13/10/2017 12:02 BST | Updated 16/10/2017 11:32 BST

Why We Need To Turn Off The Plastic Tap


Last week, politicians, business leaders and environmental groups from over 100 countries gathered in Malta for the EU's Our Ocean conference.

It was the fourth annual conference, having begun in 2014 as a response to the dire state of our ocean's health and the recognition of the importance of the seas and oceans in our lives.

With over three billion people directly depending on our oceans for their livelihoods the issue of ocean health cannot be ignored. Yet if you look around the world you cannot escape the fact that the state of our oceans has never been more precarious.

So at Malta, it was encouraging to hear from many people who wanted to take action; pledging a series of wide-ranging commitments to start reversing the damage done to our oceans.

HRH The Prince of Wales announced a bold blue economy initiative, with policies to support sustainable development. China committed to the creation of 66 'blue bays' around its coastline to protect marine life. And Carrefour announced that by 2020, half of all fish that it sells will come from sustainable sources.

The worrying truth is that the oceans face a range of issues, largely man made. One of those issues is ocean pollution and in particular the damage we are doing by the vast amounts of plastic washing up all over our shores. Our oceans are now drowning in plastic.

According to The Ellen MacArthur Foundation, without change, all the plastic in the ocean could weigh more than all the fish by 2050. The average UK household uses one rubbish truck's worth of single use plastics a year - contributing to the eight million tonnes of plastic that enters our oceans annually.

This is both dire and depressing, and the duty to act never so urgent.

At Sky we are determined to make a stand. Our Sky Ocean Rescue campaign will continue to shine a spotlight on the issues our oceans face, why they are happening and what can be done about it.

We have committed to transform our business and eradicate all single-use plastics from our operations, products and supply chains by 2020. As a start we have removed plastic bottles, cups, cutlery and straws from all our sites and replaced them with corn starch, or paper alternatives. Everyday stuff that soon adds up - we've already reduced our plastic bottle use by 300,000 in just nine months

We are also creating an Ocean Rescue Innovation Fund, anchored by our own capital to help spur innovation in this area. The fund will look for businesses and start-ups that are developing ideas and technology to eradicate single-use plastics from supply chains right across the globe and to stop plastic from ending up in the ocean.

We are inviting others to co-invest with us because we believe that by finding and funding the best ideas from around the world, we will discover new ways to help to solve this problem. By harnessing the capital, expertise and voice of the business community we can, together, accelerate innovation to reverse some of the damage already done.

The reality is not enough is being done by enough businesses. It needs us all to play our part. As an island nation, we are never more than 70 miles from the coast. This could not be more important. Three million people live on the coastline, hundreds of thousands more rely on the ocean for employment and almost every one of us for the food it provides.

This is a vast and complex issue, but what gives me hope is that there are some relatively easy, everyday things businesses can do. If you walked into a bathroom overflowing with water, what would you do? You wouldn't start mopping up the water... you would turn off the tap. So what can businesses do? Start by turning off the plastic tap. We have started. But we need more businesses to join us - now.