Nature and Biodiversity

Blue economy: how business leaders and scientists are improving ocean health

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Global business are solving the biggest challenges facing a sustainable blue economy to improve ocean health

Global business are solving the biggest challenges facing a sustainable blue economy to improve ocean health Image: UNSPLASH


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Sustainable blue economy

  • Friends of Ocean Action at the World Economic Forum, alongside partners, is bringing together global business leaders and scientists to tackle climate change, equity and biodiversity loss.
  • The 100 largest companies by revenue in the blue economy earned over $1 trillion in 2018.
  • The Ocean 100 Dialogues offer an opportunity for companies to exchange best practices and lead collectively on corporate ocean stewardship.

The impact on ocean health.

From the Pacific to the Arctic, humans are causing the ocean to warm, rise and become more acidic. As a result of the Ocean 100 study, global ocean businesses have responded to a call from scientists to collaborate and drive action for ocean health.

Many ocean-based industries such as offshore wind and cruise tourism are growing faster than the global economy and, in many cases, exponentially, in what has been called a “blue acceleration”. According to pre-pandemic data, the 100 largest companies by revenue in the blue economy earned an estimated 60% of all revenues from activities connected to the ocean in 2018. In real terms this amounts to approximately $1.1 trillion. This group – the Ocean 100 – comprises the world’s biggest businesses set to benefit from economic use of the ocean.

Given their size and influence, these companies are in a unique position to lead transformative change across industries including travel and tourism, energy, oil and gas and shipping and transportation. As the UN Decade of Ocean Science began, the World Economic Forum and the Friends of Ocean Action partnered with Duke University, Lancaster University, Stockholm Resilience Centre at Stockholm University, McKinsey & Company and the World Ocean Council, in close collaboration with the UN Global Compact, and created the Ocean 100 Dialogues to drive positive impact.

The Ocean 100 Dialogues initiative is convening leaders across the blue economy to create a science-business platform to protect the ocean and accelerate voluntary projects to solve the biggest challenges facing a sustainable and equitable blue economy. This initiative is driving cross-industry corporate action by engaging the world’s largest ocean-dependent companies including Ørsted, Total Energies, Carnival Cruises, Neptune Energy, and others. Companies will share their expertise and develop science-based corporate initiatives for more equitable and sustainable ocean use.


The challenge with protecting the ocean health.

As global populations and economies grow, the world needs more from the ocean – food, energy, materials and space. But this growth in demand has often been accompanied by trajectories of degradation and inequity in access and benefits from ocean use.

Ocean-based industries provide income, stimulate growth and generate new opportunities. They have also, however, contributed to the degradation of marine ecosystems, conflicts with small-scale users and the loss of biodiversity that often affects lower-income, coastal and island states the most.

One pressing challenge is to sustain healthy ocean ecosystems as economic activity continues to expand and climate impacts accelerate while maintaining access for traditional and small-scale uses. Yet the ocean is also inextricably linked to much broader global sustainable development goals – including increased resilience to climate change and improved social equity.

"At TotalEnergies, our ambition is to become a major player in the energy transition. We are fully aware of the challenges of marine environments and biodiversity related to our offshore oil, gas and wind activities. On these matters, collaboration is of essence to make sustainable progress. Joining the Ocean 100 initiative motivates us to upgrade our global consciousness and action plans in favour of the ocean; it is also a platform to learn from other major ocean multinationals and take action to promote a sustainable ocean economy."

Patrick Pouyanné, CEO, TotalEnergies

Our approach to supporting a sustainable blue economy.

The Ocean 100 Dialogues is driving collective stewardship across ocean-linked industries to generate global impact and address the connectivity between ocean health and broader net zero and sustainable development objectives.

Through these science-based dialogues, companies and scientists are co-creating commitments and actions that address unresolved ocean-wide challenges while raising the bar for new industry norms and standards to meet the SDGs.

Sustainability efforts across the Ocean 100 companies and the sectors they represent often operate in silos. The Ocean 100 Dialogues offer an opportunity for companies to support existing efforts by governments and civil society to lead on corporate ocean stewardship in the blue economy.


By addressing ocean-wide challenges, the Ocean 100 Dialogues is working towards a sustainable and equitable ocean economy and contributing to the achievement of global targets agreed at COP15. In 2022, science-business dialogues intensified around blue carbon investments as an innovative tool to conserve coastal ecosystems. This has enhanced knowledge sharing and resulted in a number of voluntary initiatives from member companies, which are expected to strengthen this emerging carbon market as well as benefiting the ocean and coastal communities beyond carbon sequestration.

In 2023, members of Ocean 100 Dialogues are exploring cross-industry commitments to achieve net-positive marine biodiversity impact. These initiatives include mapping operational overlaps with ocean biodiversity to improve transparency. This work could support a synchronized data platform for robust area-based management measures to conserve biodiversity.

The majority of companies connected with the Ocean 100 have already placed sustainability high on the agenda, with a particular focus on climate change. Working with the Friends of Ocean Action community and engaging in the Ocean 100 Dialogues will ensure these commitments are acted on urgently while expanding the blue economy.

How can you get involved?

We welcome your ideas, feedback and expression of interest in this cross-industry and science-business initiative.

Companies and organizations interested in contributing to the dialogues are invited to engage now around the current sprints on blue carbon and marine biodiversity loss, and to help shape future sprints. Find out more about the Ocean 100 Dialogues and get in touch here.

To get connected and involved as a partner of the World Economic Forum, contact us.

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Nature and BiodiversitySustainable DevelopmentClimate Action
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McKinsey & CompanyØrstedTotalEnergies
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