Corporate Ocean Responsibility

Paul Holthus -

By Paul Holthus, CEO, World Ocean Council.

Seabed mining industry leadership collaborates with other ocean industries for sustainable development.

Environmental issues are an important concern for the emerging seabed mining industry, which is estimated to supply 5% of the world’s minerals by 2020. By 2030, this is projected to rise to 10% of the world’s minerals, with seabed minerals worth USD 12bn in economic value. The possible impacts will differ, depending on deposit type, duration of the mining, the size and area affected, the nature of the impact and the potential for recovery. The extraction processes expected to have the greatest effects are disaggregation, lifting, dewatering, increased sound, and concerns that sediment plumes might impact ecosystems beyond the mining site. There are also concerns that marine mining might have a number of socio-economic effects related to possible interactions with fisheries, maritime traffic, or submarine cables.

Seabed mining companies and other ocean industries are focused on understanding their ocean footprint and implementing the policies and practices expected of responsible operators. However, the ocean is an inter-connected global marine ecosystem. Thus, although many good people in good companies are working to address the impacts of their offshore activities, the best efforts by a single company or an entire industry will not be enough to address shared issues and their cumulative effects.

Ocean industry collaboration and continuous improvement are essential to addressing these shared marine environmental issues. An important new way in which this takes place is via the World Ocean Council (WOC) – an international, cross-sectoral business leadership alliance on ocean sustainable development. WOC member companies discuss and share key insights from their own work or their sector. Relationship building and dialogue strengthen cross-sector efforts to address the concerns about industry impacts on the marine environment.

The leadership companies within the WOC are working together on the most practical and best ways to be responsible stewards of the areas in which they operate and to foster knowledge exchange among industries. WOC members include sustainability leaders from seabed mining, shipping, oil and gas, fishing, aquaculture, land-based mining, offshore renewables, technology, maritime legal, investment and other ocean industries.

The WOC is working to catalyse proactive, collaborative leadership by ocean industries to tackle the ocean challenges at the multi-industry and global scale in which they are occurring. In this way, it facilitates the diverse ocean industries to interact to define problems, assess risks, support science, develop solutions and test technology. Synergies and economies of scale can create business benefits, creating additional incentives for responsible, leadership companies to collaborate with like-minded peers in the ocean business community.

As more companies distinguish themselves by joining this international ocean industry leadership alliance, WOC programmes are being developed to tackle shared sustainability challenges, e.g. ocean policy, industry data collection, the Arctic, marine spatial planning, biofouling/invasive species, marine debris, marine sound, etc.

One cross-sectoral marine environmental challenge is anthropogenic sound and its possible effects on marine mammals and other marine life. Anthropogenic marine sound results from oil and gas industry activities, shipping, port development, dredging, wind farms, fishing, geophysical research by universities and government agencies – and from future marine mining activities. The WOC has developed a multi-sectoral working group to help ensure that the results of research and risk assessment in one sector are made available to other sectors.

The working group will identify gaps and needs in the collective ocean industry efforts to understand and address this multi-industry issue. These efforts help to ensure industry conducts environmental studies and risk assessments prior to operations, and that mitigation measures are carefully designed and implemented to address site-specific environmental conditions, to ensure that sound exposures and vessel traffic do not harm marine mammals or other endangered species.


In addition to 80+ WOC members, the WOC network includes 34,000+ ocean industry and media stakeholders around the world. The WOC Sustainable Ocean Summit (SOS) is recognised as the pre-eminent international ocean business community conference on “Corporate Ocean Responsibility”, with the 3rd SOS in Singapore (9-11 November 2015) at the Marina Mandarin Hotel. Convening 200 international, high-level ocean industry participants in a unique cross-sectoral forum to shape the ocean sustainability agenda, it addresses emerging ocean issues, and develops strategic alliances on ocean sustainability. The theme of this year’s event is “Sustainable Development and Growing the Blue Economy – the Next 50 Years”. 

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