Australian SDGs Hub For Business


Oceans help regulate weather and climate, are a primary source of protein to more than three billion people1 and employ millions of workers. With the global population expected to reach 9.7 billion by 2050, oceans and inland waters are vital to future food security.2

Having absorbed some 30% of the carbon dioxide produced by humans since the beginning of the industrial revolution, oceans have become more acidic, affecting the life cycles of many marine organisms.3

Compounding the problem, the oceans have absorbed more than 90% of the additional heat in the Earth system since the 1970s, humankind has overexploited some 30 per cent of world fish stocks and returned vast quantities of pollution in exchange.2

At least 8 million tonnes of plastic enters the ocean each year.4 According to one estimate, the ocean could contain more plastics than fish come 2050. Microplastics are of particular concern as they are ingested by marine organisms. For humans who eat seafood, microscopic particles are able to move from the gut to other parts of the body. 5

Australia’s marine jurisdiction, the third largest in the world, covers nearly 14 million square kilometres. Its marine environment contributes approximately A$50 billion per year to the economy and this is projected to double by 2025. 6

The challenge is to balance economic and conservation priorities.

Climate extremes have caused widespread coral bleaching, loss of kelp forests and fish and invertebrate deaths in waters around Australia.4

Although better placed than most other OECD countries to perform well on Goal 14, Australia’s fish stocks are overexploited at a rate of 15.2%, according to one assessment.7


How is this relevant to business?

The market value of marine and coastal resources and industries has been estimated at US$3 trillion annually, or about 5% of global GDP.8

Beyond fishing and aquaculture, oceans and coastal areas support tourism and many other industries. For millions of people in developing countries, the oceans and seas are their salvation. These benefits to livelihood must be balanced with environmental considerations.


What can business do?

Inaction on use of plastics contributes significantly to ocean degradation. Companies should review the use of plastics throughout their operations – from how plastic is used through the value chain and in their products (e.g. excessive packaging).

Those involved in the sale of seafood, should ensure it comes from sustainable sources and have a role to play in community education.

Businesses that use the services of cargo ships within their value chain also should investigate the environmental credentials of the vessels being used and consider this in procurement decisions.

More broadly, any steps to mitigate climate change will help oceans as well as the global environment.

 Act Responsibly

  • Review plastic packaging requirements and look to reduce, reuse or recycle
  • Research, analyse and value natural marine capital and ecosystem services. Use these values in decision making, impact monitoring and assessment, internal management reporting and external integrated reporting
  • Implement improved waste treatment systems to avoid releasing pollutants into the natural environment which could filter back to the oceans and seas
  • Where production sites are operating near coastlines or large bodies of water, establish marine conservation areas and contribute to research and planning for protection of marine life, as well as human livelihoods dependent on these ecosystems
  • Adhere to – and seek to exceed – environmental standards on marine shipping and ship-breaking
  • Develop and adopt innovative technology, components and treatment systems which reduce waste released into oceans

Find Opportunity

  • Publicise company targets and achievements in relation to SDG 14
  • Adopt new power technologies for cargo and cruise ships, such as near zero-emission fuel cells, to reduce emissions from idling diesel engines at ports
  • Collaborate with port and harbor authorities to increase port management efficiency and sustainability in order to reduce the risk of marine pollution and contamination
  • Collaborate with other stakeholders to collect and utilise marine plastic waste in product manufacturing
  • Ensure supplier and distributor companies shipping goods by sea adhere to environmental standards on marine shipping
  • Develop innovative solutions to preserve marine resources and share expertise with Governments and other stakeholders to better mitigate and manage risks arising from fishing and aquaculture
  • Further research and quantify the value of ecosystem services (such as storm surge regulating services of mangrove swamps) to send an economic signal for increased investment in the protection and restoration of natural habitats


Links between Goal 3 and the UN Global Compact’s ten principles

Human Rights & Labour (UN Global Compact Principles 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6)

Goal 14 intersects at several points with the Human Rights and Labour Principles, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which states that in no case may a people be deprived of its own means of subsistence. The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights connects to Goal 14 targets around pollution reduction and the need to address ocean acidification, as it states that everyone has the right to enjoy the highest standard of physical and mental health, which requires improvement to all aspects of environmental and industrial hygiene.

Environment (UN Global Compact Principles 7, 8, 9)

The Life Below Water goal is closely linked to all three environmental principles. Climate change and resulting acidification cuts to the heart of Principle Seven, which calls for a precautionary approach to environmental challenges. Principle Eight promotes greater environmental responsibility and Nine promotes the use of environmentally friendly technologies.

Anti-Corruption (UN Global Compact Principle 10)

Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing is one of the greatest threats to aquatic ecosystems. In 2003, the value of such fishing was estimated to be US$10 billion to US$23 billion, representing between 11.1 million and 25.9 billion tonnes of fish.9


1 United Nations,

2 Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (2016),

3 Our Ocean 2016,

4 #Cleanseas Campaign,

5 Parliament of Australia (2016),

6 Department of the Environment and Energy (2016),

7 Bertelsmann Stiftung and Sustainable Development Solutions Network (2015),

8 Inter-parliamentary Union (2017),

9 Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (2015),


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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, as recalled in paragraph 158 of The Future We Want



Clean Shipping Index allows cargo owners to select clean ships and quality ship operators. It can be used by transport buyers to calculate and minimise their environmental footprint.

EcoVadis Assessment provides CSR ratings and scorecards covering 21 CSR indicators, 150 commodities and 110 countries.

Sedex Global is a not-for-profit membership organisation with the world’s largest collaborative platform for sharing responsible sourcing data on supply chains.

The Global Impact Investing Network’s Impact Reporting & Investment Standards (IRIS) is a free catalogue of generally-accepted performance metrics used by leading impact investors to measure social, environmental, and financial success, evaluate deals and grow credibility.

The Integrated Biodiversity Assessment Tool (IBAT for Business) is a biodiversity screening tool for a range of financial institutions, including the International Finance Corporation, The World Bank, and a number of Equator Principles Financial Institutions and OECD Export Credit Agencies. It integrates information on globally recognised biodiversity, drawing upon the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

The Interactive River Basin Database allows businesses to find basins by Latitude/Longitude points and by country.

For more goal-related tools, go to the Inventory of Business Tools webpage on the SDG Compass website. Businesses can explore and find commonly used tools when assessing their impact on SDGs