New Initiative to Promote Ocean Health and Create Global Dialogue

ocean pollution plastics
(file photo)

Published Mar 3, 2021 5:56 PM by The Maritime Executive

Back to Blue, a new initiative from The Economist Group and The Nippon Foundation, is a three-year collaboration focusing on ocean pollution and the escalating challenges posed by plastic pollution and, less visibly, pollution from nutrients and chemical contaminants that are damaging ocean life and the ecosystems. The program will create original research, stimulate dialogue and explore new solutions to the problems posed by pollution in the ocean.

In announcing their new initiative, they said that The Back to Blue initiative brings together two organizations that share a common understanding of the need for evidence-based approaches and solutions to the pressing issues faced by the ocean. The goal is to build on their individual efforts to create a platform from which to accelerate momentum for improving ocean health.

During remarks at the signing of a memorandum of understanding at the eight annual World Ocean Summit, Yohei Sasakawa, chairman of The Nippon Foundation, expressed his belief that “we are much aware of the land-based problems that occur around us... however, when it comes to understanding the multifaceted problems of the ocean that covers 70 percent of the earth's surface, I believe that our understanding is still very poor. This is already a threat to human security for every individual on this planet.”

In January 2021, The Economist Group, in cooperation with The Nippon Foundation, undertook two related surveys - one of industry and public-sector executives, the other of the general public - to better understand their views and priorities around key ocean issues. The survey was conducted to provide a reference point for the Back to Blue initiative among the global audience, as well as to seek feedback on the direction and relevance of the initiative, and to gauge progress towards the goals.

Interviewing 4,000 people, the first surveys identified place plastic pollution (59.6% of respondents) and chemical pollution (39.1%) as the top two concerns, followed by climate change (31.1%).

Lord Deighton, chairman of The Economist Group, said: “We have developed our passion for the ocean. We held our first World Ocean Summit in 2012 after we had argued in the newspaper that the seas were in trouble and that human activities were having a profound impact on ocean health. A decade or so later we are more committed than ever to our vision of an ocean in robust health and with a vital economy. The ocean is too big to fail.”

The Economist Group, through its World Ocean Initiative and World Ocean Summit, has been fostering a global conversation on the greatest challenges facing the seas. The Nippon Foundation - with its diverse programs building and nurturing ocean networks, research, and professionals - has a global reputation for championing ocean science and health. 

“Defining and heading towards a pollution-free ocean is an enormous challenge, as we are already seeing in the many extraordinary efforts to address plastic pollution,” said Charles Goddard, editorial director at The Economist Group. “We hope Back to Blue can contribute vital new knowledge and perspectives on contaminants in the ocean, and to the global architecture of engagement needed to address them. The urgency is very real.”