Podcast: The race to safeguard our oceans
Please note: The views expressed in this podcast do not constitute advice or recommendations.
About Monaco Ocean Week
Monaco Ocean Week 2023, of which Barclays Private Bank is a proud sponsor, brings together experts, scientists, and stakeholders from the public, private and voluntary sector to share findings on marine environment issues, and to take action to preserve our ocean.
Oceans are vital to both human and planetary life, yet more action is needed to protect and regenerate them.
Coinciding with Monaco Ocean Week 2023, host Damian Payiatakis, our Head of Sustainable and Impact Investing, is joined by Olivier Wenden, CEO and Vice-Chair of the Board at the Prince Albert II Foundation for a special podcast.
Tune in to learn about the critical role of oceans in climate, as well the positive role investors and foundations can play in the quest for innovative solutions that can safeguard the future of these vital eco systems.
You can stream this podcast by clicking the buttons below.
Damian Payiatakis (DP): Hello, and welcome to our podcast coinciding with the latest Monaco Ocean Week which Barclays Private Bank is pleased to support again this year.
Oceans have the potential to absorb around one-third of global CO2 emissions. They also absorb over 90% of excess heat generated, keeping the earth cool. However, they’re vulnerable to the effects of climate change.
And while there’s growing determination to meet the Paris Agreement commitments and transition to a lower carbon economy, the need to protect and conserve our oceans hasn’t always received the attention it deserves.
Now in its 14th edition, Monaco Ocean Week was launched by the Foundation of His Serene Highness Prince Albert II to provide a setting for leading marine sector stakeholders, to share insights and to take action to preserve our oceans.
I’m Damian Payiatakis, Head of Sustainable and Impact Investing at Barclays Private Bank, and today I’m delighted to be joined by Olivier Wenden, CEO and Vice Chair of the Board of Directors of the Foundation. We’ll be discussing the importance of oceans to our lives and livelihoods, why philanthropists and investors should be more active in oceans, his role in leading the Foundation, and what it’s like having a head of state and prince as your boss.
Olivier, thank you so much for joining us today.
Olivier Wenden (OW): Well, thank you for the invitation, Damian, a pleasure being with you.
DP: So, let’s start with a little bit about you. Tell us a little bit about yourself.
OW: Well, first of all I would like to say I was born in Monaco, so this is pretty unusual to start with. You know, it’s the second smallest state on the planet after the Vatican, so basically the smallest state. It feels like a village, however, with the goals, ambition of a big state.
I had the chance to study back in Paris, political science, and then later in Bordeaux in the Political Science Institute there. And then I followed up with a Master’s degree at La Sorbonne in international trade. A pretty diversified background I would say, which totally led me to embracing a diplomatic career.
So first of all, the Parliament in Monaco, then later the government level in the Foreign Office, and then at the Prince Albert II Monaco Foundation as Executive Director, which led me in 2019 to being appointed by the Prince as their CEO and Vice Chair of the Foundation.
DP: Now, you first joined the Foundation in 2014. What drew you to the opportunity?
OW: When you receive this opportunity directly from your head of state, you’re like, well, I will not think twice, I will just go for it. But the reality is, beyond that fact, I was really motivated by the impact that this foundation already had over the years.
It was built up and launched in 2006, less than a year after Prince Albert was crowned Prince of Monaco. And I knew at the time that that was the key topic of the decade and maybe the generation to come, environment conservation, sustainable development. And I knew that, despite the fact that Monaco was the smallest state in the world, we had phenomenal impact on the global scale.
So, that was for me a strong opportunity, first of all, to serve my head of state, serve my country, but also participate in this impact mission. But also, because Prince Albert is a running head of state, we had phenomenal access to policy and, therefore, we participated a lot and still do on the lobbying aspects of these vast topics, being on land or at sea.
DP: So, still keeping a little bit of that diplomatic background, but using it in a different way.
OW: It is currently, and on a daily basis, a green or blue diplomacy.
DP: Excellent. And that’s a good point. Oceans are one part of the Foundation’s efforts. And they are our focus of today. Let’s ask you personally, what connects you with the oceans?
