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  • Alexandra Aguilard

The sustainable use and conservation of the oceans. The UN Global Compact 2018 Progress Report

Updated: Dec 1, 2018




The greatest fundamental desire of humanity has always been to live in a better world. The ideal of improving our living conditions has accompanied mankind throughout all of history. However, what has appeared to be a common goal often gets lost in the pursuit of an abstract idea or varies depending on the historical, political or cultural circumstances involved. Fortunately, our common values as human beings: peace, freedom, social progress, equal rights, and human dignity, continue to offer us great hope to, at least, realize the world we want to build. 


This has been one of the greatest merits of the United Nations General Assembly 2015 “Transforming our World: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”, which clearly set 17 specific Global Goals that are allowing people and society to contribute in a concrete and effective way towards a peaceful, prosperous, inclusive and sustainable world.  

To foster and enhance the decisive role of the public sector in this initiative, the UN is working through the UN Global Compact, the world’s largest corporate sustainability initiative - calling for companies to align their strategies and operations with basic principles in the areas of human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption, closely linked to the Global Goals. More than 9.500 companies and 3.000 non-business signatories based in more than 160 countries are taking part in this initiative. 


This year, The UN Global Compact published the 2018 Progress Report – which, in the words of the latter organization, is an assessment of how businesses are adopting its Ten Principles, and an evaluation of actions taken thus far to meet the Sustainable Global Goals. 


The results are encouraging. To this point, 80 per cent of the 1,130 companies participating in the 2018 UN Global Compact Annual Survey are reporting actions to advance the Global Goals, and 73 per cent attest that corporate social responsibility (CSR) is a priority management and governance function of their organizations. These positive results show that CEOs and high-level executives are taking seriously the importance of integrating CSR as essential to their organization's core vision and purpose; and reflects a greater understanding of the role that the private sector plays in achieving Global Goals.


There is still a lot of work to be done to improve companies’ individual performances, especially as regards integrating sustainability metrics within their annual financial reports. 75 per cent of companies report having insufficient internal monitoring processes to measure sustainability impact, and 70 per cent lament the lack of a standard performance metric which can do so.


One of the most interesting findings of this study, and the motivation behind this article, is the fact that Life Below Water (Goal 14) is the Sustainable Development Goal that companies focus the least on. Only 13 per cent of respondents had specific targets related to conserving and sustainably exploiting marine resources.


This is paradoxical, considering that maritime activity provides an important source of income and employment. Maritime transport is essential to the world’s economy as over 90% of trade is seagoing. But not only transport and trade are dependent on the oceans; fishing, oil and gas, telecommunications infrastructure, energy production, and tourism, are also sectors intimately involved. Every human being benefits from the sea: the ocean acts as climate regulator, source of marine biodiversity, key provider of food and nutrition, and therefore ultimately as an engine for sustainable economic development and growth, as expressed by the United Nations Ocean Conference.


So, how can it then be possible that out of the 1,130 companies that participated in the 2018 UN Global Compact Survey, only 9 per cent say that they have made progress in meeting the targets of Goal 14? 


Considering those results, it is necessary to promote measures to encourage business to be aware of this situation, in other words, help companies to become less sea blind. 

For this purpose, UN has launched the UN Global Compact Sustainable Ocean Business Action Platform, an initiative to mobilize the private sector to take tangible action, make investment and form partnerships to leverage the ocean as a resource to deliver the Global Goals. 


I encourage to join the UN Global Compact Sustainable Ocean Business Action Platform to:


Facilitate the development of a business leadership framework on oceans, seas and marine resources.


Inspire partnership and local action: Expand existing successful partnerships at the country-level and foster innovative solutions to advance the implementation of the Global Goals through ocean sustainability.


Engage in advocacy and public policy: Design policy advocacy toolkits on critical issues and gather new data: Map industry-level impact on sustainable ocean development[1].


Although this initiative has been very well received, it should not be the only response to this alarming result, Green Nautical Miles will keep you informed about other strategies and mechanisms to ensure the effective implementation of necessary measures which enable significant positive impact toward this goal: the sustainable use and conservation of the oceans. 


[1]https://www.unglobalcompact.org

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