Opportunity that comes from the ocean

Norwegian-born Wenche Grønbrekk is the Senior Advisor at the United Nations Global Compact for sustainable ocean business. She has recently visited Portugal and is strongly committed to sustainable development goal 14: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans

Each participant at Innovathon received a t-shirt with all 14 UN sustainable development goals printed on the back of the shirt. Wenche Grønbrekk, Senior Advisor at the United Nations Global Compact for sustainable ocean business, travelled from New York to Lisbon to talk in particular about the UN goal number 14; this discussion took place during the innovation marathon at Carcavelos Beach. Importantly, she left a message for those attending: oceans are an opportunity.

“There is a big discussion at the moment on the costs of a low carbon footprint future and on all the investments that will be attached to it. However, if we think more critically, we are presented with an opportunity. The sea is a multimillion-dollar industry. The transition will be good for the companies and countries involved”, she told Energiser, during the 24-hour event that brought together 120 students in the pursuit of sustainable ocean business solutions. “It is important to see so many people committed to this cause.”

Part of Wenche’s work, currently based in New York, is to disseminate business opportunities connected with the sustainability of the oceans and food industry, through the UN Global Compact. Last year, on World Oceans day, June 8th, the UN Global Compact Sustainable Ocean Business Action Platform was launched, which brings together thousands of companies involved in the ocean business.

“This is a global initiative. We work with leading companies in industries such as shipping, energy, fishing, technology and finance. Global Compact represents nearly ten thousand companies worldwide”, says the UN Senior Advisor and head of sustainability and risk at Cermaq Group AS, a Norwegian company that is widely renowned in the aquaculture sector – which inspired several competitor projects at Innovathon.

Cermaq, which mainly works with salmon, was ranked the most transparent salmon farming company in the world, by the Seafood Intelligence 2017 report. But Wenche, who holds a degree in management consulting and a Masters’ degree in International and Economic Relations, has no doubts that the energy transition goes far beyond the sea: “it is not only linked to the oceans”. “We are at a transitional stage that will affect all economic sectors”, she said during the event, reminding Portugal of its responsibility as host of the UN Ocean Conference 2020.

“Transition is everywhere. Some countries are more committed than others regarding their sustainability agendas. How do we transition to a greener economy? With everyone making a contribution, I am very optimistic.”