OW: Well, again, being born in Monaco, the sea is your horizon. You grow up with the ability to swim every day in this ocean, and I would say that within the 40 years of my lifetime, you can feel and see the difference and that’s just tragic. It’s not an annual problem, it’s an ongoing, more and more severe, year after year issue of fish depletion, for instance.
This is something you can see. You don’t have to travel that far to face that reality. Within my lifetime, you can also face the reality of shipping, transportation, more and more boats at sea, more and more fishing, more and more pollution, plastic pollution is everywhere. So, the impact of human activities on the ocean is also a reality at a very individual level and family level.
I’ve got two kids now, so this is a cliché probably for many of you, but we want to do something for them as well. But I’m a bit tired of that objective to say, well, let’s do something for the future generation. The reality is we can’t wait for another generation. We need to act for our own generation right now.
Many countries, many companies, many NGOs have set up big, ambitious goals for 2030. This is not even in a decade, it’s in seven years’ time.
DP: And I think you highlight the urgency around preserving and restoring the oceans. The challenge, of course, is when let’s say you or I first introduce the topic of oceans, most listeners I will expect will be thinking about the beach, will think about enjoying holidays.
DP: But oceans are actually vast and critical to our lives. They’re a vital source of food and livelihoods for nearly half the people on the planet. And, as we said, they also regulate global climate. The issue, of course, is due to human activity around the world. Oceans are becoming warmer and more acidic. Rising sea levels are affecting coastal and island communities.
Marine life is being damaged, and in some places vanishing, as you said. Physical effects of storms are becoming more frequent and severe. Now, these are all the challenges that we face. When you speak to people about oceans and the importance of getting involved, where do you find the connection for them to take action?
OW: Well, that’s a very tricky, daunting, vast and complex issue because, again, for the majority of people, just to give you some figures of top of what you just said, the coastlines host 40% of the global population of the planet.
So, in reality, half of the population is concerned about the ocean or dependent on the ocean. When you look at the ocean, the horizon line has not changed. It’s what is going on beneath the sea level’s surface that has tremendously changed over the past 50 years. And when we talk about the depletion of the ocean, the desertic, vast areas under the ocean’s surface, people can’t embrace that unless they’re divers, unless they’re watching documentaries on the Blue Planet.
So, what we face in our mission is the lack of information and the poor knowledge that the majority of people have on the ocean reality. And I think the worst aspect of it is climate regulation. It’s an important message also to convey that, yes indeed, climate change and the ocean are the two sides of the same coin. This is not something intuitive.
We need to embrace that reality of the connectivity and interdependence of climate, ocean and biodiversity, mainly. These three pillars are really crucial to getting people’s mindset.
And when I say people’s mindset, it is obviously at various levels. The decision-makers in the public sector, the private sector and the CEOs, the investors, and also families, individuals. In your daily life you can, obviously, have a strong impact and I always like to remind people that we are all consumers, and in our decisions, we can have quite a way to leverage the manufacturers’ and industries’ activities.
DP: Now, it’s really interesting, you’ve highlighted a lot of the challenges there and even with the recognition, despite being so critical, and in fact one of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, SDG 14, is Life below Water. It was a few years ago, there was a study that showed the conservation of oceans and sustainable use of resources had attracted only about 3.5 per cent of the overall investment going to the SDGs. It makes it the least funded, or at the time the least funded of the 17.
Why do you think, even with this recognition or growing awareness, it tends to attract lower levels of investment relative to others?
OW: Well, the ocean is a bit far, so we tend to not know it that well and, therefore, when you don’t know something, you don’t tend to invest enough in it.
And the gap you just mentioned in financing is terrible, since it is expected by the UN that for SDG 14, so the one related to marine life, the need for financing was roughly $174 billion per year, and just before COVID we were barely reaching $10 billion per year. So, we can see how big the gap is.
To sum it up, awareness is missing. In terms of data, we know now how the big mechanism of climate regulation, ocean acidification, the impact of climate change on the ocean, like sea level rise and ice melt, this we know roughly how it works. We still need more detailed information on these mechanisms, and mainly to see how it will unfold in the next decades, but the strong mechanism, we know that.
