KPMG: Why Does World Oceans Day Matter to Businesses?

World Ocean Day is on the 8th June
This World Oceans Day Josh Hasdell, Senior Manager – Strategy & ESG, KPMG Canada explores why a Blue Economy is crucial for long-term sustainable growth

“You can’t go green without also going blue.”

This is the message KPMG is urging us to understand this World Oceans Day. But what does that mean in practice, and why is it so important?

“We don’t have time for out of sight, out of mind,” says the UN, host of World Oceans Day. 

“Our relationship to the ocean needs to urgently change, and our efforts have only skimmed the surface to date. To motivate widespread momentum for the ocean, we need to awaken new depths.”

Josh Hasdell is a Marine Biologist, providing Climate, Nature and ESG strategy services to KPMG’s clients in Canada and throughout the world.

Josh Hasdell, Senior Manager – Strategy & ESG, KPMG Canada

He spoke to Sustainability Magazine to share why working for a sustainable ocean-led future is essential to achieving the sustainability goals set out in the Paris Agreement

Why does World Oceans Day matter to businesses?

As business leaders, when we talk about sustainability, the ESG focus tends to shift toward climate and wider environmental targets. More often than not, discussion on one of our most precious, abundant assets – our oceans – remains restricted to rising sea levels and plastic pollution. 

The world is facing multiple challenges and for the business community right now, adding something new to the growing pain list is less than welcome, but the reality is that we’re simply not talking enough about our ‘blue planet’. 

World Ocean Day

As we mark another World Ocean Day today, I wanted to do what I do most years – raise the flag on a subject that’s my personal passion, but also my professional desire to deliver real, sustainable change. 

What is the Blue Economy, and why is it important?

At KPMG, we’ve spoken extensively about the Blue Economy. My personal view and KPMG’s collective view is that you can’t go green without also going blue. Our oceans influence all natural ecosystem cycles in the planet and are directly or directly involved with all economic sectors – from the energy firms extracting oil from our waters to the farmers planting crops that rely on a degree of weather predictability. 

If we put it into even starker perspective – 70% of the oxygen you and I breathe is produced by our oceans, while nearly 40% of the world’s population depends on marine and coastal biodiversity to earn a living. 

For our oceans to survive and thrive, we need to change how we’re living and it can start by the business community embracing the Blue Economy – not just as a concept but as a practical aspect of our ESG strategies. 

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Our world’s climate is changing and with it, so too is our ocean chemistry. Ocean acidification and deoxygenation are reaching critical levels – strangling life within our waters, increasing temperatures, melting polar ice and indirectly leading to increasingly unpredictable weather. It can feel like a stretch connecting heavy rains in Dubai or droughts in Australia with our under-attack oceans, but everything is connected. 

The World Bank defines the Blue Economy as the ‘sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods and jobs, and ocean ecosystem health’. Ultimately, it comes down to everyone embracing the potential for economic growth and development our waters offer, while remaining laser focused on the vital importance of conserving ocean ecosystems. We’re already seeing this in action today.

 As the world continues to depend on greater connectivity and technology, new subsea data cable routes, like the Far North Fiber project, are bringing continents and communities closer together by embracing easier access to regions that were once near impossible to work in. It’s a similar story with tourism, fishing and wider transport, with companies and visitors now able to travel through and into once inaccessible parts of the planet and adapting the safety measures required to address new risks from different forms of extreme weather as the region continues to change at a rapid pace. There is a delicate balance that needs to be found. 

A changing planet offers opportunities, but we must mitigate any danger of adding to the climate crisis, ensuring that we’re embracing opportunities sustainably.

So… what next?

As humans, we often feel powerless to drive change. Many accept the theory that the world has existed before us and will go on to exist long after our extinction. We may feel powerless, but there are actions we can take to better understand where and how we have the power to make a difference. 

For companies, the first step is understanding how you are currently dependent on Blue Economy assets though nature Assessment, assessing the traceability of materials in your products and, if there is an oceanic impact either in the upstream or downstream aspects of the product, investing in marine regenerative solutions when meeting environmental goals, prioritising local community and indigenous stewards of ocean resources when either extracting or distributing services to customers.

For the sake of future generations, let's pause for a moment and acknowledge the UN’s World Oceans Day, then tomorrow – let’s act and deliver a truly sustainable ocean-led future.

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