Coalition of Uncommon Allies can unite to solve Pressing Societal Issues

Without vibrant, living oceans, we are not likely to survive.  Even though oceans cover 71% of the planet, provide over 50% of our oxygen, heat the planet to sustain life and moderate our weather from extremes, their wellbeing gets relatively little attention.  We are letting our oceans die – quickly – and we’re not even putting up our best fight.

I didn’t know much of this until I was invited to Dallas by Future500 for the Earth Day 50 Challenge, where I had the opportunity to facilitate a discussion about the state of our oceans between some uncommon, yet potentially powerful allies: large companies and ocean-oriented NGOs. 

Traditionally, business and NGOs have been at odds.  Negative perceptions of each other are often misplaced, bad intentions are assumed, and a “winner take all” mentality has taken over. Unfortunately, as one participant in Dallas noted, “we no longer have the luxury of wasting time with each other.  We need to hurry.” One illustrative and sobering fact really brought this truth to life for me – there is nearly 1lb of plastic for every 3lbs of fish in the ocean.  And it’s not just plastic that we need to worry about. Overfishing, oil and gas extraction and the the burning of fossil fuels are also major contributors to the ever-quickening destruction of oceans.

 We can only “hurry” if businesses, Ocean NGOs and others sit down together and engage each other, not as “the enemy”, but as partners and allies in solving this critical problem.  Each group brings incredible knowledge, assets and ideas to the table.  Working together they can, and will, find innovative solutions if they are willing to listen to each other’s points of view, understand each other’s key interests and needs, and be willing to make progress - not necessarily perfection.  

 In Dallas, we took the first steps by listening to each other and aligning common interests.  We mutually identified specific areas where companies working with NGOs could make progress and initial solutions were discussed.  For example, what if we pooled our know-how and dollars and developed an innovation competition for the first truly eco and ocean-friendly plastic container?  More than that, concrete commitments were made to continue working together on an accelerated timeline.  Much more to do – but a good start.

 Dallas demonstrates uncommon allies can work together and solve challenges successfully. By convening more aligned partnerships and coalitions we can save the oceans and the world!

 Daniel Duty is the Founder and CEO of Conlego, a group helping businesses and other organizations make greater social and environmental impact, particularly through problem-solving partnerships and coalitions.