So, we, need now to act and channel the existing grants and money around the world into the most-needed aspects of ocean conservation and resilience.
DP: It’s interesting, let me challenge you a little bit there. On one hand we’re saying we’ve got, at least from a 2030 perspective, less than a decade. And on the other hand, we’re saying we don’t have enough data necessarily. So, I’m not sure we can, as you said, wait to act until we’ve all the data.
And I’m curious, in that sense we will increase the amount of data and the insight it potentially generates but, as you said, we need to act now. So, what role do you think private capital can play, and families play, in getting more capital into this space?
OW: So, let’s just be clear here. We will always need more data, but if we wait to have all the accurate, relevant data, we will not do anything, we will be paralysed in the action and, as you stated, we don’t have time.
So, we need to try almost everything and, you know, the scientific control of course, not to make more harm. And, therefore, by trying, we need to make sure we are transparent on the outcome. If we fail, fine, let the others know. Let your competitors know because we don’t have time to do these mistakes on and on again. So that’s the first thing. We have data to start doing. We need to be transparent on the outcome being positive or negative.
Then, why is the private sector so pivotal in that aspect? Well, and before Saturday, I was about to say because the public sector is too slow. Why do I mention this Saturday? Because the BBNJ treaty has eventually been signed after 15 years of negotiations. It doesn’t mean it’s implemented yet, but there is at least political consensus now to move on.
DP: Could you explain just a little bit for listeners that might not be as familiar what that treaty’s purpose is?
OW: OK. It’s a treaty that aims to regulate the high seas. And this is, again, something pretty unknown in the world. We have roughly the two-thirds of the ocean itself that is not regulated, that belongs to no-one. So, all kind of activities, unregulated ones, can happen, can still happen. I will just mention one, which is one of the crucial challenges that we face when it comes to marine life.
It’s overfishing, and unregulated fisheries, and illegal fisheries. So, by reaching, eventually, this treaty, which is signed by the UN so it requires a consensus of all the member states, we can foresee a regulation of these high seas, sanctions that could apply for states that will not respect that treaty. So, it’s a total change of mindset.
Until now we were just moving on ocean-related challenges by voluntary activities from the member states. Now, it will be a framework of goals and potential sanctions for states or private companies that will infringe that legal framework. So, we’re not there yet, but strong political decision has been taken in the past days at the UN level.
DP: Again, to your point, and you see even in the announcement how significant the reaction has been by the community in and of itself. That was the public sector.
Let’s go back. Private sector, families. What role do you see them playing to help to advance and to accelerate change in this area?
OW: OK. So, I will answer that, but I will also mention the role of philanthropy. Again, I’m from the philanthropic world.
The Foundation is a strong philanthropic actor. We understand, with our counterparts and big families and big philanthropists, that philanthropy on its own is fundamental to start bridging the gaps, to attract the big players on areas that were not of interest. And that’s where, usually, philanthropy can play a role.
But we just federate and bring on the biggest players, and among the biggest players possible is the private sector, all the companies and the investors.
First of all, because they need to make sure their own industry can change from suppliers to customers, the whole chain needs to be changed. So, they are the central stakeholder when it comes to a more sustainable approach. Then, the question is why would they do that? Well, in the majority of the case, it is driven by the change of values and mindset of the customers.
We have now the millennials being customers and the majority of our partnering companies, they all agree that the millennials’ values in purchasing are driven by a more ethical approach and more sustainable approach. So, the cost of doing business as usual is really more heavy than changing, adapting now. So, you see, there is in the private sector a double action coming from the top and a bottom approach to make this change happen.
DP: Let’s talk a little bit more specifically about Monaco, and Monaco for oceans. As you alluded to, there’s an obvious natural positioning for oceans. About half of its border is coastline. And when you start looking at the history, it’s actually fascinating to see the connection.
Prince Albert I was one of the founders of modern oceanography, you know, inspired the creation of the Mediterranean Science Commission, the Oceanographic Museum, which is brilliant, I have to say, was opened in 1910. And, of course, Jacques Cousteau was the Director from 1957 to 1988, so over 30 years. Now, that’s all in the past and, obviously, it’s not the only coastal city in the world. What makes Monaco well positioned to continue this tradition and move it into the future?
