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Fisherman with net

Ocean Safety Index

Establishing user need for a tool to inform decision making

Why is this important? 

The world’s population cannot survive without healthy oceans and billions of people rely on them as sources of work and food.[i] World trade also relies heavily on the ocean. Human activity continues to put the health of the oceans at risk through the worsening climate crisis, unsustainable practices and ocean pollution. As the world’s population grows and we turn to renewable energy sources and look for alternative food supplies for the health of the planet, our reliance on the ocean for food, power and other services will continue to increase. This mounting dependence on the oceans is likely to put even greater pressure on the millions of workers at sea who already face hazardous working conditions daily, and to those who live and work along our coasts.  

It is essential that action is taken to save the world’s oceans for the future of the planet. A significant barrier to this is a lack of knowledge about much of the ocean and the activities and industries it supports, as well as inconsistencies in the reporting and recording of occupational incidents. Important data which helps decision makers understand where to focus improvement efforts does exist but is often poorly curated, and many areas of the ocean and the wider ocean economy remain under researched and largely invisible. This situation hinders good decision making by governments, investors, industry and consumers and means that harmful practices are more likely to continue. 

Who did we work with?

LRF and United Nations Global Compact wanted to explore the development of an ocean safety index; an open-source decision making tool to support better decision making for safe and sustainable oceans. The UNGC is a special initiative of the UN Secretary General and is a call to companies everywhere to align their operations and strategies with 10 principles in the areas of human rights, labour, the environment and anti-corruption.

What did we do?

The proposal to develop an index was to address the shortfall in data and information.  The objectives of the index were: 

  • To support decision makers to think in a longer-term, strategic manner and inform governmental, business, and financial intervention 
  • To encourage greater accountability and recognition of ocean actors through data transparency 
  • To increase public awareness and engagement so that society becomes less tolerant of harmful actions in our ocean economy  
  • To highlight where skills may need building for the future blue workforce

Initially the Foundation spoke to a range of stakeholders who were supportive of the initiative.  However, it was important to test the idea of an ocean index further before proceeding with the concept.  To do this the Foundation commissioned Accenture to capture the likely impact of an ocean safety index, by exploring user need.  They were asked to identify target users, explore how they might use an index, the data needed by different stakeholders, to establish how the index would be used and potential barriers to use.

What have we learnt?

Accenture conducted the work from Feb to May 2022 and produced an executive summary of their findings. The investigations found that although there was interest in making the ocean safer, there was little appetite or need for an index measuring safety in the oceans.  Some of the reasons given for this were:

  • There are already non-commercial indices out there; it would be seen as ‘yet another product’ which would be difficult to prioritise over commercial databases
  • There were concerns about data reliability and global coverage
  • Rather than an index, there are gaps in existing frameworks and there was a need for a tool to measure safety and social performance to enhance decision making, for example within ESG.

Based on the feedback provided during the stakeholder interviews, three possible steps forward are suggested to promote a safer ocean:

  • 90% of all businesses worldwide are SMEs.[ii] A safety resilience hub for SMEs to coordinate funding and knowledge sharing between SMEs and larger commercial operations, tying safety conditions to multinational ESG commitments
  • A system addressing safety in supply chains; standardising reporting to large-scale companies to improve collation of information and thereby decision making
  • A simplified sustainability principles tool that distils principles to remove barriers to use.

What are we going to do next?

The Foundation’s Evidence and Insight Centre has entered into a partnership with the National Safety Council in the US to look at how safety should be valued within existing frameworks. The New valuation of safety project is conducting research and developing tools and guidance to enhance the understanding of the value of safety and how it is measured, and will seek to integrate it into ESG frameworks.  The work is progressing well and is on course to report in the Autumn of 2023.

Safety in SMEs is a possible focus area for a future what works centre for safety. Currently at the feasibility stage, safety in SMEs is being used as a case study to identify how a what works approach could facilitate tangible impact on safety in these organisations. This will feed into decisions on whether to proceed with a full what works grant.

[i] https://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/oceans-fisheries-and-coastal-economies

[ii] https://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/smefinance


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