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Sustainable investment as a solution to the world’s ocean crisis



Alex Blackburne speaks with Cindy Forde of the BLUE Marine Foundation about making money out of responsible fisheries.

The elephant in the room for many environmentalists is the ocean crisis. As land-dwelling mammals, we naturally see terrestrial problems as more important than ones found in marine environments, outside our consciousness.

But our vast, mystical, wondrous and largely unexplored oceans are home to well over half of all species currently in existence. They cover 70% of the planet’s surface and hold 97% of its water. And yet, just 2.8% are currently protected.

Overfishing has depleted fish stocks to levels so low that as much as 85% can now be classed as overexploited – and in the worst cases completely collapsed. This is yet more evidence of man’s irresponsible and endless quest for unsustainable profit.

Rachel Carson, the marine biologist and author whose 1962 book Silent Spring is a seminal text for the green movement, noted in 1951’s The Sea Around Us, “It is a curious situation that the sea, from which life first arose should now be threatened by the activities of one form of that life. But the sea, though changed in a sinister way, will continue to exist; the threat is rather to life itself.”

Perhaps the greatest injustice, yet the greatest cause for hope, surrounding the ocean crisis is that its problems are arguably some of the most solvable of all – something Cindy Forde knows all too well. She is managing director of the non-profit BLUE Marine Foundation, whose mission is to get 10% of the world’s oceans under protection by 2020.

It was set up in 2010, when just 1% was protected. That figure is now almost 3%, thanks to the work BLUE and others have done in setting up designated marine protected areas (MPAs).

Forde says, “Would you source meat by hunting every edible animal on land, slaughtering and discarding whatever other creature got in your way? A cave-dweller mentality, but modern fishing nonetheless. Or dredge the fields for food until nothing but wasteland remained, with no capability to perform vital functions such as carbon dioxide absorption? If you think of this happening on land, it seems absurd barbarism. But that’s a very big part of the problem. Because you can’t see it, you don’t think about it.”

BLUE is working to protect the largest unprotected fragment of the world’s second largest barrier reef: Turneffe Atoll, off the coast of Belize. Photo: Craig Hayes, Turneffe Atoll Trust

BLUE grew out of The End of the Line, a 2004 book in which environmental journalist Charles Clover seeks to uncover the truth behind dwindling fish stocks. Filmmaker George Duffield and producer Chris Gorell Barnes turned the book into a captivating documentary film five years later, and the three set up BLUE on the back of that, with a vision to help create MPAs across the globe.

With a background in socially responsible investment, corporate social responsibility and advertising, Forde joined the team in March. She says, “We’re not anti-fishing; we’re pro-fishing, but done in a way that allows fish stocks to regenerate. Otherwise, it’s fishing down the food chain. The larger predators have nothing to eat or have been eaten, so we move on to smaller species until there’s nothing left but jellyfish and plankton.”

Forde’s use of the term ‘regeneration’ over ‘conservation’ is deliberate – it’s about revitalising fish stocks and livelihoods in the long-term, she explains, of finding the win for the environment and society.

Also deliberate are BLUE’s partnerships with big corporates like Marks & Spencer, Kenzo and Crème de la Mer – made to bring the ocean crisis into the wider public’s consciousness.

I believe marine is where carbon was at 10-15 years ago and business would be well placed to start thinking of it in that way. It’s a business opportunity”, Forde says.

Cindy Forde, BLUE's managing director, has a background in socially responsible investment.

It’s currently a core capital loss, so by speaking about marine resources in the same language that we use for key assets we can help shift thinking. Recouping a massive resource loss adds handsomely to the bottom line.”

Among Blue’s achievements in its short four-year existence is the creation of the world’s largest no-take zone in the Indian Ocean. Covering around 250,000 square miles, the Chagos reserve is more than twice the size of the UK. Its establishment was helped by a significant donation from Swiss billionaire Ernesto Bertarelli and his family foundation (private donors play a crucial part in providing BLUE’s funding).

But while the organisation has so far relied on philanthropic and corporate money to fund its work, there is an untapped community that Forde says could be crucial to its future: investors.

We are trying to engage the investment community around marine issues. You can make money out of responsible fisheries. Within five to seven years, the fish stocks replenish, you make less effort to catch more. It’s at its early stages, but these models are now starting to appear. We just need people to feel confident enough to invest.”

Such opportunities are already starting to appear in the US. Former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg’s philanthropic foundation revealed in January its intentions to provide a $53m (£32m) grant to combat overfishing.