OW: Well, what I like in Monaco is, again, the strong legacy. So, we have this credibility, this history and the geography that prevails.
Since Prince Albert I was always a lab, a fantastic laboratory of technologies, innovations, not only on very concrete solutions like in technology, but also on the way we approach the topic.
But there is also a strong focus from the current Prince, Prince Albert II, for the future.
And that led to very strong examples, we developed for seven years now where we bring this community of doers, of changers, of CEOs of investment funds, bankers and philanthropists to reflect on the best practices, to reflect on the best investment possible to make a positive impact on ocean conservation.
DP: So, let’s bring in Monaco Ocean Week now. Every year in the principality, we’ve got local and international experts, the scientific community, voluntary sectors, public authorities and private sector increasingly, held this year in March. Give us, for those that aren’t going to be able to make it this year, tell us a little bit about how the week is structured.
OW: Well, yes, with pleasure. So, the Ocean Week was imagined seven years ago as a very holistic approach to the topic of ocean conservation. When I say holistic, it’s to create around science, a community that can help change human activities’ impact on the ocean. So, it’s starting with a day dedicated to a thinktank around science called the Monaco Blue Initiative, in which Prince Albert invites ministers, special envoys, heads of state, to reflect on hot topics of the ocean.
Then the week stretches up to 50 events on our territory, from the Oceanographic Museum to the Yacht Club of Monaco, to the Scientific Centre of Monaco, and a mix of events to make sure that the various stakeholders are represented. So, I was mentioning science, but we have a growing community of business leaders gathering in the Ocean Innovators Platform, and Barclays has been instrumental in developing this platform, which exists since last year back in 2022 when we decided to launch it.
So, we have a business and investors community. We will add, this year, a legal roundtable so to make sure that laws and legal experts can gather and discuss. With the BBNJ treaty, OK, guys, how do you implement that now that the political agreement has been reached? How do you implement that 30 by 30 protection on land and at sea?
We have a day entirely dedicated to green shipping and green yachting. This is also building up on this history of Monaco and the impact that the Yacht Club of Monaco has in the Med but also throughout the world. So holistic approach together, the largest international community of decision-makers possible to enforce the change and make sure the right solutions, the right technologies can be applied, as quick as possible.
DP: It’s been quite an extraordinary experience what I’ve been fortunate to come to have that diversity of conversations and people at the same table sharing and connecting because a lot of times we try to look at these things as individual parts when in reality I think, some families are moving to more systemic type of approaches to their investing and to the issues that they want to deal with.
OW: Well, I’m glad to hear. Damian, I’m really glad to hear that even in families are changing their mindset because, you know, working in silos has been the reality I think for many decades, not only in ocean conservation but the way we were operating businesses in general.
And this mindset change that is deeply required takes time. It is a hard one to make and the Ocean Week in Monaco is really designed to help progress on this approach, so I’m glad to hear that families are also having this in mind.
DP: Still early days.
DP: But it is impressive and interesting to see that. Now, let’s talk a little bit more about the Ocean Innovators Platform, obviously close to your heart and my heart.
What are you excited about in this year’s edition about that day and a half that we have together?
OW: Well, to start with as it was, it’s only a one-year experience. We launched it last year. It was taking place on one day. It was so positive and, why that, because we get this boutique style event. So, it’s a community that gathers roughly 200 people, not more.
We will never reach 1,000 or 10,000 participants like in many international important gatherings. We want to keep this figure small, to enable the conversation, to enable the business to be done and the deals to be signed. That was my vision when we decided to launch that last year. The feedback last year was so positive that we decided to fly the concept around the world, and we did a second edition during the Lisbon UN Ocean Conference, extremely well received as well, and we hosted during the Climate COP, the COP27 in Sharm El Sheikh, the third event last year.
So, again, we’re building up on that niche approach and the added value is clearly small number of participants but extremely high level. When we invite companies, we expect them to come at the CEO level. It’s really to have thorough, closed-door meetings about the successes, the challenges, the opportunities that each and every stakeholder can have identified in its industry or in the global economy.
