With another year over in the so-called Biodiversity Decade, one might lose heart that our natural resources will ever be saved from squander. But I don't, I have great hope for the year ahead. The reason? Good business is the best antidote for bad international politics.
Certainly there is plenty to discourage us. Canada, traditionally perceived as one of the most eco-friendly countries in the world has just opted out of the Kyoto climate treaty, giving up the capacity to trade carbon savings to the benefit of poor countries and efficient industries, while the UK's David Cameron who pledged to head the 'greenest government ever' might not even bother to show up at Rio +20 next year.
While too often governments fail to take their environmental responsibilities and commitments seriously, many others have realised that good environmental practice makes good business sense. With current market uncertainties, this realisation cannot come too soon. What governments must now do is utilise the power of eco-friendly companies to help them forge a sustainable future, appealing to voters as well as market sensibilities. The Blue Marine Foundation (Blue) was founded to facilitate exactly this. The purpose? To fix the largest solvable problem on the planet - the crisis in the oceans.
Despite the global economic downturn, we are seeing more and more companies creating sustainable value and wealth, cultivating prestige with new initiatives that add value, not just to their share price but to the standing of their products. Eco-consciousness is paying off, enjoying boosted sales on both sides of the Atlantic. In the UK, from Fairtrade chocolate to solar panels and eco-friendly cars have all seen their profits grow, despite the economic gloom, as spending rose from £43billion to £46.8 billion, an annual increase of 8.8%. Meanwhile in the US there is an estimated $290 billion marketplace for goods and services focused on lifestyles of health and sustainability, also known as LOHAS.
Founded in 2010, Blue's mission is to protect marine ecosystems, by setting up Marine Protected Areas, negotiating fishery buyouts and facilitating agile, sustainable ocean-based initiatives. We do this by creating innovative partnership opportunities for the sea - and those that benefit from it.
Since its inception Blue has been remarkably successful. In April 2010, through a unique partnership with the British Foreign Office and private investment, Blue enabled the creation of the largest marine reserve in the world. Over 544,000 km2, the Chagos Marine Reserve doubled the area of protected ocean overnight.
Blue have also launched Fish2Fork, the pioneering online guide that rates restaurants on quality as well sustainability. Fish2Fork works to drive major change within the restaurant business, encouraging sourcing and selling of sustainable fish. In the UK, of those restaurants reviewed an incredible 45% have worked with us to improve their practices.
Private sector interests around the world, from yachting to retail and tourism realize the impact that a healthy ocean has on their business. As such, Blue has engaged with a broad array of industries partnering with corporations such as Six Senses Resorts & Spas and Selfridges to Andrew Winch Designs on a variety of fundraising and public engagement projects committed to finding solutions around the plight of the ocean. We will continue to build effective CSR programmes to strengthen the influence of sustainable ocean practices and create a legacy of lasting initiatives.
Creating a charity focused on harnessing the strength of the private sector in a time of financial difficulty has its challenges, but the need for effective, sustainable marine conservation remains global and immediate, and Blue is strategically positioned to make this happen. Having recently won an International Green Award for our work in conservation and biodiversity preservation, the potential for even more partnership opportunities in the New Year continues to grow. At the same time, we remain hopeful that governments will grasp opportunities to think creatively about conservation, as even David Cameron's government has done with the Chagos Reserve, to continue to make the steep change necessary to save our planet, and by working with forward thinking industry leaders, the possibilities are great.
For more about the Blue Marine Foundation go to: http://www.bluemarinefoundation.com/
Follow Marina Vaughan on Twitter: www.twitter.com/Bluemarinef