Businesses team with UN to plot course for ‘healthy’ oceans

Oil and gas firm Total, insurance giant Gard AS and Norwegian maritime conference Nor-Shipping are among the six corporations which will lead a new United Nations (UN) initiative to help the private sector tackle ocean issues including overfishing, marine litter and acidification.

The brands, joined by food manufacturer Cermaq, chemical company Covestro Deutschland and engineering firm Lloyd’s Register, have pledged through membership to the UN’s Global Action Platform for Sustainable Ocean Business to re-evaluate their products, services and business models to negate harmful impacts on ocean ecosystems.

The companies have additionally committed to contribute to the restoration of ocean ecosystems in a bid to meet the aims of Sustainable Development Goal 14 – conserve and sustainably use the oceans – which includes significantly reducing marine pollution of all kinds by 2025.

“Tackling the ocean challenge is a global imperative, and the private sector can play a significant role in ensuring this crucial resource is sustainably managed,” the UN said in a statement.

“Maintaining healthy ocean environments is a fundamental precondition for business to operate in the long-term, and addressing current challenges provides a significant business opportunity.”

The three-year programme will see the corporates join with the UN, world governments, academics and the general public to develop a business leadership framework focused on the growth, innovation and sustainability of the ocean.

The programme was launched on World Oceans Day, but companies such as Equinor – formerly Statoil – have joined fellow businesses in signing up this week. The platform aims to mobilise the private sector to take tangible action, make investments and form partnerships to ensure the oceans are managed more sustainably.

Nor-Shipping’s director Per Martin Tanggaard, director of Nor-Shipping, dubbed the programme “a vital initiative for a crucial area, while Equinor’s senior vice president for corporate sustainability Bjorn Otto Sverdrup claimed the ocean was the “greatest common resource”.

“Caring for the oceans is part of our DNA,” Sverdrup said. “With our background from Norway, one of the world’s leading ocean economies, we recognize that the ocean is our greatest common resource.

“We are inspired and guided in our activities by the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals, and we look forward to forming new partnerships to leverage the ocean as a resource to deliver the Global Goals.”

Call to oceans action

More than 300 million tonnes of plastic are produced each year, with more than eight million tonnes finding its way into oceans annually, according to data from charity Plastic Oceans.

In response to the issue, a string of big-name companies across the retail, hospitality and leisure and food and drink sectors have recently announced plans to phase out single-use plastics in their operations, while others have repurposed ocean plastics for use in their products and packaging.

However, the UN programme is the first of its scale to drive cross-industry collaboration on ocean issues.

Sarah George

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