The WOC was launched in 2008 as a nonprofit organization to advance industry leadership and collaboration in ocean sustainable development, science and stewardship. The WOC is an international organization registered in the US and the UK, has a global footprint of action and Membership and is administrated by the Secretariat under the direction of a Board of Directors comprised of senior industry representatives from around the world.
Since its inception as a network of ocean businesses concerned with ocean stewardship, the WOC has grown to become the only international and cross-sectoral industry leadership alliance focused on “Corporate Ocean Responsibility” on a global scale.
Aligning core ocean business interests with sustainable development is critical to achieving healthy oceans. The WOC was created to address the Ocean Business Community’s needs, opportunities and challenges for a coordinated cross sectoral approach to ocean sustainable development, responsible use and environmental management.
In the mid-1990s, Mr Paul Holthus was co-leading the Global Marine Program of IUCN-The World Conservation Union. Outreach to ocean industries confirmed the business community’s interest in ocean sustainability issues, but revealed the limitations of what responsible companies could achieve individually. Many companies were interested in developing inter-industry leadership and collaboration as a way to better address ocean issues, but saw no means of making this happen.
The need and opportunity for a global industry alliance on ocean sustainable development became clear and compelling.
Paul set out in the early 2000s to build a network of ocean-related companies concerned with the health of the marine environment and began organizing private sector panels at the biennial multi-stakeholder Global Oceans Conferences held at UNESCO. The industry panelists were energized by the opportunity to meet colleagues from other sectors who were also concerned about ocean stewardship. They encouraged Paul to expand the opportunities for a global marine industry interaction. Building on this, international Business and Industry Leaders Roundtables on Ocean Sustainability were twice convened (Lisbon, 2005; Paris, 2006), at which participants called for the creation of an ongoing structure and process for industry interaction on ocean sustainable development.
With this steadily growing interest and momentum from the Ocean Business Community, the World Ocean Council was registered in early 2008 in the US (and later in the UK) as a nonprofit organization focused on working with the Ocean Business Community on ocean sustainability, science and stewardship.
Numerous organizations from the diverse global Ocean Business Community interested in “Corporate Ocean Responsibility” have since signed up to become Members. The representation of various sectors and industries has allowed the WOC to have an impactful contribution to a growing number of governmental and intergovernmental bodies, and to ensure the engagement of the Ocean Business Community in ocean policy formation.
The WOC organized the first international, cross-sectoral ocean industry conference on “Corporate Ocean Responsibility” in 2010, when the inaugural Sustainable Ocean Summit (SOS) was held in Belfast, Ireland.
With a commitment to advancing the development and implementation of industry-driven solutions to ocean sustainability challenges, subsequent Sustainable Ocean Summits were convened in Washington DC 2013 on “Oceans 2050 — The Ocean Business Community and Sustainable Seas”, in Singapore 2015 on “Sustainable Development and Growing the Blue Economy – the Next 50 Years”, in Rotterdam 2016 on “Ocean 2030: Sustainable Development Goals and the Ocean Business Community”, in Halifax 2017 on “The Ocean Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 14): Business Leadership and Business Opportunities”, and in Hong Kong 2018 on “Ocean Sustainable Development – Connecting Asia and the World”.
Now an annual occurrence, the 7th Sustainable Ocean Summit on “Investing in Ocean Futures: Finance and Innovation in the Blue Economy” will convene in Paris on 20-22 November 2019.