Ocean Conference Sparks Discussion Among The Private Sector About Achieving SDG 14

7 June 2017, New York – On the third day of the 2017 Ocean Conference at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City, global business leaders gathered at a side event to emphasize the private sector’s role in saving our oceans. The side event, titled The Ocean Business Community: Partnering for Implementation of SDG 14, was co-hosted by the International Chamber of Commerce, the World Ocean Council, and the United Nations Global Compact.

Mr. Paul Holthus, President and CEO of the World Ocean Council, chaired the meeting and explained the two roles his organization plays in engaging the private sector. The first is creating a partnership between industries that share a common reliance on the ocean for their business operations. Then, in its second role, the World Ocean Council works to connect this industry-diverse partnership with other ocean stakeholders, like the United Nations.

Along the same vein, participants heard from six business leaders, whose industries each rely heavily on the oceans and their resources, about their company’s efforts to “conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development,” as per SDG 14.

During her opening remarks, Ms. Louise Kantrow, Permanent Representative to the UN from the International Chamber of Commerce, called the private sector “a solution provider” and reiterated the importance of business partnerships with countries and communities most vulnerable to the effects of ocean degradation. “It is clear that business [is] going to play an important role,” Ms. Kantrow explained.

Serving as a “bridge to the private sector” for these countries and communities is the role assumed by the UN Global Compact, explained its Executive Director, Ms. Lise Kingo.

She continued by drawing a parallel between the conversation happening now about the oceans and that, which began over 20 years ago, about climate change. Despite the similar rhetoric, Ms. Kingo urged that “we don’t have another 20 years to figure it out for the oceans.” However, she concluded that on-boarding the private sector, at such an early stage, in the conversation around oceans was promising, because “when business gets involved, when everyone rallies around the agenda, we can make a real difference.”

The six private sector speakers represented a broad set of industries, including water management, seismology, wind power, sustainable seafood, cruise lines, and shipping, and discussed measures that they were independently undertaking to #SaveOurOceans. The speakers were as follows:

  • Jean-Louis Chaussade, CEO, Suez
  • Bard Stenberg, Vice President, PGS
  • Joao Metelo, CEO, Principle Power
  • Rich Stavis, CEO, Stavis Seafood
  • Donnie Brown, VP, Marine Policy, Cruise Line International Association
  • Simon Bennet, Director of Policy and Ext. Relations, International Chamber of Shipping

Across all six presentations, one common theme emerged. It was that regulation alone would be insufficient to mobilize industries to protect the oceans. Many speakers outlined that regulatory frameworks were challenging due to the indistinct jurisdiction of the oceans and the fact that “fish don’t respect borders”, as Mr. Rich Stavis of Stavis Seafood aptly put it.

There was a call for organizations to work with the private sector to create incentives designated to improve the alignment between business and environmental interests, through technology or partnerships. An example, suggested by Mr. Simon Bennet of the International Chamber of Shipping, was any technological innovation that could allow ships to utilize clean energy sources like hydrogen fuel cells. Another was finding true alternatives to plastic: “technological innovation is absolutely necessary to protect the oceans against plastic,” said Mr. Jean-Louis Chaussade, the CEO of Suez.

Ultimately, the prevailing sentiment was that integrating companies in tackling Sustainable Development Goal 14 has led to and will continue to result in the private sector leading conservation and protection efforts for our oceans. Integration with the business community is, as the event sponsors illustrated in their opening remarks, the best chance we have at saving our oceans.

Feature Photo: Britt Martin/UN-OHRLLS
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