Recently, Laurence Fink, CEO of the world’s largest investment company BlackRock, issued a watershed, call to action. The message? Corporations need to pay attention to their “Societal Impact” or risk losing investment. On the same day, McDonald’s made a similarly positive announcement. By 2025, all food packaging in the global network of 40,000 restaurants will be renewable, recyclable, or from certified biodegradable sources. These are a series of landslide victories for positive human impact on marine life.
Good news from the corporate realm brought to mind our good friend, #OceanAlly Ief Winckelmans, and his work with the Ocean Impact Alliance. Ief was a speaker at our 2016 Blue Ocean Summit. The words he spoke years ago help us understand how this shift in industry occurs.
Entrepreneur Ief Winckelmans credits his current work supporting the growth and development of sustainable companies to the connection he made with the ocean as a child. The son of an avid deep-sea treasure hunter, Ief developed a passion for the ocean at a young age. Out on the boat with his father, he witnessed something that stuck with him. The same garbage truck that had picked up trash at his home that morning was dumping it into the ocean that afternoon.
“This shocking experience was also an epiphany,” said Ief.
It set him on a long path to create positive human impacts on marine ecosystems. Winckelmans first launched a successful career as an Internet Pioneer and ICTentrepreneur, but was always looking for the most eco-friendly solutions and practices.
Through his work, Ief spent a lot of time in China. He witnessed firsthand the massive environmental damage that accompanied China’s swift industrial growth. Devastated by the speed and size of the destruction, Ief reflected on what his next mission would be.
“What can I do with my expertise and knowledge to have the biggest impact?” Ief asked himself.
With his passion for the ocean, business and venture funding background, he created OCEAN IMPACT ALLIANCE. Its mission: Supporting visionaries, innovating the future and funding for impact. The organization harnesses a network of conservation scientists, business experts, philanthropists and investors. OIA uses their knowledge to help ‘ecopreneurs’ succeed in a competitive global market.
In Ief’s opinion, to create a sustainable society, we must reinvent the way we live and do business. He also believes that a strong economy is the cornerstone of a thriving society. Therefore, we MUST find ways to make our economic activities sustainable.
In his search for disruptive, sustainable projects, Winckelmans found a gap. The biggest obstacle he found was not a lack of willingness from industry or a shortage of funding for innovative projects. The problem, it turns out, has more to do with communication. Conservationists, entrepreneurs and investors move in different circles and tend to speak very different ‘languages.’ This often makes it difficult to communicate with each other.
With OIA, Ief connects great ‘ecofriendly’ ideas to the right partners. Maybe even more importantly, he helps a rapidly growing network of responsible investors find opportunities. These investments generate strong financial returns AND have a positive impact on the environment.
“The evidence is clear, we are destroying our planet, we don’t need a (political) debate, we must focus on finding solutions,” Ief said. “Mankind has proven over and over again that we are masters in problem-solving.”
OCEAN IMPACT ALLIANCE is on a quest to find the environmental problem-solvers and help them along the path from creative idea to real-world solution. Ecopreneurs can submit their projects to the OCEAN IMPACT ALLIANCE and have the ecological impact assessed by experts from all backgrounds . To avoid “greenwashing,” robust assessment tools are used to study and measure potential impact.
Ecopreneurs early in the start-up phase find help with the development of their projects. Once a business is well-defined, projects are introduced to the most suitable funding partners. Funding changes based on the type of project and its stage of development. Sources of investment come from grants, donors, government subsidy programs or private and institutional investment partners.
As a last remark, Ief suggested that the conservation community should not see industry as the ultimate evil.
“Corporations are led by people, who also have children and who also want them to have a future. We should not stigmatize industry, but show them that eco-friendly innovation is possible and often even more profitable without all the harm done to our oceans and our planet,” Ief said. “Let’s show industry and the finance community that ecofriendly thinking can lead to a better, stronger and healthier society, a society that is built on a strong economic, ecological and social foundation.”
If communication is the challenge, this can be the first step. SHARE this article with your networks with the tag #OceanInnovation. Use the knowledge here to arm yourself so you can be a conduit for positive human impacts on the ocean. Join our Network and attend our upcoming Summit to #SustaintheBlue.
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