Australia’s challenge in the next decades is to realise the potential economic benefits of the marine estate while maintaining social and environmental values… Oceans are inextricably linked to some of the most pressing challenges facing society, both in Australia and globally, in the next decades: maritime sovereignty and security, energy security, food security, biodiversity conservation and ecosystem health, climate variability and change and the policy challenge of equitable resource allocation.

Oceans Policy Science Advisory Group (2013, report: Marine Nation 2025)

The facts

The ocean covers three quarters of the earth’s surface and represents 99% of the living space on the planet by volume. In addition, the ocean contains nearly 200,000 identified species, but actual numbers may lie in the millions. Some facts pointing out the importance of the ocean to us:

  • It absorbs about 30% of carbon dioxide produced by humans, buffering the impacts of global warming.
  • The market value of marine and coastal resources and industries is estimated at US$3 trillion per year, about 5% of global GDP.
  • More than 3 billion people depend on marine and coastal biodiversity for their livelihoods.

Unfortunately, as much as 40% of the ocean is heavily affected by pollution, depleted fisheries, loss of coastal habitats and other human activities, which means that increased efforts and interventions are needed to conserve and sustainably use ocean resources at all levels (UNDP, 2019).

The focus of SDG 14

The aim of sustainable development goal fourteen (SDG 14) is to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.  SDG 14 targets are aimed at reducing all marine pollution by 2025 and to conserve marine and coastal ecosystems by 2020. Management plans will be implemented to prevent over-fishing, illegal fishing, and to rehabilitate marine life. Consequently, the aim is to conserve at least 10% of all marine areas by 2020 (SDG Knowledge Platform 2019).

How is SDG 14 relevant to business and what can business do?

The world’s oceans play an essential part in human survival – without water, life is impossible. Apart from providing us with drinking water, food, and rain, our oceans also serve as a platform for water transportation and trade.

As mentioned above, the ocean helps lessen the effects of global warming by absorbing about 30% of carbon dioxide, it creates employment by being the biggest source of protein on the planet and has a market value of an estimated US$3 trillion annually (about 5% of global GDP). Beyond fishing and aquaculture, oceans and coastal areas support tourism and many other industries. For millions of people in developing countries, the oceans and seas are their salvation. These benefits to livelihood must be balanced with environmental considerations (UN Global Compact, 2019).

According the United Nations’ Global Compact Network Australia, companies:

  • Should review the use of plastics throughout their operations – from how plastic is used through the value chain and in their products (e.g. excessive packaging). Inaction on use of plastics contributes significantly to ocean degradation. 
  • Those involved in the sale of seafood, should ensure it comes from sustainable sources and have a role to play in community education.
  • Businesses that use the services of cargo ships within their value chain also should investigate the environmental credentials of the vessels being used and consider this in procurement decisions.

More broadly, any steps to mitigate climate change will help oceans as well as the global environment.

Interaction of SDG 14 with the other SDGs

A recent Guide to SDG Interactions: From Science to Implementation published by the International Council for Science (ICSU, 2017) highlights that all SDGs interact with one another.  By design, they are an integrated set of global priorities and objectives that are fundamentally interdependent. The report further finds that SDG 14 is one of the SDGs that is most synergistic with others, both positively and negatively. Understanding these interactions is seen as important to ensure that that target is achieved whilst also ensuring that progress made in some areas is not made at the expense of progress in others. Examples of these interactions include:

SDG 14 is a critical enabler of poverty alleviation, and environmentally sustainable economic growth and social well-being (‘blue growth’), particularly in small island developing states (SIDS) and least developed countries (LDCs).

Oceans and seas are major sources of water in the hydrological cycle and therefore require sustainable management through integrated water management that addresses the multiplicity and diversity of water actors.

Increasing the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix and improving energy efficiency, reliability and affordability will enhance sustainability and help reduce ocean acidification through reduced carbon dioxide emissions.

Responsible consumption and production, such as sustainable management of natural resources or the reduction of wastes, are critical for ending overfishing, sustainably managing marine and coastal ecosystems and reducing marine pollution.

SDG Video

The video below is created by our CR3+ partner Hanken School of Economics (Finland). In the first part of the video Dr Nikodemus Solitander discusses the targets set for SDG 14 and focuses particularly on reducing marine pollution (target 4.1) and sustainable fishing (target 4.4). These targets are further explained by Amanda Sundell, founder of the organisation DROPP – a social enterprise that donates all of its profits to help protect the Baltic Sea. Amanda talks about how DROPP came about, its two products which are spring water and lightweight reusable water bottles, their partnership with the Baltic Sea Action Group and universities, and their system of donating 100% of their profit to support the environmental rehabilitation of the Baltic Sea.

Please enjoy the presentation.

If you would like access to the full video to use in your teaching, please contact Dr Swati Nagpal.

This blog is part of the SDG Series, a series that focuses on the 17 Sustainable Development Goals set by the United Nations, in the lead up to the CR3+ Conference in October 2019.


More blogs in the SDG Series:
- An introduction to the Sustainable Development Goals
- SDG Series: Sustainable Development Goal 1
- SDG Series: Sustainable Development Goal 2
- SDG Series: Sustainable Development Goal 3
- SDG Series: Sustainable Development Goal 4
- SDG Series: Sustainable Development Goal 5
- SDG Series: Sustainable Development Goal 6
- SDG Series: Sustainable Development Goal 7
- SDG Series: Sustainable Development Goal 8
- SDG Series: Sustainable Development Goal 9
- SDG Series: Sustainable Development Goal 10
- SDG Series: Sustainable Development Goal 11
- SDG Series: Sustainable Development Goal 12
- SDG Series: Sustainable Development Goal 13