A Taiwanese cargo vessel, the TS Taipei, owned by TS Lines Ltd, broke apart on March 10 en route from Hong Kong to Keelung Port, leaking a large amount of oil into the sea.
The Environmental Protection Administration launched a salvage operation to minimize the environmental impact and to closely monitor other dangerous chemicals still contained on the ship.
As this accident is close to the Jinshan Nuclear Power Plant in New Taipei City’s Shimen District (石門) and a fishing port, environmental experts have said that the potential damage to the ecosystem could last for two to three years.
Aside from a focus on salvage and risk management plans, this event invites reflection on the nature of corporate social responsibility and the law.
While an increasing number of companies have adopted corporate responsibility initiatives, describing it as a voluntary agreement is misleading. Internationally, we are witnessing a codifying transition from voluntary corporate responsibility measures to legally mandated corporate responsibility.
The US Securities and Exchange Commission’s “conflict minerals” rules and California’s Transparency in Supply Chains Act are federal and state-level regulations that require certain companies to report non-financial sustainability matters in their global supply chains and manufacturing processes. The Alien Tort Claims Act also makes any tort in international law actionable in US courts.
The EU recently adopted a new directive requiring about 7,000 companies to disclose information on their policies and the main risks related to environmental, human rights, anticorruption and other matters.
The UK has proven itself as a leader in the field of corporate responsibility policy, sharing responsibility for sustainability between business and the government. The UK government published a national framework for action in 2014 that sets out the vision, ambitions and goals of corporate social responsibility and the actions needed to achieve them.
The UK Companies Act 2006 requires directors to have regard for the impact of their company’s operations on the community and the environment when considering their duty to promote the success of their company.
Moreover, the Corporate Governance Code 2014 says: “The board should set the company’s values and standards and ensure that its obligations to its shareholders and others are understood and met.”
In the UK, a company’s duties are expected to extend beyond its shareholders as corporate responsibility is legalized.
The UN International Maritime Organization has adopted the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships and its Protocol of 1978 requiring each state to reduce discharge and prevent accidents by cooperation. Governments also have a role in endorsing, facilitating and mandating corporate social responsibility in transboundary oil pollution.
Article 1 of the Company Act (公司法) still sees profit making (maximizing shareholders’ values) as the only purpose for business.
Without a clear policy framework and specific governmental institution for corporate social responsibility implementation, the regulatory system is fragmented.
Taiwan has not established any international mechanisms relating to corporate responsibility, such as a National Contact Point as set out in the The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises. The National Contact Point receives complaints from civil societies against multinational companies and is intended as a non-judicial grievance mechanism for mediation.
In the future, Taiwan might consider codifying corporate responsibility with comprehensive legislation, or at least an independent corporate social responsibility chapter in its Company Act. This normative development might base its policy on international standards, such as the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises and the UN Global Compact, and force Taiwanese corporations to exercise corporate social responsibility, whether businesses are state-owned or private and whether their operations are in Taiwan or abroad.
Yang Chung-han is a doctoral candidate at the University of Cambridge and a member of the Taipei Bar Association.
With its passing of Hong Kong’s new National Security Law, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) continues to tighten its noose on Hong Kong. Gone is the broken 1997 promise that Hong Kong would have free, democratic elections by 2017. Gone also is any semblance that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) plays the long game. All the CCP had to do was hold the fort until 2047, when the “one country, two systems” framework would end and Hong Kong would rejoin the “motherland.” It would be a “demonstration-free” event. Instead, with the seemingly benevolent velvet glove off, the CCP has revealed its true iron
At the end of last month, Paraguayan Ambassador to Taiwan Marcial Bobadilla Guillen told a group of Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislators that his president had decided to maintain diplomatic ties with Taiwan, despite pressure from the Chinese government and local businesses who would like to see a switch to Beijing. This followed the Paraguayan Senate earlier this year voting against a proposal to establish ties with China in exchange for medical supplies. This constituted a double rebuke of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) diplomatic agenda in a six-month span from Taiwan’s only diplomatic ally in South America. Last year, Tuvalu rejected an
US President Donald Trump’s administration on Friday last week announced it would impose sanctions on the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps, a vast paramilitary organization that is directly controlled by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and has been linked to human rights violations against Uighurs and other ethnic minorities in Xinjiang. The sanctions follow US travel bans against other Xinjiang officials and the passage of the US Hong Kong Autonomy Act, which authorizes targeted sanctions against mainland Chinese and Hong Kong officials, in response to Beijing’s imposition of national security legislation on the territory. The sanctions against the corps would be implemented
US President Donald Trump on Thursday issued executive orders barring Americans from conducting business with WeChat owner Tencent Holdings and ByteDance, the Beijing-based owner of popular video-sharing app TikTok. The orders are to take effect 45 days after they were signed, which is Sept. 20. The orders accuse WeChat of helping the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) review and remove content that it considers to be politically sensitive, and of using fabricated news to benefit itself. The White House has accused TikTok of collecting users’ information, location data and browsing histories, which could be used by the Chinese government, and pose