As part of the initiative, New York-based investment firm EKO Asset Management Partners begun developing a blueprint to show how investors can invest in regeneration projects and make returns on the back of it.

Forde says, “The whole notion of impact investment and social bonds is proving to be effective, and we’re looking at ways of applying that to marine. We are speaking to the investment community and engaging with the first movers who are going to be the first to get the rewards as well.”

While it might currently be difficult for an investor to find ways to invest in solutions to the ocean crisis, the potential returns are clearly there.

A report by the World Bank, The Sunken Billions, described fisheries as “underperforming global assets”. Its most conservative estimate said that the world was losing $50 billion (£29.6 billion) worth of returns because of poorly managed fish stocks.

There are enough smart people in the world who can see this problem is solvable and are doing something about it”, says Forde.

I’d like to see some of those people coming from the investment community because there is money to be made from doing it right. It is a win-win equation.”

As for BLUE’s ambitious mission to protect 10% of the world’s oceans by 2020, Forde says it is “absolutely” achievable – providing the organisation secures sufficient funding to allow it to do so.

She concludes, “We’re not the fishermen’s enemy, we’re the fishermen’s ally. We replenish the fish stocks, the fishermen have a livelihood and everyone has a marine environment to continue benefitting from. Including business.”

Cindy Forde is managing director of the BLUE Marine Foundation. She has an MSc in business and sustainability and has spent over 15 years advancing economic and corporate models that value the world’s natural resources as our most important asset. 

Featured image: Chris Davies, Chagos Conservation Trust

Further reading:

EU looks to remove barriers for sustainable investment in ‘blue economy’

European seas and oceans ‘not in good shape’, EU warns

Marine conservation could be worth ‘billions’ to UK economy

Offshore renewables projects ‘stepping stone’ habitats for marine wildlife

Declining health of oceans of ‘gravest concern’ to life on Earth


How Home Automation Can Help You Go Green



home automation to go green

The holidays are an exciting, nostalgic time: the crispness in the air, the crunch of snow under your boot, the display of ornate holiday lighting up your home like a beacon to outer space, and the sound of Santa’s bell at your local Walmart.

Oh, yeah—and your enormous electric bill.

Extra lights and heating can make for some unexpected budgeting problems, and they also cause your home to emit higher levels of CO2 and other pollutants.

So, it’s not just your wallet that’s hurting—the planet is hurting as well.

You can take the usual steps to save energy and be more eco-conscious as you go about your normal winter routine (e.g., keeping cooler temperatures in the home, keeping lights off in naturally lit rooms, etc.), but these methods can often be exhausting and ultimately ineffective.

So what can you actually do to create a greener home?

Turn to tech.

Technology is making waves in conservation efforts. AI and home automation have grown in popularity over the last couple of years, not only because of their cost saving benefits but also because of their ability to improve a home’s overall energy efficiency.

Use the following guide to identify your home’s inefficiencies and find a solution to your energy woes.

Monitor Your Energy Usage

Many people don’t understand how their homes use energy, so they struggle with conservation. Start by looking at your monthly utility bills. They can show you how much energy your home typically uses and what systems cost you the most.

monitor energy usage

Licensed from Shutterstock – By Piotr Adamowicz

The usual culprits for high costs and energy waste tend to be the water heater and heating and cooling system. Other factors could also impact your home’s efficiency. Your home’s insulation, for example, could be a huge source of wasted heating and cooling—especially if the insulation hasn’t been inspected or replaced in years. You should also check your windows and doors for proper weatherproofing every year.

However, waiting for your monthly bill or checking out your home’s construction issues are time-consuming steps, and they don’t help you immediately understand and tackle the problem. Instead, opt for an easier solution. Some homeowners, for example, use a smart energy monitor such as Sense to track energy use in real time and identify energy hogs.

Use Smart Plugs

Computers, televisions, and lights still consume energy if they’re left on and unused. Computers offer easy cost savings with their built-in timers that allow the devices to use less energy—they typically turn off after a set number of minutes. Televisions sometimes provide the same benefit, although you may have to fiddle with the settings to activate this feature.

A better option—and one that thwarts both the television and the lights—is purchasing smart plugs. The average US home uses more than 900 kilowatts of electricity per month. That can really add up, especially when you realize that people are wasting more than $19 billion every year on household appliances that are always plugged in. Smart plugs like WeMo can help eliminate wasted electricity by letting you control plugged-in items from your smartphone.

Update Your Lighting

Incandescent lightbulbs can consume and waste a lot of energy—35% of CO2 emissions are generated from electric power plants. This can have serious consequences for increased global warming.