Why did we add also bankers and philanthropists? Because, and that’s coming back to my first point, the era of writing cheques seems to be over. People are more and more willing to become actors of the change.
And I really like that, and I want to embrace that reality by enabling philanthropists to have more significant impact, but also to generate interest, to become real investors.
There was economy and investors, the big players, and then, on the side, the blue economy that was left for traditional philanthropists mainly. And we feel that, luckily enough, within the past at least five, seven years this is no longer true, and there is a deep trend that moves the blue economy to the forefront of the interest of traditional philanthropists and family offices that want to be more active players, and grow their impact while doing business and proper investments, and I like that.
DP: One of the other things, you know, over the years of the research and seeing this, the WWF did a report that said if we aggregated the goods and services from the blue economy, it amounts to about $2.5 trillion each year, which would be the equivalent of making the ocean the seventh-largest economy in the world.
DP: Just extraordinary to think about that and, as you said earlier, not as obvious to many people in terms of its importance and its size.
Now, you touched on that aspect of philanthropy and investing, and one of the things that you and I have discussed, and hope to have supported as well, is the addition of investing to philanthropic activities, in particular also with the Foundation. Obviously, for regulatory reasons we’re not going to discuss investments, but I do want to ask why the Foundation made this shift, why you thought this was necessary.
OW: I think it all comes back to empowering the change. I’m reflecting a lot on that aspect of our daily mission. How do you make this change happen? I often reflect, even at night, we need to scale up, we need to speed up our action. And how do you do that? The clock is ticking and I’m like how can we improve that? And empowering the change, thanks to blue economy, for me, resonated with a triple win because it has a positive impact on the ocean ecosystems, and to do that we make sure that we have the relevant scientific backup when we decide to invest in a company or in a fund.
It can also have a very positive impact in terms of job opportunities and employment, which is very good in the poly crisis that the world faces now. And third point, it has growing profit opportunities. So that’s how we decided to shift from our traditional philanthropy approach, which we will keep to some extent.
But we opened up the Foundation to blended finance. That was back in 2017. So, blended finance is a very, very innovative and sound financial mechanism since you keep the philanthropic window. But you add to this the impact investment level to enable companies or philanthropists to have a proper investment and, therefore, expect a return on investment after a couple of years.
DP: Really interesting to see this combination and something, again, that we are seeing and also talking about. In fact, apologies, a small plug to another podcast. Juliet Agnew, our Head of Philanthropy Service and I discussed how we’re seeing families adding investments to their philanthropic endeavours, and actually also wrote another article on potential considerations for anyone contemplating the shift. So, it’s great to see an example of why and how that’s working from your perspective.
Now, let’s talk a little bit more about the foundation. Monaco Ocean Week is only one of the Foundation’s efforts. I think for those listeners who either run foundations or families who have supported them or have their own foundation, let’s talk more about the Foundation itself. You mentioned that the Foundation was launched and founded in 2006. Its commitment is to progressing planetary health for present and future generations by co-creating initiatives and supporting hundreds of projects across our beloved planet.
Three principal domains, climate change, biodiversity, water resources in three main geographical areas, the Mediterranean Basin, polar regions and least developed countries. It’s supported more than 750 projects with 100 partners and more than €100 million grants as well as having 10 foreign branches. So, quite an extensive organisation that you’re leading. Can you share a little bit about in 2019 when you became the CEO and that Vice Chair, how did that change your perspective on the Foundation and how are you seeing it moving forward in the future?
OW: Well, thanks for asking. I will just go back for a second on the route and the differentiation of the Foundation among the NGO world. It has been launched by a head of state and you can check around the world, we are unique in that case, the Chairman is a running head of state. So that’s really what makes us so special and that’s why the task assigned to the Foundation is really vast.
So, when I took over the position, we were clearly at a crossroads in terms of development. The way we still operate, and we love, we’re running and operate the activities like a start-up. We have a small team. We will be 30 in the year to come, and it started with four people around His Highness 16 years ago. So, the growth has been quite rapid, but the activities were as well.
So, more than 100 partners around the world. Luckily, we have now 10 offices around the globe. So, a global presence, which is absolutely fundamental for us, not only to have a representation there and identify the right partners on the ground, but also to be active in countries where things are entangled.
