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Sustainable Finance and the Ocean Economy - You cannot go Green without Blue

The Institute recently welcomed Dr Darian McBain, world-recognised expert, speaker and author on sustainability, ESG, supply chains, business human rights and sustainable finance. Dr McBain was the first Chief Sustainability Officer at MAS and is recognised by the United Nations as a Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Pioneer. 

Her talk explained how the Blue Economy is inextricably linked to the Green Economy, as the Ocean is our largest carbon sink, and hence has a significant impact on our temperatures and carbon dioxide levels. Yet, the financial investment in this goal is the lowest out of all the UN SDGs, primarily because there is not enough information and data on the impact of the ocean on climate change and hence, investors cannot assess the financial risks of investment in this space. 

Her talk shifted the traditional economic focus towards the high seas and made her audience consider the scale of the blue economy beyond the expansive Ocean ecosystems including industries such as tourism, technology, aquaculture, shipping, mining (and particularly sand which is critical to construction) and energy sources. The audience was asked to think about some interesting facts, such as: over 90 % of global trade occurs via shipping, most of our energy systems rely on water for cooling, data centres are also dependent on water and this is set to increase with the use of AI, and if the ocean was a country it would be the third largest economy in the world. These insights are even more pertinent given Singapore’s location at the epicentre of East and West shipping lanes, and its reputation as a historical and now global trading hub. 

The event provoked discussion and questions from the students as they grappled with the multi-disciplinary issues of sustainable fishing, overfishing, piracy, pollution, rising sea levels, impact on communities with strong cultural affinity with the ocean and carbon nature-based solutions. 

One Year 12 student commented, ‘The topic of blue finance and ESG was really interesting because I've always had an interest in climate change and environmental issues as well as how finance can play a role in those issues.’ 

The audience engaged in a discussion with Dr McBain on why finding agreement between different stakeholders of the Ocean Economy is a challenge, and what progress has been made on agreements such as the International Maritime Organisation’s plans to reduce CO2 emissions by 2050. 

Dr McBain concluded that the ocean economy poses monumental challenges and championed a more collaborative approach between industry and the environment to achieve sustainable blue business solutions. The central learning from the talk was that ultimately you cannot go green without blue, highlighting to the students the importance of a Blue Finance approach alongside Green Finance to preserve the Ocean ecosystem.   

Dr Mc Bain’s talk was a keynote speech at Tanglin’s Finance Society conference ‘Money in Motion’. A successful forum attended by students from Tanglin, UWC, SJII and other schools, with support from The Institute and teachers from Tanglin and UWC. 


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