Sustainable Development of Oceans and Coasts: The Role of the Private Sector

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Oceans and coasts provide the majority of the world’s ecosystem benefits and much of the private sector is dependent on ocean and coastal resources, services and space. Due to their unique transboundary characteristics, the sustainable development of these areas requires the participation of all stakeholders. However, the international regime for the sustainable development of oceans and coasts is being developed through governmental processes in which the private sector does not have much opportunity for involvement.

Business and industry is recognizing and responding to sustainable development, and ocean and coastal issues are increasingly a part of this. For the private sector to operate sustainably and profitably in ocean and coastal areas, it must understand how it affects these ecosystems and the other users of their resources, services and space, as there is strong public interest in these issues.

Business and industry has the opportunity to develop its role and responsibilities in the sustainable development of oceans and coasts at several levels: a) in relation to consumers; b) at the level of individual corporations; c) at the level of entire business and industry sectors; d) within the private sector as a whole; and e) in relation to the other stakeholders. Important developments are taking place at the first three of these levels, as indicated by numerous examples. Much remains to be done at the important multi-sectoral levels, i.e. within the private sector and in relation to other stakeholders.

A private sector network on oceans and coasts is proposed as a mechanism to ensure information exchange and interaction on the sustainable development of these areas within the private sector. This forum would also provide a vehicle for business and industry input to international processes on oceans and coasts, fostering understanding and interaction between the private sector and other stakeholders.