So, to be in Brazil, to be in China was a must for us to understand what was going on, also on a positive way what the solutions were being implemented.
So, this still exists but we made it shift towards projects that we design and co-design with partners. We call them initiatives, to have the projects that are operated by third parties and initiatives that were a concept born here at the Villa Girasole, a beautiful house in the middle of Monaco, where we operate. Today, we have 14 ongoing initiatives and I’m definitely building up on the successes that we can find on these initiatives for the years to come.
So, these initiatives stretch from species conservation, like the monk seal in the Med, to innovative financial mechanisms like the Global Fund for Coral Reefs, which is blended finance, or the Med Fund which is a sinking fund to strengthen and develop marine protected areas in the Med. It is also BeMed, and BeMed I’m very proud that we have developed this action because it’s against plastic pollution, of course, but we’re not targeting clean-ups because, unfortunately, you don’t have the existing technology today to tackle the size of the problem.
You can’t remove easily the nanoparticles from the ocean, and even the macro debris it’s still hard. So, we are only focusing on resolving the problem on land where it all started. The origin of the problem is on land. So, we fund micro projects on the shores of the Mediterranean Basin.
But we have also developed a business club with many actors from diversified sectors, from the agro business, the cosmetic and luxury business, the hotel businesses to see how can these companies accompany that change in stopping the use of single plastic within their companies, but also on a broader scale within their own industries having a key role to play with their suppliers.
So that’s a very interesting approach I think and it’s central if we want to address properly the problem. So, a lot of initiatives.
DP: Fascinating to hear both the number of initiatives, their diversity, but also one of the things that I thought was very interesting is the co-creational approach. So, many foundations exist and focus on their programmes and/or their grant giving.
This co-creational approach I imagine is not unique but very interesting as an approach. Why do you take that?
OW: Well, because we need to always remain humble and if you want to grow impact, you can’t do things on your own, firstly, because we are too small to pretend having an impact just on our own. Secondly, because we don’t pretend to know everything.
And, therefore, when we decide to go for a new initiative, or to deepen a niche market, it’s because it’s needed, it’s because the big players, being the public or private sectors, are not even there yet, and we have the credibility on the topic and also access to the right partners to co-design that. So, this is how we triggered our action and impact.
We are excellent, and this can be also enlarged to Monaco in general, we are excellent federating these stakeholders in tackling quite thorny issues also, even when they are difficult to tackle like marine-protected areas in some regions like Antarctica.
So, this is how we built up on our, credibility and story to co-design initiatives that can have a growing impact and more chance to become sustainable ways to success.
DP: That’s great. I hear you talking about leveraging the strengths of the organisation and the capital that it has. Also, it’s social capital, as well as the influence potentially of intervening in specific areas, but with a much broader idea in mind.
We often highlight successes, and the Foundation has a number of them, but sometimes challenges and even failures can be more beneficial in the long run. Can you share an example and, moreover, what did it teach you or the Foundation about improving how you operate in the future?
OW: Well, I would say all our successes and failures, and sometimes you will see they are totally linked, taught us patience and determination.
So, I’ll come back to our biggest success, which is actually linked to the biggest failure, bluefin tuna in the Mediterranean. Back in 2009, scientists came to Prince Albert and said, Your Highness, there is only two years left of stock in the Med of that fish and then it will be over. So, Prince Albert decided to require the inscription of that species on the red list of CITES, which means no fishing, no trading of this species.
We lost the case, and we were not that optimistic to win the case, but we lost the case because of the lobbying of some countries that are heavy customers of tuna. We lost it on the political arena, but we won it on the media side because it was Prince Albert taking the floor. And the media attention got caught on that topic, and journalists wrote the story about this species that will just disappear because the fishing industry was harvesting the Med, not respecting the cycle of life of the fish, and there was only two years left of stock.
And, therefore, the European Union attentions got caught and the quota was raised, and the monitoring was more severe. And then we had to deal with the fishermen’s angriness because they were like, why are you killing our source of income? Mind your own business, basically.
