Economist World Ocean Summit Blue Economy Blue Growth

By Dorothy Maxwell
Friday 05 June 2015

The Economist World Ocean Summit 2015 in association with National Geographic took place at the The Oitavos, Cascais in Portugal on June 4th-5th.


More than 350 government ministers, business leaders, and NGOs from across the globe convened to discuss how to make the transition from a conventional ocean economy to a new ‘blue’ economy. The “blue economy” is an emerging new economic and business paradigm for the ocean. It offers a vision of the ocean and coasts as a new source of economic growth, job creation and investment. According to the Economist, viewed narrowly, this could simply mean the beginning of a new and intensified phase of conventional economic activity. Yet, a more expansive interpretation sees the blue economy as an opportunity to invest responsibly and sustainably in the oceans. In this “win-win” scenario, the private sector, acting through enlightened self-interest, champions both economic development and environmental protection. Current reality clearly falls short of this ideal. Much economic activity in the ocean remains unsustainable, involving pollution or over-exploitation. Governments and business alike increasingly recognise the need for a new model. But what should that model look like, and how will we implement it? On one matter there is wide agreement: solutions designed to simply limit economic activity are unrealistic, and miss opportunities for conservation as well as for development.

Natural capital framed a fundamental part of the topics covered. Putting a valuation on natural capital, and incorporating it in costing of public- and private-sector activities in the ocean, is often said to be the cornerstone of any future blue economy. This was discussed in the following panel session:

Why does natural capital matter?


Torsten Thiele, Founder, Global Ocean Trust
Dorothy Maxwell, Director, The Sustainable Business Group and author Valuing Natural Capital Future Proofing Business and Finance
Richard Mattison, Chief executive officer, Trucost
Carl Obst, Honorary research fellow, University of Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute

Andrew Palmer, business affairs editor, The Economist

Discussion Topics:

  • Why is it proving so difficult to sell business on the idea of valuing natural capital?
  • Does the ocean present a special set of difficulties in this area?
  • What are the lessons from how we deal with greenhouse-gas emissions?
  • Do different sectors (fishing and renewable power, for example) need different pricing systems? Does our current approach need sharpening?
  • What would shadow-pricing mechanisms look like in these sectors?

More information:

Website: World Ocean Summit

Facebook: World Ocean Summit
Twitter: @Economist_WOS
LinkedIn: World Ocean Summit group