Why innovative nature-based solutions should be part of every sustainability strategy

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Why innovative nature-based solutions should be a part of your sustainability strategy

By Amélie Losanes, Managing Consultant, Sustainable Collaboration

In celebration of World Ocean’s Day, we sat down with Abbie Cheesman, Head of Strategic Partnerships at the Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC) to explore the critical role our oceans and ocean wildlife play in the fight for a sustainable future.

From whales to dolphins, marine wildlife is not only a testament to the ocean’s biodiversity but also crucial to the health of our global ecosystem. Join us as we explore the intricate connections between ocean conservation and sustainability, and learn the value in investing in nature-based solutions like our ocean wildlife.

What is the Whale and Dolphin Conservation

The Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC) is the leading global non-governmental organization (NGO) dedicated to whales and dolphins. Our expert-led teams based in the UK, Europe, the Americas, and Australia work across the whole spectrum of threats, from climate breakdown to accidental entanglements in fishing gear.

Since we deal with complex, global issues, we take an integrated approach to finding solutions that create positive change. We do this through three main activities:

  1. Protecting whales and dolphins: Delivering conservation, research, and rescue, directly and in partnership with others to stop harmful activities such as whaling and captivity and create safe seas, free from the threat of pollution, collisions with vessels and accidental entanglement in fishing gear.
  2. Influencing decision-makers: Providing a powerful voice for whales and dolphins among governments and businesses.
  3. Campaigning for support: Delivering campaigns, education, science, and storytelling that inspire public support and action.

With over 30 years working through international fora, like the International Whaling Commission (IWC) and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), as well as engaging to integrate biodiversity into climate fora like United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), WDC is at the forefront of advising governments and industries around the world on strategies to address biodiversity loss, nature and climate.

Why is ocean wildlife such a critical component of a sustainability strategy?

Did you know the ocean actually absorbs more carbon and releases more oxygen than all of Earth’s forests combined, and whales play a critical role in this process? In fact, if we can help blue whales recover to the numbers seen in the ocean before commercial whaling, just a 100 or so years ago, it could have the same positive impact on the climate as planting over 280 million trees with huge additional benefits for wider ocean ecosystems and the billions of people globally who rely on the ocean for their food and livelihoods.

The ocean and its ecosystems are fundamental to life on earth. However, marine ecosystems are deteriorating at an alarming rate, and this has huge consequences to us as individuals and our businesses. The ocean and its complex ecosystems host at least 250,000 species and capture approximately 25% of all carbon dioxide emissions. Yet, unsustainable practices and under- investment are leading to a near-irreversible depletion of marine ecosystems, coastal and deep sea.

What makes contributing to this different from other, more common offsetting strategies?

Similar to planting trees and protecting rainforests, protecting whales and helping their populations to recover can help counter the damage we cause. However, what’s different about the ocean is that it historically has been difficult to quantify the CO2 ‘avoided or absorbed or offset’ as a result of investing in ocean-based solutions.

What WDC offers is a way to quantify the impact in different terms. Instead of simply saying you’re saving X tons of CO2, we help businesses understand what actions can be taken as a result of their investment. Beyond focusing on carbon, the projects focused around the ocean can contribute to a wider range of sustainability factors, aligning with your company’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Can you give some examples of your conservation efforts’ positive impact on ocean wildlife?

Last year we delivered a presentation at COP28 providing an up-to-date assessment on the impact climate change is having on whales and dolphins in front of key global leaders.

We’ve led groundbreaking projects to stop whales and dolphins from getting entangled in fishing gear. By working with agencies and governments, we are helping boats get more ‘pingers’, a type of device that emits sound at various audio frequencies to deter cetaceans from coming close to the boat, to preventing whales and dolphins from dying in fishing gear.

Additionally, we have been mapping 2/3 of the ocean (so far) for Important Marine Mammal Areas (IMMAs), identifying areas critical for feeding, breeding etc and feeding this information into decision making fora.

What advice would you give to corporate travel and sustainability managers looking to make a tangible impact in ocean conservation through their travel programs?

Businesses have an enormous, some would say unparalleled, impact on the world, including the ocean and nature. While this impact can have negative consequences, it also presents an immense opportunity. There are many ways travel and sustainability managers can bring a positive impact to ocean conservation:

  • Embed climate and biodiversity goals into your corporate travel strategy: Expand your sustainability initiatives to encompass biodiversity, ensuring you are actively supporting environmental conservation alongside emission reductions.
  • Evaluate suppliers’ commitment to biodiversity and ocean wildlife: During sourcing, prioritize air and hotel suppliers who actively invest in sustainability strategies, aligning their efforts with your biodiversity and ocean conservation goals.
  • Support innovative nature-based solutions: Go beyond traditional offsetting strategies by funding cutting-edge conservation and research initiatives that protect our oceans and enhance sustainability efforts.
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