EXPERT OPINION: Paul Holthus, Executive Director, World Ocean Council
Paul is founding Executive Director of the World Ocean Council. He works with the private sector and market forces to develop practical solutions for achieving sustainable development and addressing environmental concerns, especially for marine areas and resources. He has been involved in coastal and marine resource sustainable development and conservation work in over 30 countries in Europe, Asia, the Pacific, Central America and Africa. As a consultant on sustainable development and environmental management, he has worked with companies, industry associations, UN agencies, international NGOs and foundations on sustainability, especially in the areas of oil/gas, fisheries, aquaculture, standards and certification.
Please tell us about the World Ocean Council. What sets it apart from other marine conservation initiatives?
The World Ocean Council is the only international multi-industry leadership alliance working on the stewardship of oceans. It spans a wide gamut of marine-related industries, shipping, fishing, offshore renewables, which in turn each have an ecosystem of support services--these are huge industries.
The Council brings together top performers--companies that have a good environmental track record--around the table. The idea behind the platform is to develop a common agenda for those companies on marine conservation issues. For example, WOC recently launched a marine noise working group to explore the issues surrounding the impacts of noise on the marine environment. These working groups are thematic and cut across many marine-related industries.
What are the reasons companies should join the World Ocean Council?
These is business value in companies joining the Council. It helps them to stay ahead of the curve in sustainability issues, to influence policy-making that will affect their industries, and it also provides them with reputational advantages. Another key reason is that companies cannot fix environmental problems on their own, even if they have the best intentions in the world. Working together paves the way for synergies and economies of scale, as the cost burden can be shared across many players.
What has the World Ocean Council achieved to date?
So far, working groups have been established and common agendas agreed on between the members. These are early days for the organization as it was only established in the last few years, but there has already been a good response. There are many people with the right mindset in many companies that have an environmental impact, however they often have difficulties in making themselves heard. The World Ocean Council offers them the opportunity to sit with their peers, and meet other like-minded people. As more and more companies join, this creates a snowball effect....
Who are your members?
Most of the companies that have joined are from the Australasian region, US, and Europe. The Coral Triangle countries so far are not really represented. This is why we are considering a regional approach in the Coral Triangle. If the World Ocean Council were to have a Coral Triangle-region thematic group, the difference between this and the Coral Triangle Regional Business Forum is that it won’t be multi-sectoral--it will be composed of businesses only.
How hopeful are you of your ability to bring positive change to oceans governance?
I am convinced that we will never bring about healthy productive oceans without business engagement. Business is the most prevalent activity across oceans globally. This is why we need to be working at a global scale. In setting up the Council, I reached out to companies and met great people, but all operating in isolation. This led the way for informal roundtables that were the starting point for the organisation.