You may not be able to see it from above the surface, but the threats to the Ocean are many and the risks are real. Plastics are choking our sea life; pollution is causing “dead zones”; our corals are dying; climate change is heating our Ocean, making it more acidic; and too many boats are chasing fewer and fewer fish.
The destruction of the Ocean has devastating consequences for humanity. Half the oxygen we breathe is from the Ocean, and it has already absorbed one quarter of our CO2 emissions and 90% of the additional heat from those emissions, protecting us from a more rapidly warming climate. It directly supports more than 3 billion people and puts food on the table for more than 2.5 billion around the globe. The Ocean is crucial to our survival, supporting life and the livelihoods of billions, as well as being a vital ally in the fight against climate change.
A business-as-usual approach will cause further devastation to our Ocean, including the likely 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. Healthy coral reefs reduce 97% of wave energy, acting as a barrier from storms; for example, if all the coral reefs around Bermuda were lost, the financial ramifications of property damage from wave action would increase from US$500 million to US$2 billion in just ten years. Businesses are already incurring the costs of climate change, with increasing supply-chain disruptions from extreme-weather events, rising sea levels and ocean acidification, falling crop yields, and desertification.
But the Ocean is amazingly resilient and could recover. Opportunities for investment and economic growth do not have to be locked into a pathway that is detrimental to the health of the Ocean.
This June, coinciding with World Oceans Day on June 8th, the UN will be holding a week-long conference focused on the Ocean Sustainable Development Goal – SDG14: Life below water. Implementing SDG14 can help reverse the decline in the health of our Ocean – for people, for the planet and for global prosperity. Our partners Ocean Unite, one of Virgin Unite’s Global Leadership Initiatives, is taking this Ocean focus one step further and has launched an initiative called ‘the Ocean is Everybody’s Business’. Its objective is to engage business leaders from multiple sectors on a ‘blue voyage’, to drive blue sustainability polices, engage employees and consumers from multiple sectors, and in so doing, begin to reverse the current trajectory of decline to one of recovery.
For business leaders, the transition to “blue” business practices – like the transition to a net-zero greenhouse gas emissions economy – is an historic and unprecedented opportunity. If managed responsibly, fairly and collaboratively, it could bring economic benefits to countries at all levels of income, including new jobs, a cleaner Ocean, better health, abundant biodiversity, lower poverty levels and greater global food security.
Here is the list of things that businesses should do to ‘go blue’ for the Ocean:
1. Net-Zero carbon emissions by 2050
2. Significantly reduce plastic waste
3. Support Ocean regeneration zones
4. Only consume sustainable seafood
5. Ocean Corporate Social Responsibility
6. Reduce marine water pollution
7. Support innovation and science and share best practices
8. Become active Ocean conservation advocates