And so, we had to launch a two, three-year campaigning programme to raise awareness, and like co-designing solutions also with them, to make sure that they understand that by respecting the species itself, within two, three years then the stock can come up again and it will ensure the sustainable source of income for them.
Whereas if they were still continuing at the pace they were doing, their source of income will disappear for good. And we succeeded. And within five years only, this species is saved and you can now fish it again. So, you see, it was totally based on a big failure because we didn’t win this CITES red list case that we had a bigger success at the end of the day.
So, it really proves that you can tackle an issue from many different perspectives and that the determination is usually a positive way to address the thorny issue. Like BBNJ, 15 years of discussions and talks. One of the biggest wins last year was the IMO vote in favour of stopping the toxic subsidies to illegal fisheries. That’s a massive vote, 21 years of negotiation as well.
So, this obviously causes a lot of frustration because we don’t have time. We need and must go faster, but we also need to keep our optimism going and, specifically when it comes to regulation and international regulation, it takes time, and we must keep our determination high.
DP: It’s a great story in that it illustrates three things for me. One is for many entrepreneurs as well, you have to be passionate about the problem, but not necessarily dedicated to your solution. So finding a different way to go about solving or tackling that same problem. I think it’s probably one of the earliest examples of what we now talk about as a just transition as well, a topic we see more and more coming up in both international arenas, so COP28 I expect that will be another.
So how do we recognise that in addressing the environmental issues that we have that there are economic ones that are directly related to people’s lives and livelihoods and that we cannot leave those people behind.
And I think it also demonstrates again the role that public opinion can play as another key driver. I do remember the conversations around not asking for bluefin tuna on restaurants and that had a direct impact right back into the supply chains, and what fishermen were willing to catch, because if they were not going to be able to sell it then there was no reason to catch it as well.
So, a really interesting example of how these lessons can actually adapt and allow you to move forward.
Let’s talk a little about leadership lessons for families and foundations. Many listeners may have a foundation of their own or work for one. Let’s talk about some of your lessons from being part of the Foundation for the last eight years. And first and foremost, clearly, you have a fairly unique circumstance where the Chair is both a head of state and a prince.
What role does His Serene Highness play in the Foundation’s daily activities?
OW: Well, I would say pivotal and that’s because we all know that’s a very sincere commitment to environment and sustainable development. So, His Serene Highness gives us a lot of time in running the governing body. So, the board of directors is chaired by Prince Albert. So, he participates in the selection of projects on the ground and the designing and developing of our own initiatives.
He offers fantastic advice and fantastic commitment also on the international stage to be vocal on thorny issues like deep-sea mining currently. He played a pivotal role also with other leaders to push for having an ocean-dedicated sustainable development goal from the UN and, later, to insist that the Paris Agreement on, you know, the Climate COP to insist that in the preamble of that treaty, the ocean was mentioned as well as part of the regulation aspect.
I would like also to stress the fact that he’s still now the only head of state to have visited the two Poles, but not just on a cruise. He went on expeditions to the North Pole and then the South Pole. And we are in 2023 and he’s still the only one. Despite the, you know, geostrategic significant approach of the Poles, he’s still the only one to know what is going on there.
So, that’s really interesting.
He’s also excellent in catalysing the information from scientists, the private sector and decision-makers, and this is what we feel is extremely difficult in our organisations, to speak the same language, a common language. How do you push your scientific knowledge into the action, into the decision world?
Scientists usually have the knowledge, but they don’t manage to bring it to the CEOs’ or ministers’ level, and this is where Prince Albert has this ability, to, first of all, being able to meet all these stakeholders, but also to have this common language with them.
DP: Interesting. What about for you? Can you share an example of how, in a personal interaction he may have helped shift your thinking about the Foundation?
OW: Well, that happens on a weekly basis I would say because we share a lot on the development of the strategy of the Foundation. I would say that His Serene Highness has been extremely visionary and progressive on many topics that we tackle, and many topics we just discussed during that podcast. He very much understands the necessity of having a holistic approach.
In that sense when we developed the Ocean Innovators Platform, he challenged us to go a step further. Hence, we would like now to start investing in these companies that we promote.
