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

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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

Environment

4 Common Items That Can be Reused Again and Again

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reuse reduce recycle plastic bottles etc
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Vanatchanan | https://www.shutterstock.com/g/vanatchanan%20buahom

As a society we are getting much better at taking our obligations to the world and environment around us more seriously. This is undoubtedly a good thing! The effects of climate change are beginning to manifest across the world, and this is turning the issue from an abstract threat into a very real danger. Trying to introduce some greener, more eco-friendly practices into your life isn’t just a great way of doing something beneficial for society and the world around you. It is a wonderful way of engaging positively with the world and carries with it numerous psychological benefits.

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Being a greener, more ecologically friendly person doesn’t require any dramatic life changes. Breaking or making a few small habits is all it takes to make your life a greener one. In this article we look at one of the easiest, yet most effective green practices to get into: reusing everyday items.

Jars and Containers

Glass and metal are widely recycled, and recycling is a good thing! However, consider whether any containers you buy, whether it’s a tub of ice cream or a jar of coffee, can be washed out and reused for something else. Mason jars, for example, can be used to store homemade pasta sauce and can be washed for future use. Once you start thinking about it, you will find endless opportunities to reuse your old containers.

Soda Bottles

An ice-cold soda is a wonderful treat on a hot day, but buying soda can get expensive, and the manufacturing and distribution of the drinks themselves isn’t great for the environment. However, by holding on to your old soda bottles and repurposing them as water bottles, you can save money on drinks, or use them to measure out water for your garden.

Plastic Bags

Most of the time groceries come in paper bags, which are better for the environment than the plastic alternatives, but they are less durable and thus harder to reuse. Whenever the store places your items in a plastic bag, hang onto it so you can reuse the bags again. If you want to take it one step further, consider looking into buying some personalized recycled bags. These bags are designed to last for a long time and are made of recycled materials. They look striking and unique, they’ll turn heads, and maybe even attitudes!

Seeds

If you’re a keen gardener, then you will already probably know how to reseed your plants in order to ensure a fresh crop after each plant’s lifecycle. If you have space in your garden, or haven’t yet tried your hand at gardening, then consider planting a small vegetable plot. Growing your own veggies means that you’ll be helping to cut back on the emissions generated by their transport and production. The best part about growing your own food in this way is that, by harvesting properly and saving the seeds, you can be set up with fresh vegetables for life!

Reusing and recycling common household items is an easy way to make your world a little bit greener. Once you start looking for these opportunities you’ll realize that they’re everywhere!

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Environment

These 5 Green Office Mistakes Are Costing You Money

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eco-friendly green offices
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Stokkete | https://www.shutterstock.com/g/cyano

The sudden interest in green business is very encouraging. According to recent reports, 42% of all companies have rated sustainability as an important element of their business. Unfortunately, the focus on sustainability will only last if companies can find ways to use it to boost their ROI.

Many businesses get so caught up in being socially conscious that they hope the financial aspect of it takes care of itself. The good news is that there are plenty of ways to go green and boost your net income at the same time.

Here are some important mistakes that you will want to avoid.

Only implementing sustainability on micro-scale

The biggest reason that brands are going green is to improve their optics with their customers. Too many businesses are making very minor changes, such as processing paperwork online and calling themselves green.

Customers have become wary of these types of companies. If you want to earn their business, you are going to need to go all the way. Bring in a green business consultant and make every feasible change to demonstrate that you are a green organization from top to bottom.

Not prioritizing investments by long-term ROI

It isn’t realistic to build an entirely green organization overnight. You will need to allocate your capital wisely.

Before investing in any green assets or services, you should always conduct a long-term cost benefit analysis. The initial investment for some green services may be over $20,000. If they don’t shave your cost by at least $3,000 a year, they probably aren’t worth the investment.

Determine which green investments will have the best pay off over the next 10 years. Make these investments before anything else. Then compare your options within each of those categories.

Implementing green changes without a plan

Effective, long-term planning is the key to business success. This principle needs to be applied to green organizations as well.

Before implementing a green strategy, you must answer the following questions:

  • How will I communicate my green business philosophy to my customers?
  • How will running a green business affect my revenue stream?
  • How will adopting green business strategies change my monthly expenses? Will they increase or decrease them?
  • How will my company finance green upgrades and other investments?

The biggest mistake that too many green businesses make is being overly optimistic with these forecasts. Take the time to collect objective data and make your decisions accordingly. This will help you run a much more profitable green business.

Not considering the benefits of green printing

Too many companies believe that going paperless is the only way to run a green organization. Unfortunately, going 100% paperless it’s not feasible for most companies.

Rather than aim for an unrealistic goal, consider the option of using a more environmentally friendly printer. It won’t be perfect, but it will be better than the alternative.

According to experts from Doranix, environmental printers have several benefits:

  • They can process paper that has been completely recycled.
  • They consume less energy than traditional printers.
  • They use ink that is more environmentally friendly.

You want to take a look at different green printers and compare them. You’ll find that some will meet your needs as a green business.

Poorly communicating your green business strategy to customers

Brand positioning doesn’t happen on its own. If you want to run a successful green business, you must communicate your message to customers as clearly as possible. You must also avoid the appearance that you are patronizing them.

The best approach is to be clear when you were first making the change. I’ll make an announcement about your company‘s commitment to sustainability.

You also want to reinforce this message overtime by using green labels on all of your products. You don’t have to be blatant with your messaging at this stage. Simply provide a small, daily reminder on your products and invoices.

Finally, it is a good idea to participate in green business seminars and other events. If your community has a local Green Chamber of Commerce, you should consider joining as well.

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