Sea beyond the Blue

A guide on the oceans for philanthropists and changemakers

While there are many reports related to the oceans, there is very little available to guide changemakers, philanthropists and impact investors who wish to engage in this field.

Sea beyond the Blue aims to fill this gap by:

  • offering you a high-level understanding of the issue;
  • providing you with guidance how you can engage; and
  • highlighting solutions and real-life example via short case-studies, editorials, and interviews with leading experts and philanthropists.

You are a philanthropist or a world citizen curious about the oceans and protecting them? This guide is for you!

With this guide, we are bringing you over 20 years of experience in advising our clients on strategic philanthropy and the expertise of over 60 ocean experts, philanthropists, and changemakers who shared with us – and now with you – what they feel the priorities for ocean conservation are, what they have learned over the years, and their best tips to help you take impactful actions.


Questions? Get in touch


Now is the time to act. Protecting the world's oceans requires a deep understanding of the issues affecting them. From there, we must commit to solving those issues – urgently.

A word from Phyllis Costanza, Head UBS in Society and CEO UBS Optimus Foundation and Mara Harvey Head UBS GWM Client Services

The oceans are the foundations of all life on Earth. They provide more than 50% of the oxygen we breathe1, are the main source of animal protein for more than a billion people, and provide livelihoods for 200 million citizens worldwide2. If the oceans were a country, it'd be the world's seventh-largest economy, contributing around 24 trillion US dollars every year3.

But our oceans are under threat. They face unsustainable pressure from the planet's growing population, CO2 emissions, and overfishing.

Now is the time to act. Protecting the world's oceans requires a better understanding of the issues affecting them. From there, we must commit to solving those issues – urgently.

Whether you are a philanthropist or an advocate for a better world, curious about the oceans and interested in protecting them, this guide is for you. We have a multitude of resources already at our fingertips, but making the time to digest all available information is demanding.

Whatever stage you have reached in your philanthropy, this guide will help steer your efforts. It's not exhaustive, but if you are at the start of your journey, you'll discover best practices and facts that help you become an informed and engaged advocate for the oceans. If you already have a foundation or provide grants, you'll gain insights that inspire your vision and approach. Or if you are further along on your philanthropic journey, this guide will enable you to compare your plans with those of peer philanthropists and find fresh ideas for solutions.

We look forward to helping you navigate the challenges facing the world's oceans and explore ways to protect them. We wish you a passion-filled, inspiring, and impactful journey.

Warmly,

Phyllis Costanza                                                          Mara Harvey
Head UBS in Society and                                              UBS GWM Client Services
CEO UBS Optimus Foundation

Sea beyond the Blue

A guide on oceans for philanthropists and changemakers


Time to act

Oceans are essential to our survival and yet they are at risk. Here is why – and these are only a few facts and figures!

They cover 71% of our planet4.

They generate more than 50% of the oxygen we breathe5.

They are the main source of animal protein for more than a billion people6.

They provide direct livelihoods for 200 million people6.

They are affected by warmer temperatures causing coral bleaching – in the last 30 years, over 50% of corals have died, and up to 90% may die by 20507.

They are overfished – 90% of fish stocks are either fully fished or overfished at unsustainable levels8.

Respectively, their conservation has received less than 1% of all philanthropic funding since 2009 and remains the least funded of all the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 9.

They would represent the seventh-largest economy, if they were a country, with an estimated contribution of USD 24 trillion3.

Seychelles was the world’s first debt conversion for ocean protection.

Robert Weary, Deputy Managing Director, Blue Bonds at The Nature Conservancy

Debt swap for nature: an innovative solution for more sustainable marine protected areas

Read the interview with Robert Weary, Deputy Managing Director, Blue Bonds at The Nature Conservancy

The Nature Conservancy (TNC) developed Blue Bonds for Conservation to help governments finance much needed ocean conservation efforts that benefit nature, people and local economies. Their financial innovation involves buying a portion of a country’s debt, often at a discount, and restructuring it to create cash flow for the country to invest in nature. For example, if a country’s debt can be purchased at 85 cents on the dollar, this would allow TNC to purchase USD 10 million of debt for USD 8.5 million, freeing up USD 1.5 million for nature.

Oceans are a vital resource for island and coastal nations, where climate change, pollution and overfishing are taking a serious toll. But ocean protection and management are notoriously underfunded. Our Blue Bonds model brings science and finance together, creating cash flow to help better manage the ocean and incentivize governments to commit to expanding their MPAs. For example, as part of TNC’s debt conversion with the Seychelles, they agreed to place 30% of their ocean into MPAs. This figure was less than 1% before concluding the deal. The result is 400,000 square kilometers of new MPAs – an area larger than Germany.

