Global brands from the tourism, transport, cosmetics and finance sectors are joining forces on World Oceans Day June 8 to promote greater business engagement to halt the severe decline in ocean health which both scientists and economists warn could have catastrophic impacts on human wellbeing.
As part of Ocean Unite’s The Ocean is Everybody’s Business initiative, leaders from corporations, as well as tech and manufacturing innovators, will discuss the compelling case for businesses to safeguard the global ocean in a meeting convened by Virgin founder and philanthropist Sir Richard Branson.
Hosted by Ocean Unite and The B Team, the World Oceans Day meeting takes place against the backdrop of the first ever high-level United Nations Ocean Conference in New York this week, with decision-makers from around the world gathering to advance efforts to implement the ocean-specific Sustainable Development Goal, SDG14.
Today’s event will feature a diverse group of innovators, from start-ups to tourism and transport chiefs turning their activities ‘blue’. The focus is on how to change business models to help tackle ocean challenges such as marine plastics pollution and carbon emissions, with climate change the single biggest factor in the alarming pace of ocean degradation.
Welcoming the spirit of the meeting, Virgin founder Richard Branson said: “I am proud that, across the globe, companies, entrepreneurs and inventors are stepping up to address the challenges facing the ocean. More organisations are realizing what is good for the ocean is good for business. All business leaders have a responsibility to use the strength of their brands to do something unpredictable that will disrupt the space, engage the public, and ultimately help reverse the damage being done to our oceans.“
"In launching The Ocean is Everybody's Business' Ocean Unite is inviting companies to ‘Go Blue’ and make commitments on a range of issues which threaten to undermine ocean health, resilience and the economic and social wellbeing of billions of people around the world. We need to chart a new course that is not only good for business but equally good for the ocean – how can we afford not to given what is at stake?" said Karen Sack, Managing Director, Ocean Unite"
The health of our ocean is at a precarious tipping point, posing a risk to the well-being of humans and all life," said Keith Tuffley, The B Team's Managing Partner and CEO. "There's no business case to be made for damaging a vital earth system which we depend on to survive, and which is the foundation of so much economic activity. Companies have the resources, technologies, expertise and problem-solving orientation which can help us tip the scales toward a revitalized ocean."
The organizers are calling for companies to ‘Go Blue’ and make commitments on a range of issues which experts say threaten to undermine ocean resilience and the economic and social wellbeing of the billions of people reliant on a healthy ocean. Leading the way with action will be a range of companies under the Virgin umbrella including:
- Virgin Australia is working with Greening Australia and local landholders to help reduce sediment run-off onto the Great Barrier reef by restoring heavily eroded land and coastal wetlands. This work improves water quality and enhances the resilience of the reef ecosystems.
- Virgin Hotels all Hotels required to obtain LEED Silver level certification at a minimum and encouraged to achieve Gold for sustainable building standards. Voluntary Guest Carbon Offset programmes.
- Virgin Limited Edition is committed to responsible supply chain management, fair trade policies, ethical dealings with employees as well as the local community and the environment. Seven properties are now accredited members of the Sustainable Restaurant Association and have a group rating of 3 stars, the highest accolade available. Use of plastic bottles has been reduced by 100%.
- Virgin Active South Africa Committed to Net Zero environmental impact by 2030. Reduced printing by 28%, preventing 150 + tonnes of paper waste. Educating staff and customers on water conservation via ‘Save the Drop’ campaign whilst installing water saving devices in gyms.
Ocean Unite is urging businesses to commit to at least one or more of the following Ocean CSR activities:
- Net-Zero carbon emissions by 2050
- Significantly reduce plastic waste
- Support ocean regeneration zones
- Only produce or use sustainable seafood
- Reduce marine water pollution
- Support innovation and science and share best practices
- Become active ocean conservation advocates
The UN Ocean Conference, 5-9 June 2017 was initiated by Sweden and Fiji and marks the first time the body has convened a high-level meeting solely focussed on the ocean. Its key objective is to support the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 14. The Conference will produce a Call for Action and a series of voluntary commitments by Member States, regional and local bodies, businesses and non-governmental organisations with the aim of securing an ongoing formal process for assessing and addressing the state of the ocean. For more, see oceanconference.un.org.
To mobilize the private sector and reverse the cycle of ocean decline, Ocean Unite has launched The Ocean is Everybody’s Business. Our goal in launching this initiative is to raise awareness within the corporate sector of the impact businesses have been having on the Ocean, and to encourage as many companies as possible to get involved in Ocean conservation and sustainability to enable us to reverse the current trajectory of decline to one of recovery.
Carbon Emissions: More than 90% of the world’s goods are transported by sea. The maritime shipping industry emits more CO2 than Germany and is the sixth largest producer of greenhouse gas emissions globally. Maintaining a business-as-usual approach will result in an estimated 250% growth in emissions by 2050, leaving the industry responsible for 18% of global emissions.
Value of the Ocean: The Ocean is the world’s seventh largest economy with a “GDP” equivalent to US$2.5 trillion (about 5% of global GDP). Its key assets have an overall value above US$24 trillion. A business-as-usual approach will likely cause the disappearance of the world’s coral reefs by 2050, resulting in the loss of food, jobs and storm protection to several hundred million people. Consider the impact that this will have on businesses when annually more than 350 million people travel to the coral reef coasts of the world: it would equate to a potential loss of US$30 billion per year from lost global tourism revenue alone.
Plastics Pollution: About 8 million tonnes of plastic enters the ocean every year. If this rate is maintained, it is estimated that there will be more plastic in the Ocean than fish by 2050.The proliferation of cheap and single-use plastics, and the resulting, mismanaged plastic waste, is impacting ocean wildlife such as marine birds and animals through ingestion, entanglement or poisoning.
Overfishing: According to the United Nations, since the mid 20th century, fishing activities have led to some 90% of fish stocks being either fully fished, overfished or depleted. About 20% of fish caught are the product of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, a global problem that undermines a productive economy and healthy environment, impoverishes coastal communities and has links to slavery and human trafficking.