Goal 14: Life Below Water

Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas, and marine resources for sustainable development.

Trapped by a massive, slow-moving vortex of currents across hundreds of thousands of miles, plastic and other refuse collect in the five oceans. This refuse breaks down into small pieces that hover near the surface of the water until they are eaten by birds, fish, and other sea creatures, with often deadly consequences. Interactive data visualization maps are helping to identify the sources, composition, and distribution of this massive environmental pollution.

Even Landlocked People Affect Our Oceans

The largest garbage dumps in the world are not visible from the sky, and many who travel through them never realize this. An estimated 8 million tons of plastic is added to them every year, even though they are located in the middle of our oceans. Pictures of marine creatures trapped in plastic garbage are supported by the increasing evidence of small-scale micro debris entering our food chain and ending up on our plates. Marine plastic pollution is in the news today. Some people say that in the past the fish came in the packaging, but that today the packaging comes in the fish.

Trapped by a massive, slow-moving vortex of currents swirling around in a circle across hundreds of thousands of miles, plastic and other refuse collects in the five oceans. For the Pacific Ocean, the Ocean Cleanup project created a prototype to collect the surface-floating plastic waste in the ocean. The German start-up Pacific Garbage Screening challenge tackles the terrestrial plastic runoff coming from large rivers, especially in southeast Asia. In the Atlantic Ocean, the “Ocean Plastics Innovation Challenge” will bring together participants of the plastic supply chain to innovate ways to tackle the problem.

Large companies also react to this highly emotional topic. Adidas cooperates with Parley to keep plastic from entering the oceans and transform it into high-performance sportswear. In 2019, Adidas already produced 11 million pairs of its Parley Ultraboost running shoes, using plastic collected from the ocean shores.

Over time, the plastics dumped into the oceans break down into small pieces, and even microparticles, that hover near the surface of the water until they are eaten by birds, fish, and other sea creatures. Some of these die from an inability to digest the plastic. In other cases, the plastic concentrations slowly flow through the global food chain, accumulating in other species with unknown consequences. But as important as the cleanup in the aftermath may be, it is only the second-best choice, because it does not address the root cause. The solution needs to look at the entire lifecycle of products or resources in the sense of a circular economy. Here “Life Below Water” is closely related to responsible consumption and production as described in Goal 12.

170 million tons of fish were taken from the oceans, seas, and inland waters in 2016 – an amount that has been continually rising for decades. Almost all of that growth since 1985 came from aquaculture, or fish farms, while production from natural fish habitats has leveled off. This is a positive development, though almost 30% of natural fish stocks continue to be overfished, while 60% are fished at the maximum sustainable level, and only 10% below maximum capacity. We risk a precipitous drop in the health of fish habitats if overfishing continues.

Overfishing doesn’t just create future risks. Nor is it an abstract, global issue. It is already impacting your daily life. There is an amazingly high number of times where you think you are eating one seafood or fish, when in reality you are eating something different. This is due to fish fraud, which is on the rise as demand for protein outstrips supply. A 2018 UN Report shows that the fish food chain is especially vulnerable to fraud. In almost all cases, seafood is substituted for a cheaper species or one that has been banned from sale due to overfishing, strongly suggesting a deliberate attempt to deceive consumers. DNA barcoding can stop fraud in the food sector by conducting fast, low-cost DNA tests in stores and distribution centers. The results are then integrated into supply-chain management systems. DNA barcoding ensures that consumers who buy the goods, and the companies that sell them, get what they pay for. In the process, the companies adopting antifraud tools help stop unsustainable practices destroying life under water.

SAP is doing its part

You may be located thousands of miles from the nearest ocean, but your daily actions are impacting, and are being impacted by, its degradation. With oceans and inland water bodies covering 71% of the Earth, we can’t ignore their state. Consumers, and the companies selling them products, can choose materials and sustainable practices to help protect the oceans.

Reducing the amount of plastics entering the ocean requires cross-industry collaboration armed with data and intelligent technologies. To support this, SAP has launched the next phase of its Plastics Cloud. This will allow businesses to shift rapidly to alternatives to single-use plastics, scale design for circularity, invest in materials-collection infrastructure and ensure a better consumer experience.