First and foremost, a government that was willing to participate and commit to expanding its marine protected system. These transactions require time and energy on all sides. Second, sovereign debt that could be purchased at a discount to face value. Other options exist, but discounted debt is very effective. And finally, a combination of third-party loans and grant capital funding helped TNC purchase the debt.

Seychelles was the world’s first debt conversion for ocean protection. Because it was untested, philanthropists played a crucial role, providing TNC with USD 5 million in grant funding to help purchase the debt. We also needed USD 500,000 to support developing a marine spatial plan and design Seychelles’ MPAs.

Based on our success with Seychelles, we have the process down and now have an ambitious goal to conclude 20 transactions worldwide in the next five years. This requires a lot of financial and scientific expertise from our staff. Thankfully, donors of all sizes – from a major Wyss Foundation grant to small individual contributions – have brought us very close to our USD 40 million fundraising goal to support this work. We’re working hard on around USD 700 million worth of transactions in the Caribbean and Africa that could come to life in the next six to twelve months.

Sea beyond the Blue

A guide on oceans for philanthropists and changemakers

Start today: Tips for changemakers and ocean philanthropists

Take the time to understand the issues and landscape to define where you can add most value and make the best use of your resources.

Network – finding the program to support or research teams means talking to people, foundations, philanthropists and NGOs working in that area.

Be courageous and think big – philanthropic capital is arguably the greatest risk capital. As a philanthropist, you are free to take risk, while learning from fast analytical feedback systems.

Don’t reinvent the wheel – there are number of solutions already available. You can replicate and scale a program that has demonstrated a proof of concept or partner with experts and organizations on an existing initiative.

There is more than money – explore the landscape and where the needs are. Bringing your skills, your time, or opening your network can also add value.

Collaborate and partner with others – this will help make the most from your resources, leverage expertise, learn additional, different skills, and achieve large-scale sustainable impact.

Be a role model and an activist – raise awareness and lead by example by becoming responsible consumers and promoting best practices, e.g. in areas such as transport, food, consumer goods, household energy, and tourism.

Think beyond philanthropy – there are many paths to making impact, and they can reinforce each other. Grantmaking is one. One might also consider social financing in the forms of equity or loans, or look into personal engagement, entrepreneurial approaches, and investments.

We partner with you to maximize your impact – locally, nationally and globally

Also, when it comes to ocean philanthropy!

UBS Philanthropy Services

We are a unique, award-winning offering that partners with clients like you and your family to manage your philanthropy and maximize your impact locally, nationally and globally. We provide comprehensive advice, insight experiences, and execution services, and employ an investment-based approach to deliver solutions to pressing social and environmental issues.

Because we acknowledge the vital importance of the oceans, we've built a dedicated oceans-relevant offering from giving to investing. In this context, UBS Optimus Foundation has recently expanded its focus to include environmental and climate philanthropy. By offering direct access to these opportunities and networks, we enable you to tap into cutting edge advice, practical support and a community of like-minded peers.

Whatever your philanthropic goals may be, understanding how and where your resources can do the most good will give you more confidence in your giving and will make your philanthropic journey even more rewarding for you and your family.

For more information visit: ubs.com/philanthropy

Our first ocean program

The UBS Optimus Foundation connects you with inspiring entrepreneurs, new technologies and proven models that are making a measurable, long-term difference to the most serious and enduring social and environmental problems. The only client-facing Foundation linked to a global wealth manager, UBS Optimus Foundation has a 20 years track record and is recognized globally as a philanthropic thought-leader.

The Foundation has recently enlarged its scope to environment and climate philanthropy – after two decades of experience in the field of health, education, and child protection.

We have now started to work with our first program partner in the ocean space – meet Blue Carbon. The program aims at increasing private and public sector understanding of the importance of mangroves as a climate solution in order to catalyze innovative finance models to invest in mangrove restoration and identify local sustainable models for conservation investments . The program has three dimensions:

  1. undertaking research that will build evidence for private sector investment in coastal systems and mangroves;
  2. using the evidence to propose options for local sustainable public-private financing partnership models; and
  3. conducting a series of tailored dialogues with government representatives, multilateral agencies, NGOs, and philanthropists to identify potential partnerships

Interested? Get in touch now!


Sea beyond the Blue

A guide on oceans for philanthropists and changemakers