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 in to 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.
As Paul Holthus was co-leading the Global Marine Program of IUCN-The World Conservation Union in the mid-1990s, 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” signed up to become Members. The representation of various sectors and industries allowed the WOC to have an impactful contribution to a growing number of governmental and intergovernmental bodies and to ensuring the engagement of 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 first inaugural Sustainable Ocean Summit (SOS) (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 in 2013 on “Oceans 2050 — The Ocean Business Community and Sustainable Seas”, in Singapore in 2015 on “Sustainable Development and Growing the Blue Economy – the Next 50 Years” and in Rotterdam in 2016 on “Ocean 2030: Sustainable Development Goals and the Ocean Business Community”.
Now an annual occurrence, the 5th Sustainable Ocean Summit on “The Ocean Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 14): Business Leadership and Business Opportunities” will be held in Halifax, Canada on 29 November-1 December 2017.