In the second session of the webinar series titled Raising Corporate Ambition for Environmental Sustainability: Canada’s Road to COP27, the UN Global Compact Network Canada presented a panel discussion exploring solutions for businesses to enhance ocean resilience and foster a sustainable blue economy. This topic has received global attention since the Ocean and Climate Change Dialogue held in June, with a strong momentum for a robust political outcome attributed to sustainable ocean management ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference (COP27) in November.
In opening the discussion, Daria Naglic, Senior Manager, Programmes & Business Relations at the UN Global Compact Network Canada, highlighted the significance of oceans in regulating global climate and providing livelihoods for billions of people. In particular, Daria shed light on the Sustainable Ocean Principles of the UN Global Compact, an aspirational commitment by businesses to advance the wellbeing of the ocean in areas of ocean health, governance, and data transparency. This framework also draws parallel to the four proposals made by António Guterres at the UN Ocean Conference—investing in sustainable ocean economies, leveraging oceans as a model for resolving global issues, safeguarding people, and advancing science and innovation. As trailblazers in pursuit of these commitments, this session’s panel featured Dr. Francis Wiese, the Science Director of Climate Solutions at Stantec; Kendra MacDonald, the CEO of Canada’s Ocean Supercluster; and Shaun Frankson, Co-founder and CTO of Plastic Bank.
In driving awareness of the interconnectedness between ocean health and climate change, Dr. Francis Wiese stated that companies like Stantec are often given a unique platform to intervene in two ways: By directly inserting climate solutions into new projects, and by partaking in international initiatives to mobilize the broader community to achieve the Global Goals. Similarly, Kendra MacDonald stressed the importance of including industry experts from coast to coast to coast in group discussions, taking the example of Canada Ocean Supercluster’s Ocean Assets Map, which connects nearly 4000 organizations involved in ocean economy in Canada. Kendra also noted that since many industries remain disconnected due to geographical constraints despite having the same goals, it is crucial to forge connections in order to accelerate the development of collective solutions. Although challenging, Kendra emphasized that collaboration with academics, scientists, businesses, and investors is beneficial given the enormous commercial opportunity and the potential formation of a Canadian ocean brand narrative to garner more attention on a global scale.
As a groundbreaker in using innovative technologies, Shaun Frankson shared that Plastic Bank has developed a blockchain-secured platform that enables end-to-end reporting from initial plastic collection to manufactured products, prioritizing accessibility and traceability to vulnerable places around the world where ocean plastic is leaking and where recycled plastic is coming from. Shaun also highlighted that all work procedures must be audit-ready, as corporations have obligations to both ocean health and community well-being. This calls for a crucial ethical component, where solutions must be put forth to revitalize the areas involving all individuals within the supply chain. Dr. Francis Wiese also echoed this point by stating that supply chains are particularly vulnerable to climate change and that companies can take steps to lessen this vulnerability by shortening supply chains and optimizing their systems to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. For instance, a business could collaborate with marine ecologists or naval architects to develop technologies that employ carbon-neutral shipping or to alter the ship design to reduce underwater sound.
Nature-based solutions, according to Dr. Wiese, provide incredible solutions that other solutions cannot, such as improving biodiversity, generating revenue for businesses through carbon credits, improving air and water quality, and allowing for self-sustainability. While Dr. Wiese posited that there are legal and psychological barriers to adopting nature-based solutions as leaders often cling to what they already know; this presents an opportunity in and of itself as businesses have yet to learn about the long-term benefits that nature-based solutions exclusively provide. Acknowledging that more awareness is needed, Kendra MacDonald also indicated that Canada’s ocean-related activity still accounts for only 1.5% of GDP and that there is plenty of room to increase GDP contribution in order to prioritize prosperity, production and sustainability for Canada’s oceans.
In closing the conversation, Dr. Francis Wiese emphasized the importance of having a nexus for encouraging multi-stakeholder collaboration. For instance, Stantec is assisting in the leadership of a Pan-Arctic research project that brings together Indigenous Knowledge Keepers as well as scientists from both the private and public sectors to co-design solutions from start to finish. Kendra MacDonald echoed Dr. Wiese, asserting that bringing all parties together results in a richer outcome, in addition to making collaboration a core criterion for funding. Lastly, Shaun Frankson recommended that all groups embrace a progress-over-perfection approach, as incremental progress can add up to significant change rather than focusing on a single silver bullet. When businesses realize that many others are looking for ways to make their work more meaningful, it becomes easier to promote responsible consumerism and ocean stewardship, as the business model shifts from a siloed “social enterprise” model to all companies working toward a common social good.
To learn more about how your business can encourage technological innovation for climate action, join us for the third installment of our series on October 20th from 3 pm – 4 pm ET, on “Climate Change & Technology: Shifting Mindsets Towards Innovation Adoption”.
Written by: Keira Kang (she/her)