UN SDG 14: Life below water | Best Practices & Business Implications

by Sanjay Tugnait, President FCCCO


SDG 14 is about "Life below water" and is one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals established by the United Nations in 2015. Its aim is to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.


Our rainwater, drinking water, weather, climate, coastlines, much of our food, and even the oxygen in the air we breathe, are all ultimately provided and regulated by the sea. However, at the current time, there is a continuous deterioration of coastal waters owing to pollution, and ocean acidification is having an adversarial effect on the functioning of ecosystems and biodiversity. This is also negatively impacting small scale fisheries. Saving our ocean must remain a priority. Marine biodiversity is critical to the health of people and our planet. Marine protected areas need to be effectively managed and well-resourced and regulations need to be put in place to reduce overfishing, marine pollution and ocean acidification.


The Goal has ten targets to be achieved by 2030

14.1 By 2025, prevent and significantly reduce marine pollution of all kinds, from land-based activities, including marine debris and nutrient pollution

14.2 By 2020, sustainably manage and protect marine and coastal ecosystems to avoid significant adverse impacts, including by strengthening their resilience, and act for their restoration in order to achieve healthy and productive oceans

14.3 Minimize and address the impacts of ocean acidification, including through enhanced scientific cooperation at all levels

14.4 By 2020, effectively regulate harvesting and end overfishing, illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and destructive fishing practices and implement science-based management plans, in order to restore fish stocks in the shortest time feasible, at least to levels that can produce maximum sustainable yield as determined by their biological characteristics

14.5 By 2020, conserve at least 10 per cent of coastal and marine areas, consistent with national and international law and based on the best available scientific information

14.6 By 2020, prohibit certain forms of fisheries subsidies which contribute to overcapacity and overfishing, eliminate subsidies that contribute to illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and refrain from introducing new such subsidies, recognizing that appropriate and effective special and differential treatment for developing and least developed countries should be an integral part of the World Trade Organization fisheries subsidies negotiation

14.7 By 2030, increase the economic benefits to Small Island developing States and least developed countries from the sustainable use of marine resources, including through sustainable management of fisheries, aquaculture and tourism

14.A Increase scientific knowledge, develop research capacity and transfer marine technology, taking into account the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission Criteria and Guidelines on the Transfer of Marine Technology, in order to improve ocean health and to enhance the contribution of marine biodiversity to the development of developing countries, in particular small island developing States and least developed countries

14.B Provide access for small-scale artisanal fishers to marine resources and markets

14.C Enhance the conservation and sustainable use of oceans and their resources by implementing international law as reflected in UNCLOS, which provides the legal framework for the conservation and sustainable use of oceans and their resources


Practices from Canada: UN SDG Goal 14

For the Government of Canada, one of the most important initiatives is the establishment of marine protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures, including marine refuges. Marine protected areas are defined geographical spaces in the water that are dedicated and managed to conserve and protect unique areas, ecologically significant species and their habitats, and representative marine environments.


The Government of Canada has adopted Marine spatial Planning as the way forward in integrated ocean planning and management to address threats to marine ecosystems. By working with provinces, territories, and Indigenous partners in a collaborative and transparent way, Marine Spatial Planning supports the protection of healthy marine ecosystems while fostering sustainable economic growth.


Best Practices & Business Implications

All businesses, regardless of size and sector, depend upon and impact on biodiversity and ecosystem services. Companies should implement monitoring and evaluation programmes to track progress of implementation at different levels of their operations, whether at the product level or throughout the supply chain. This information is crucial to support decision-making processes, inform project management and report to external and internal stakeholders on the company’s performance. Companies can develop SMART indicators that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time bound. Although indicators will vary from project to project, SMART indicators can show the success or failure of actions carried out by the company and includes the establishment of periodic reviews and validation of the plans of action. Corporate sustainability reporting is an effective way for companies to communicate on their performance. Reporting can also legitimize efforts and build credibility with stakeholders.


There are various ways that companies can report on their BES-related activities. Companies can become certified through management systems such as ISO 14001, or they can use guidelines for reporting such as the GRI or the UNGC’s Communication on Progress. The GRI promotes a standardized approach to sustainability reporting that is based on environmental, social and economic indicators. At FCCCO, our member company - Geocycle, is a leading provider of industrial, agricultural and municipal waste management services worldwide. They have been working on a case study for reducing Ocean waste program as part of SDG 14 with an aim to galvanise the broader business community to prioritize the ocean waste prevention. Theyapply the proven technology of ‘co-processing’ and utilize existing facilities in cement industry to resolve waste challenges sustainably. This enables them to recover energy and recycle materials from waste. Their contribution is towards a regenerative, circular economy that closes resource cycles. Geocycle manages more than 10 million tons of waste annually, thus making a tangible contribution to bringing society a step closer to a zero-waste future.


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