Finisterre and the B Corp way


Time and tide wait for no man

As global leaders attended the G7 summit in Cornwall this month, fellow B-Corp company Finisterre hosted Sea7.

Just over a year ago, Bruichladdich became a B Corp company, striving for ever higher standards of social and environmental performance, accountability and transparency. We are legally required to consider the impact of decisions on our workers, customers, suppliers, community and the environment, and improve on them. It’s more than cutting down on plastics and tins for the whiskies on your shelf – but that’s a start. Cleaning a beach, or visiting local waste facilities has helped us to make connections with what we’re throwing away. When you’ve picked up half a dozen throwaway coffee cups you may rethink your coffee on the go.

The varied 6-hour live-streamed event from Finisterre last week was designed to show the importance of the oceans for the health of the whole planet, and for individuals and communities to make connections and start taking action to protect them. The NGOs, the charities, academics, researchers, scientists, film-makers, surfers, marine biologists, writers, policy makers and all the others who spoke at Sea7 were of one mind – looking at our own lives we can all make change happen; looking at the facts we need to act very quickly.

From Bruichladdich distillery we gaze out at the sparkling waters of the West of Scotland and feel a connection with the ocean every day. Our malts are all matured here for all their life, the barrels breathing in the salty air from the warehouses overlooking these waters. We know we are lucky, yet it’s easy to take the sea for granted, and collectively we have to stop doing that.

The seas have been absorbing 90 per cent of the heat that humans have been accidentally generating since the industrial revolution. “If it hadn’t been acting as this cushion, the average temperature on earth would be 127* Farenheit now, instead of 57*” says Michael Stewart of Californian non-profit, Sea Trees. Ocean temperatures have been pushed to the brink, which means it can no longer continue to soak up that heat without disastrous effects. “We have never seen a problem like the one that’s coming…”

Why is the ocean so critical?

As the ocean warms, weather and seasons are becoming more erratic. Without the right weather, ultimately crops fail and we won’t be able to produce food.

The sea’s algae (seaweed) like kelp and flowering plants like seagrass also produce 50% of the atmosphere’s oxygen. That’s every second breath each of us, anywhere, takes.

One message that came through strongly from the Sea 7 sessions was that this isn’t just an issue for coastal communities to suffer from or take responsibility for.  We’re all using the ocean as a world waste disposal site allowing our rubbish, from plastic bottles to fertilisers to toxic waste, to be swept into the ocean upsetting the fragile equilibrium of vital ecosystems. “We have to get out of our silos, humble ourselves,” says Nick Hounsfield, chair of Surf England, and founder of The Wave, a 180m long man-made lake on a farm in Bristol, that uses cool technology to bring the experience of surfing inland.

Everything that happens on the land, whether in inland cities, or landlocked farms, or up a mountain, ends up in the ocean, because of the way drains and river systems work, always heading out to sea. Cleaning a beach won’t save the ocean – not getting the plastics there in the first place is key – and the same goes for pollution. “Blue health” practitioners and Marine Social Scientists, like ex-competitive surfer Dr Easkey Britton, demonstrate that even away from the sea in urban areas, connecting and getting close to water – a stream, a river, a lake – gives health benefits. “Where’s your water?” she asks, “Find your water!” She points to the PHD work of Jo Hamilton about how people need to engage with their feelings, even those of panic and fear about climate change, to come out the other side with a perception of their agency.

The healthier the oceans are, the healthier the whole planet is. And the good news is we can heal the sea – and fast. Oceans regenerate relatively quickly, if areas can be left to themselves to rewild. Richard Lilley, Co-founder of Project Seagrass, talked about “Generation Restoration”, the  rallying cry of the UN, whether that’s hay meadows, trees, kelp forest, mangroves, or seagrass meadows – which are being lost at the rate of 2 football pitches per hour.

“Seagrass meadows are vibrant communities,” Richard says. “Full of small critters, juvenile fish and young lobsters.”  From a biomass point of view, underwater plant habitats outperform biodiversity hotspots on land which are much better-known, like the Serengeti. And both Kelp and seagrass, because they grow so quickly, can sequester 10x as much carbon as forests on land.

Head of Campaigns and Policy at Finisterre, Amy Slack says recognition of the importance of the marine environment, and the pivotal role that the ocean plays, is fundamental. Getting that message across at G7 and Cop26, which takes place in Glasgow later this year, is vital.

“We want all governments of the UK to recognise the importance of a thriving ocean, for the planet and people, and to utilise its capacity as a solution to the climate crisis.” Meanwhile, systemic education needs to change; according to Unesco only 19% of global school curricula mention biodiversity, slightly less than 50% mention climate change.

Individually, we can look at our waste, our diets, write to our local politicians – who need to know what their constituents are worried about so as to best represent them and their concerns – pick up litter and tell our personal stories. We can also look at our purchasing; ask am I consuming something when I buy from this company, or contributing?

Sea 7 was a shining example of what being a B Corp is all about – sharing learning, looking outside ourselves at a bigger picture. But also internalising, measuring, and acting so we individually take responsibility to change things for the better.  We’ll leave the last word to the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, quoted in the Finisterre event by the United Nation’s Special Envoy for the Ocean:

I need the sea because it teaches me,
I don’t know if I learn music or awareness,
if it’s a single wave or its vast existence,
or only its harsh voice or its shining
suggestion of fishes and ships.
The fact is that until I fall asleep,
in some magnetic way I move in
the university of the waves.
– Pablo Neruda

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