To reduce your impact on the environment, you can install more efficient lightbulbs to offset your energy usage. However, many homeowners choose smart lights, like the Philips Hue bulbs, to save money and make their homes more energy efficient.

Smart lights can be controlled from your smartphone, and many smart light options come with monthly energy reporting so you can continue to find ways to reduce your carbon footprint.

Take Control of the Thermostat

Homeowners often leave the thermostat on its default settings, but defaults often result in heating and cooling systems that run longer and harder than they need to.

In fact, almost half the average residential energy use comes from energy-demanding heating and cooling systems. As an alternative to fiddling with outdated systems, eco-conscious homeowners use smart thermostats to save at least 10% on heating and roughly 15% on cooling per year.

Change your home’s story by employing a smart thermostat such as the Nest, ecobee3, or Honeywell Lyric. Smart thermostats automatically adjust your in-home temperature by accounting for a variety of factors, including outdoor humidity and precipitation. A lot of smart thermostats will also adjust your home’s temperature depending on the time of day and whether you’re home.

Stop Wasting Water

The average American household uses about 320 gallons of water per day. About one-third of that goes to maintaining their yards. Using a smart irrigation systems to improve your water usage can save your home up to 8,800 gallons of water per year.

Smart irrigation systems use AI to sync with local weather predictions, which can be really helpful if you have a garden or fruit trees that you use your irrigation system for  water. Smart features help keep your garden and landscaping healthy by making sure you never overwater your plants or deprive them of adequate moisture.

If you’re looking to make your home greener, AI-enabled products could make the transition much easier. Has a favorite tool you use that wasn’t mentioned here? Share in the comments below.

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Working From Home And How It Reduces Emissions



Many businesses are changing their operating model to allow their employees to work from home. Aside from the personal convenience and business benefits, working from home is also great for the environment. According to, if employees with the desire to work from home and compatible jobs that allowed for this were allowed to do so only half the time, the reduction in emissions would be the equivalent of eliminating automobile emissions from the workforce of the entire state of New York. Considering the stakes here, it is vital that we understand how exactly working from home helps us go green and how this can be applied.

Reduction of automobile emissions

Statistics by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) show that the transportation sector is responsible for about 14% of the total Global Emissions of greenhouse gases, which is a very significant percentage. If employees work from home, then the need to travel to and from their workplace every other day as well as other business trips are reduced considerably. While this may not eliminate the emissions from the transport sector altogether, it reduces the percentage. As indicated in the example above, a move to work from home by more businesses and industries cuts down automobile emissions to as much as those from an entire state.

Reduction of energy production and consumption

According to Eurostat, electricity, gas, steam and air conditioning accounted for as high as 26% of the Greenhouse gas emissions from the EU in 2014. EPA stats are also close at 25% of the total emissions. This makes energy production the single largest source of emissions. Working from home eliminates the need for large office spaces, which in turn reduces the need for electricity and heating. Similarly, the need for electrical office equipment and supplies, such as printers and computers, is also greatly reduced, which reduces the emissions from energy production in offices. Additionally, most households are now adopting green methods of energy production and implementing better ways of energy usage. The use of smart energy-efficient appliances also goes a long way in reducing the energy production and consumption levels from households. This, in turn, cuts down emissions from energy production from both the home and office fronts.

Reduced need for paper

Paper is also a huge source of emissions, considering that it is a carbon-based product. EPA stats show that carbon (IV) oxide from fossil fuel and industrial processes accounts for 65% of the total greenhouse gas emissions. Working from home is usually an internet-based operation, which means less paper and more cloud-based services. When everything is communicated electronically, the need for office paper is reduced considerably. Moreover, the cutting down of trees for the sake of paper production reduces. All these outcomes help reduce the emissions and individual carbon footprints.

Effective recycling

While businesses make an effort to recycle it is not as effective as homeowners. Consider everything from the water you drink to office supplies and equipment. While working from home, you have greater control over your environment. This means that you can easily implement proper recycling procedures. However, at the office, that control over your personal space and environment is taken away and the effectiveness of recycling techniques is reduced. Working from home is, therefore, a great way to go green and increase the adoption of proper recycling.


Even though the statistics are in favor of working from home to reduce emissions, note that this is dependent on the reduction of emissions from home. If the households are not green, then the emissions are not reduced in the least. For instance, if instead of installing a VPN in the router to keep the home office safe, an employee buys a standalone server and air gaps it, the energy consumption is not reduced but increased. Therefore, it is necessary that employees working from home go green if there is to be any hope of using this method of operation to cut down on the emissions.

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