Report 2023: Capturing the Blue Opportunity
Business for Ocean Sustainability: One Ocean Foundation's multi-year research on the Blue Economy
Objectives of the Report
This third edition of the report Business for Ocean Sustainability stands out for its innovative contributions across multiple areas:

The report aims to highlight the ocean’s critical role in sustaining the planet and addressing pressing global challenges in the context of the current climate crisis. It highlights how the ocean’s health and preservation are directly linked to the well-being of ecosystems, biodiversity, and the livelihoods of countless communities worldwide.

While reaffirming the central role of businesses in maintaining a healthy ocean, the report focuses on companies’ attention towards marine and coastal ecosystems, both in terms of awareness of their pressures and the actions undertaken to address them. Going beyond a mere risk mitigation perspective, it shows how companies can create value by addressing ocean-related challenges through investments in nature-based and technology-driven innovative solutions for the protection and restoration of the ocean.

The report analyses a large sample of about 2,500 companies that account for over 70% of the world’s market capitalisation. The research has incorporated cutting-edge techniques that harness the power of Natural Language Processing (NLP) and Generative Artificial Intelligence (GenAI) methodologies. These innovative approaches enable the analysis to delve deeper into the subject’s complexities.

The report presents the advancements made in developing the Ocean Disclosure Initiative (ODI), a science-based framework designed to enhance organisations’ awareness of the effects of business activities on marine and coastal ecosystems. The ODI gathers data to facilitate the evaluation and disclosure of key performance indicators about the ocean. Ultimately, the project aims to create a disclosure tool that can assist companies in their sustainability journey and provide stakeholders with additional insights to assess the ocean-related sustainability practices and associated risks of businesses.

The value of Blue Natural Capital and the importance of its protection and restoration

Blue natural capital corresponds to ocean-based natural resources that can be found in both coastal and marine ecosystems, such as marine animals and plants, seagrass beds, mangrove forests, salt marshes, and coral reefs.

Annual revenues generated from ocean economy sectors are estimated at $5.2 trillion, while the ocean’s total asset value is estimated at $24 trillion. Nevertheless, the value of Blue Natural Capital as an asset is much more complex to assess than some of the economic benefits it generates.

Nature-based solutions (NbS) are important to restore the functions of Blue Natural Capital. These solutions involve the use of natural ecosystems to address climate and societal challenges, including both land-based and marine interventions.

Overall, preserving and reconstructing the ocean’s Natural Capital through nature-based solutions is instrumental for human well-being and the global economy. These solutions support the protection and restoration of the marine environment, ensuring the provision of ecosystem services, addressing human needs and enhancing resilience against climate change impacts.

SDG 14, “Life Below Water”, remains one of the least prioritised SDGs by companies, but business attention has increased over the past 4 years.

SDG 14 Life below water is included in the 2021 sustainability or annual reports of 9% of the companies assessed, making it one of the least prioritised environmental SDGs.

52% of companies are aware of the potential pressures of their industries on the ocean, showing an upward trend concerning 2019. As a result, several companies have started taking action to mitigate their pressures.

When examining the activation score per company, which measures the number of ocean-friendly activities implemented by companies, it was found that the percentage was still low

Our findings highlight the initiatives that companies are implementing to prevent or mitigate their impacts on marine and coastal ecosystems through an activation store. The activation score is calculated taking into account 4 ODI managerial dimensions and considers the number of actionable activities implemented over the total number of possible ones.

Our findings suggest that the activation score of the companies in the sample is generally low, with an average activation score by company of 20%. This implies that, on average, each company is active on less than 2 actionable initiatives for ocean preservation, leaving much room for progress and improvement.

50% of the companies analyzed view ocean-related issues as risk mitigation only, 35% see them as both a risk and opportunity and 15% perceive them as a chance for business growth

Our findings show how focusing on a sub-sample of companies that is only active on ocean-related Managerial Dimensions, the behaviour is primarily focused on risk mitigation. 50% of companies in the sample, in fact, address ocean-related topics only in terms of risk mitigation, 35% both as risk mitigation and as an opportunity, and only 15% are focused on business opportunities.

Unlocking Blue Business Opportunities

Blue business opportunities have the potential to generate value for companies by cutting costs, enhancing efficiency, creating new sources of revenue, fostering organizational resilience and improving reputation and brand image. Companies are beginning to acknowledge this potential, which, if realized, could significantly impact the trajectory of sustainable innovation and practices for marine and coastal ecosystems, providing strong incentives for their adoption. In this report, we have identified examples of blue business opportunities and key enablers to drive the expansion of blue businesses.

The blue business opportunities have been classified into 4 categories. The first is Nature-based Solutions and includes sustainable fisheries management, ocean ecosystem conservation and restoration, and Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). The second is Ocean Pollution Control, the third Coastal and Marine Engineering and the last Ocean Data and Digital Technology.

Despite the abundance of sustainability and ESG frameworks, standards and initiatives, none of them adequately address the urgent need for ocean sustainability disclosure.

Our findings highlight that sustainability reporting is widespread and, on the rise, with 93% of companies incorporating at least one ESG sustainability framework or standard in their annual reporting, representing an increase of 7% compared to the data that emerged from the analysis conducted in 2019.

However, confirming the results of our previous study, none of the existing sustainability frameworks or standards are designed to fully support businesses in assessing and reporting their pressures on marine ecosystems. As such, the ocean sustainability reporting landscape remains in its infancy with the lack of a tailor-made, comprehensive ocean disclosure framework becoming more apparent than ever.

To fill this gap, the One Ocean Foundation has invested heavily in starting this virtuous circle with the introduction of the Ocean Disclosure Initiative (ODI), the first comprehensive ocean sustainability disclosure framework. The ODI addresses the gap that exists in today’s ocean related sustainability and ESG frameworks and standards landscape, and functions as a reliable measurement of impact, with the aim of fostering awareness and initiating action.

We aim at launching the Ocean Disclosure Initiative Framework at the end of 2024, in order to serve the business and financial communities as the first comprehensive framework of its kind.
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