He also challenged us about the new generation saying, well, if we want to speed up and accelerate the protection of the environment and make sure we have sustainable businesses, let’s train the young leaders. This is something we love with working with Prince Albert is walk the talk, be a doer rather than a man of communication.
DP: I have to say I’ve obviously had the privilege to see him speak a couple of times and I think what’s impressed me is his knowledge and also the authenticity that he brings to the topic.
Let’s shift just a little bit in terms of thinking about other foundations and other families. As a director of a foundation, what advice, given your experiences, would you have for other families that have foundations? How do you get the most, as a family member who has a foundation, out of your team?
OW: I would say team up. We’re too small to act on our own. We need to act like teams and collaborate more.
We are facing global challenges, and a lot of charities, philanthropists can be international players, can have a strong impact as long as we share the best practices, as long as we accept that some others are doing similar things, sometimes in a better way and in that case just team up. We should be driven by the impact we want to have for the planet and not necessarily just by the ego.
I will mention on purpose the ego approach because when it’s a family business, when it’s driven by a name in general, I link that to the ego because we have the freedom to act on our own, to take the decision quickly, fast, and to be driven by a certain passion and determination. But, however, in the balance, if you’re talking about the impact, in the majority of the case, you need to team with others doing similar things to grow that impact. So, if we want to empower the change that we all want to happen, let’s team up.
DP: Fantastic. We talked about the perspective of families and sort of advice that you might have for families in relation to their foundations. Let’s shift. If you were going to have another CEO or another director of a foundation ask you for advice on how to scale the impact that they have, what would you tell them?
OW: Well, I would immediately tell them to listen more carefully to science, listen more carefully to local communities. In the majority of the case, the one knowing the best how to address climate change consequences, the loss of biodiversity, but we have put them on mute for so long. So, I would really go back to the root of the knowledge, know-how, solution, and that science, local communities.
My second recommendation would be you can’t act on your own. You must also see who you can team up with to have a multi-actor, multi-layer, multi-sectoral approach because we can no longer address and fix the problems that the planet faces without having this co-designing of solutions between the industries and involving the civil society, the private sector and the regulators.
It’s impossible to act on your own. It's impossible to act in silos. Again, strong cliché but we’re all pushing to make this change happen. So, as a leader, you need to be able to be humble because we will make mistakes, that’s for sure, but we must act. So, to act you need to listen.
DP: Fantastic. That aspect of how do you scale impact, I think, is on many foundations’ minds, executives of foundations, as they think about what role do they play and, and how do they expand out in terms of their mission.
Any final thoughts for listeners in terms of the importance of oceans and their role of being able to get involved in helping to preserve and actually regenerate the oceans?
OW: So, once again the ocean and climate change are the two sides of the same coin. So, one cannot be fixed without saving the other. That’s the main line I would like to stress today.
The solutions exist. Many, many solutions and technologies are available right now. We just need to, well, come across them and help them to be scaled up and implemented faster than we could dream of.
DP: Well, Olivier, thank you so much for the time today
OW: Thank you, Damian.
DP: And to our listeners. I hope you found the discussion insightful and a good introduction to the value and the opportunity around our oceans, as well as Monaco Ocean Week and the Foundation of His Serene Highness Prince Albert II.
Barclays Private Bank is, again, proud to support this year’s Monaco Ocean Week and definitely believe in more collective action having potential both to strengthen this critical natural ecosystem and be relevant to our clients.
A few takeaways from me. Clearly, without a healthy ocean, there is no thriving global economy and reinforcing, I think, what Olivier said in terms of the blue being part of the green. We heard Olivier talk about the importance of patience and determination in relation to solving these problems, but also a sense of urgency in terms of taking action now. I think for families and foundations who seek to be driven by impact and not just by the ego, it’s really critical, as he said, to remain humble if you want to grow your impact, looking for both science and thought partners to scale.
Most importantly, I think, he talked about the horizon line has not changed, but what has gone on beneath the line has changed. I think today Olivier has given us a view beneath that line, both in terms of its importance and the role we can all play. So, thank you very much for the time, Olivier. Look out for our other podcasts where we’ll be bringing more fascinating speakers to discuss how you, your family and your foundation can generate positive impact with your capital. Thank you so much.
(end of recording)
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