World Ocean Day: Collectively we can ALL have an impact

* 6 min read
I’m sure we’ve all walked along a beach and witnessed pollution at some point, I know I have. But how many of us really understand the impact it’s having? Today is World Ocean Day and we should all take a moment to appreciate the beauty of 71% of our planet.

I had a very different childhood to most of my work colleagues, privileged not in in monetary terms but in experience. I grew up on a small island on the west coast of Scotland called Gigha. Gigha is only 7miles long and 1.5miles wide (at it’s widest point) and surrounded by the crystal clear beauty of the Atlantic Ocean, making our lives on Gigha determined by the weather and the sea. I can honestly say I didn’t fully appreciate it growing up, but I miss the sounds of the waves crashing against the shore and salty sea air. Even as many as 40 years ago after a big storm the beaches would be covered in pollution and we would walk along the beaches, collect the plastic and see if we could find treasure. Needless to say, we very rarely found treasure, but the plastic was plentiful!

Climate change is a phrase we hear all the time but in the words of Dr. Sylvia Earle:

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If you want to understand climate, follow the water… if there is no ocean, there is no climate.
GC1Dr. Sylvia Earle

For some time now we have been killing our oceans, and this has to stop. Last year there was approximately 425 litter items found in every 100m of beach in the UK and unfortunately 30% of the Great British Beach Cleans found face covering and PPE. Globally, eight million tons of plastic are dumped into our oceans every year, that’s the equivalent of 57,000 blue whales and by 2050 its predicted that plastic will outweigh all of the ocean’s fish. Although the weight of fish to plastic is hard to qualify it is believable when we see the amount of pollution washed up on our shores.

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Image source: Unsplash - John Cameron

This is not a new problem, but as the volume of plastic in circulation increases, this unfortunately has a knock-on effect to pollution. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP) is evidence that this is not new news, it covers an estimated 1 million square miles, an area twice the size of Texas or three times the size of France, that doesn’t happen overnight! However, this has to stop now, we HAVE to stop polluting our oceans and we HAVE to be much more responsible with our waste.

Thankfully there are many brands doing their bit. Ocean Plastic, plastic collected from beaches and then recycled, has been embraced and promoted by many leading brands in both products and packaging, including Patagonia, Adidas and Coca-Cola. With the greatest of respect, and I’m sure these brands would agree, I hope this is not sustainable as I very much hope ocean pollution will stop or at the very least decrease significantly in the future.

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Image source: Unsplash - Silas Baisch

Many businesses and brands are embracing sustainability but there is still a lot of work to do. Although the vast majority of brands / retailers / people I speak to support sustainability, a study by BCG/MIT found that only 60% of companies include sustainability into their strategy and just 25% incorporate sustainability into their business model. This is a start, but this will not stop pollution and prevent climate change - we need to ALL do our bit.

OK, so I can’t stop the 8 million tons of plastic being emptied into our seas or magically eliminate the GPGP but I do promote sustainability within Sun Strategy and to our clients. I can certainly choose responsible brands to buy, I can dispose of products and packaging responsibly, I can educate my son to do the same and maybe I can encourage you as individuals to continue the good sustainable work you’re doing. Collectively we can ALL have an impact.

There’s so much we can all do; you don’t have to be on a management board of a big corporate to make a difference. If you live near a beach why don’t you take part in the Great British Beach Clean? This year it will take place between Friday 17th – Sunday 26th September. Or you could take part in the RSPB The Big Clean-up. There are so many great causes to support but today I’m proud to support the #30x30 proposal, this proposal is to protect 30% of our land, waters and ocean by 2030. As it’s World Ocean Day why don’t you join me and learn a bit more about it #30x30 Let’s make it happen!

Happy World Ocean Day!

One Ocean, One Climate, One Future – Together.

About the author

imageedit 1 6168940299Gillian Garside-Wight - Sustainability Partner

Gillian leads our consulting offer, with over 20 years’ experience in the print and packaging industry, strategically developing packaging strategies, roadmaps and packaging solutions to meet the needs of clients and consumers / end users. She has worked with a number of global retailers and household brands on projects spanning sustainability and innovation to supply chain optimisation.  With a real passions for sustainable packaging, her quest is to inform and drive a circular economy wherever possible while complementing creativity and technical functionality but never forgetting commercial requirements. 

What’s your experience? Join the conversation on LinkedIn.

References
  • https://worldoceanday.org/ )
  • https://www.nationalgeographic.org/encyclopedia/ocean/
  • https://www.sas.org.uk/our-work/plastic-pollution/plastic-pollution-facts-figures/
  • https://www.conservation.org/stories/ocean-pollution-11-facts-you-need-to-know
  • https://theoceancleanup.com/great-pacific-garbage-patch/
  • https://www.businessinsider.com/companies-that-use-recycled-ocean-plastic-in-products?r=US&IR=T
  • https://www.imd.org/research-knowledge/articles/why-all-businesses-should-embrace-sustainability/
  • https://www.mcsuk.org/what-you-can-do/join-a-beach-clean/the-great-british-beach-clean/