For Stephen Jamieson, Head of Sustainable Business Innovation EMEA North at SAP, it all started when his 7-year old daughter Olive asked him to do something against plastic waste in the sea. Stephen took on the challenge. The idea: Using SAP tools and technology to make the world a cleaner place. With the London Design Thinkers Academy, he initiated the Plastics Challenge, a 3-day design sprint. One outcome was the Plastics Cloud, a platform powered by SAP Leonardo Analytics capabilities. The Plastics Cloud is compiling and processing information that can be used to forecast trends in plastics purchasing and recycling and enable new services. Together with partners, SAP is working on extending SAP Ariba, the world’s largest business-to-business network, to create a new global marketplace for suppliers of recycled plastics and plastic alternatives. The goal is to use the Ariba Network to connect buyers with new recycled plastics suppliers like Bantam Material Ltd. and others who are already certified by organizations such as OceanCycle. This is a social enterprise focused on creating traceability in plastic supply chains and helping businesses integrate ocean plastics into their products. This will complement initiatives such as the UK digital waste map, announced last year by waste-insights company Topolytics Limited.

To take collaborative action further, SAP has joined the World Economic Forum’s Global Plastic Action Partnership community in January 2020. This has been a further step in a series of partnerships that SAP has entered to help create a cleaner ocean by 2030.

SAP also took part in the Ocean Plastics Leadership Summit, a supply chain collaborative and brainchild of Dave Ford, CEO and founder of SoulBuffalo. This summit brought together business leaders, visionaries, and innovators to find solutions to the big sustainability challenges facing the planet. NGOs, scientists, and corporate representatives from companies including SAP, HP, GE, and Colgate-Palmolive participated, as well as three of the top five consumer packaged goods corporations in the world (Nestle, No. 1; Procter & Gamble, No. 2; and Coca-Cola, No. 4). Three of the largest packaging companies in the world (Berry Global, Sealed Air, and Novolex), accounting for $15 billion in annual sales, were also present. Together, these participants explored cross-industry solutions and partnerships to address ocean plastic pollution and came up with a number of major commitments as well as ideas to leverage tools like the Plastics Cloud.

Due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, many activities around cleaner oceans have been disrupted. However, we must ensure that one big global challenge isn’t forgotten because another big global challenge has emerged. This calls for new models for engagement. SoulBuffalo, for example, is now focusing on creating inspiring virtual experiences instead of having an in-person summit. Another example is the SHiFT platform, which was developed by ocean activist and eXXpedition co-founder Emily Penn in close collaboration with SAP. The user-friendly tool was designed to help individuals, advocates, and experts find their role and best-fit solutions to help solve ocean plastic pollution.

To walk the talk, SAP is internally addressing the plastics problem just the same. In celebration of the 10th anniversary of its sustainability journey, the company updated its global environmental policy and introduced a new target to phase out single-use plastics by the end of 2020.

Protecting vast ocean spaces from noncompliant fishing is like searching for a needle in a haystack. Earthrace is committed to conserving the marine ecosystem through finding and stopping illegal behaviors in marine protected areas. In line with following this goal, Earthrace collaborated with SAP to create a Marine Alerting System (MAS) prototype. MAS incorporates machine learning technologies and data management solutions to calculate the probability of illegal activity within the protected area and to notify local patrol boat operators to intervene. Combining real-time data from radars, satellites, and tracking systems, the solution analyzes movement patterns to identify high-risk vessels likely to engage in illegal fishing. Generated alerts guide patrols into intercepting potential violators, helping to avoid overfishing and to secure population size.

While the land surrounding Sydney’s Curl Curl Lagoon was used as a municipal landfill site from the 1950s to the 1970s, Northern Beaches Council and the local community want to turn it back into an environmental treasure. To support the ongoing rehabilitation efforts, they turned to an SAP Design Thinking Team looking for help in launching the Newton buoy. Using the SAP Cloud Platform Internet of Things service as well as SAP Leonardo Internet of Things capabilities, they are able to monitor water quality data in real time. This system provides valuable insights into water quality characteristics from in-depth analysis of different parameters such as salinity, pH, water temperature, and conductivity at Curl Curl Lagoon. Eventually, the Northern Beaches Council can manage and protect biodiversity more effectively and can support the ongoing rehabilitation efforts.


Goal 15: Life on Land