’s global sustainability effort

QSL is the first maritime company in Canada to join the United Nations Global Compact, the world’s largest sustainable development initiative for businesses.

“We’d already been making serious efforts because for QSL being a good corporate citizen is a core value,” says Claudine Couture-Trudel, QSL’s Vice President, Strategy and Public Affairs. “This past November we joined the compact so that we could deepen our commitment in alignment with our vision to be the industry leader in North America.

Jan. 24, 2023 update: The latest UN Global Compact-Accenture CEO Study on Sustainability, released today at the World Economic Forum in Davos, presents the perspectives, and call to action of business leaders from 128 countries and 18 sectors.

The compact’s Ten Principles call on businesses to operate in a way that at a minimum respects fundamental responsibilities in terms of human rights, labour, anti-corruption, and the environment. Signatories integrate those universal principles into their company’s strategies, policies and procedures to establish a culture of integrity.

Full reassessment

It’s not merely talk. Membership comes with certain obligations, including the publication of yearly progress reports describing the company’s efforts to integrate all of the principles. As of May, nearly 16,000 companies from 162 nations had joined.

Since November, QSL has started reassessing every aspect of its operations in relation to the principles. “We’re looking at how to cohesively implement all of these values into our corporate strategy, benchmark our current standings, and measure our progress,” Couture-Trudel says.

“We’ve already been committed to continuous and measurable improvement in terms of the environment through Green Marine with all of our terminals certified yearly and new ones automatically entered into the process, and we’re in the process of obtaining ISO 14001 and 45001 certifications,” she notes.

“However, it’s not always as straightforward when you’re talking about gauging other aspects of good corporate citizenship, so it’s great to have this international framework to find out what others are doing around the world.”

We’ve already been committed to continuous and measurable improvement in terms of the environment through Green Marine with all of our terminals certified yearly...

Claudine Couture-Trudel
Global knowledge

In addition to a vast library of resources that range from guides on Business Leadership for 1.5° C to Science-based climate targets as the basis for a corporate climate strategy to Climate and women: the business case for action, the compact has already obtained more than 90,000 public reports. “The opportunities to learn from others are immense,” Couture-Trudel says.

“We’re also being invited to attend many conferences and make presentations on what we’re planning and to learn from others,” she adds, citing the example of a gender equality initiative presented by a representative of Denmark-based Semco Maritime, an international engineering and contracting company specializing in offshore energy assets.

“The presentation noted that Denmark’s workforce for constructing offshore marine platforms is 85% men and looked at whether that’s just a gender preference or whether there are more ways to attract women to this workforce,” Couture-Trudel recalls.

“Being a part of this global compact opens us to listening to how other companies are facing similar challenges with tangible solutions.”

Couture-Trudel adds that it’s a lot like the inspiration and motivation derived from Green Marine’s annual conference. “We’re all working hard on environmental solutions within our individual companies but then we get together once a year to share all of our best efforts and accomplishments and it really builds our momentum for another year,” she says.

Thorough integration

QSL is reassessing all aspects of its operations in light of the compact’s principles. “We want to identify everything that can be done in the way of improvements, but also to prioritize our actions and resources to make sure that the changes we make have a significant impact,” Couture-Trudel explains.

The compact is inspiring QSL to take a more cohesive approach to sustainability in a way that also makes those efforts clearer to everyone in terms of a comprehensive effort on various fronts. “Right now, when we’re successful with an initiative, we post it as news to let people know, but it might seem like a single effort,” Couture-Trudel explains.

QSL’s campaign to eliminate single-use water bottles.

QSL’s campaign to eliminate single-use water bottles is a case point. “Our employees in Beauport actually suggested we do something when they saw all the plastic going to waste every day,” Couture-Trudel recalls.

The initiative launched in 2020 took some time as QSL assessed the refilling options available at each of its terminals, researched alternative water bottles and their use in similar work conditions, as well as had employees test out various types of bottles on the job to obtain their feedback.

As of this year, the single-use water bottles will be eliminated from all of QSL ports and terminals which will do away with the need for 500,000 plastic bottles annually.

“It’s those kinds of clear objectives that we aim to establish for all of the Global Pact’s 10 principles as part of an overall map that people can follow as we continue to make sustainable progress,” Couture-Trudel says.

Community partnerships

Favouring local expertise, products and services is another priority. “Creating partnerships in the communities where we have terminals is extremely important to us so that residents benefit in terms of employment and economic well-being from the presence of our port operations,” Couture-Trudel explains. “QSL has primarily grown and prospered through mutually beneficial partnerships that endure.”

An example of local investments is QSL’s new Industrial Port Zone project in partnership with the City of Sorel-Tracy.

“QSL has spent $24.8 million in the community over the past two years, $13 million of which went to local suppliers,” Couture-Trudel shares. “As a result of our project, our operations and other investments, more than $87.5 million has gone into Sorel-Tracy over the past five years, which is a true economic boost and an important part of environmental, social and governance commitments.”


Global Compact Public Report

The public report that QSL will ultimately provide as part of its compact agreement will integrate how its various investments improve its ESG efforts. For example, its investment in telemetry technologies at terminals automatically shut down port equipment that is idling over a certain amount time so that energy is not wasted in needless emissions.

“At our Quebec City terminal, we’ve installed a number of electrical conveyors because the technology is just not there for running some of our larger equipment on electricity or hydrogen yet,” Couture-Trudel adds. “So, we’ve initiated a pilot project to look at innovations in electrification in other countries, but we’re using the conveyors to minimize other equipment use in the interim and the results from these initiatives are very promising: we have noted an annual 25% reduction of our GHG emissions with the rollout or these measures.”

All of this is being done to address the highly preoccupying situation of climate change and its related strife.

Claudine Couture-Trudel

QSL’s is on a real mission to identify every possible improvement. “By taking stock of everything in terms of workforce diversity and equity, employee wellbeing, fair and sustainable purchasing practices, and the other issues that fall under the UN Global Compact’s principles, we will recognize more opportunities to further improve what we’re doing,” Couture-Trudel asserts.

The company plans to have its necessary outside canvasing, internal evaluation and a clear plan with precise objectives for the global compact in about a year’s time.

“All of this is being done to address the highly preoccupying situation of climate change and its related strife,” Couture-Trudel emphasizes. “It’s a true opportunity to make a real difference individually and collectively within QSL to address these major challenges that I think is giving us a great sense of purpose and pride, too, as we rethink how to improve society in the course of doing our business.”


Learn more about the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals.