The ocean is our major source of food, transportation, and recreation. The ocean contributes hugely to the global economy and our fate greatly depends on ocean quality. Even before Covid-19, the ocean economy was already gaining momentum. A report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development indicates the doubling of the ocean economy between 2010 and 2030, with the employment of 40 million people.
Ocean has a prominent place in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs) as well. UN SDG 14 aims to “conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.”. The NIPPON Foundation suggests co-benefits of achieving UN SFG 14 with other UN SDG goals, especially the following ones:
Ocean health deserves more attention from the world. The United Nations Environment Programme (The UNEP) reveals that every year, 11 million tonnes of plastic are estimated to enter the world’s ocean. Only 9% of 300 million tonnes of plastic waste produced annually is recycled.
As for Hong Kong, the government collects more than 15,000 tonnes of marine refuse every year. The World Wild Fund – Hong Kong produces the following infographics to show Hong Kong’s marine pollution.
Every crisis can become an opportunity for us to address environmental issues, especially when technological advancements allow ocean pollutants to be collected efficiently and affordably.
What is the state of ocean technology investment?
Investment in the ocean economy (or the other term: blue economy) remains small. Althelia Sustainable Ocean Fund in 2019 forecasted that investment in the blue economy would reach USD$500m over the next 2 to 3 years. It was just a fraction of the USD$ 502 bn impact investing market in 2019 according to the survey by Global Impact Investing Network. Among investors surveyed by Responsible Investor, 81% considered the blue economy as impact investing, followed by thematic investing (75% of the investors). Investors found opportunities in a sustainable blue economy as shown in the table below:
Investors attribute the lack of investible ventures to the major barrier to ocean economy investment.
What if you are interested in ocean clean-up?
Considering the importance of cleaning up our ocean, we would like to introduce the following impact ventures working on ocean cleaning:
Risks for ocean clean-up impact ventures
Ocean clean-up impact ventures need to consider the following risks:
Protect marine lives in the ocean: plastics in the ocean are free-floating. Impact ventures need to collect the plastics and protect marine lives at the same time. Some scientists warn that open ocean clean-ups may damage marine lives below the ocean surface.
Protect the ocean and air simultaneously: impact ventures need to ensure that their ships and boats are operated with clean, renewable energy for plastics clean-up in the ocean. The use of fossil fuels in ships and boats can cause carbon dioxide to be emitted, polluting the ocean and the air.
Interested in ocean clean-up technology? What should be considered?
Prospective ocean technology impact ventures should consider the following issues for sustainable operations:
Potential partners for business collaborations: ocean clean-up impact ventures need to work with a range of partners, especially investment bodies, ocean management authorities, private ocean resort owners, and circular product and service companies for new technology to be funded and solutions to be piloted. These solutions aim to provide efficient and affordable services for business partners to clean the oceans.
Potential partners for impact creation: these include research and development and business development institutions such as higher education institutions and sustainable business associations. These can facilitate impact ventures to obtain the latest ocean cleaning technologies and partner with businesses to create high-quality curricular products.
Stakeholder engagement: since ocean pollution is not recognised as a burning environmental issue like air pollution, impact ventures need to engage stakeholders in simple and meaningful terms to explain the importance and vulnerability of the ocean in our daily lives. These include
- Ocean pollution and the danger it poses to our community;
- Our dependence on the ocean for health, wealth, and well-being;
- The deployment of artificial intelligence in collecting ocean waste;
- Ways for the collected ocean waste to be managed for producing circular products. and
- Justifications for investment in ocean clean-up
Advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence and sensors present significant opportunities for impact ventures to collect plastics waste in the ocean, turning it into other business opportunities including curricular products. To present a sound case for receiving investment and getting different types of support , the impact ventures need to demonstrate their capability to protect the marine environment, ensure smooth transportation in the ocean, improve water quality and produce circular products and services with the collected wastes.