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An Unconventional 3-Step Plan To Save the Oceans

By June 8, 2022

This post was originally published on June 29, 2020 and updated on June 8, 2022.

This planet is habitable because it is covered in water. The oceans span more than seven-tenths of the earth. They regulate the climate, control the weather, and provide most of the oxygen in the air we breathe. The oceans give us life. In return, we treat them like a garbage can.

Every year, over 10 million metric tons of plastic waste enter the oceans. If left unchecked, plastic pollution rates will more than double by 2030. Plastic already falls from the sky, suffocates sea life, and is carried by currents and winds to every nook and cranny of the earth. It’s everywhere, in everything — including us. And this all-connecting threat is intertwined with the climate crisis we are collectively failing to address.

No one wakes up in the morning and decides to destroy the oceans. We have all the knowledge, tools, and imagination we need to turn things around and protect our life-giving ecosystem. So how do we connect the dots? How do we sync the economic system of humankind with the ecosystem of nature and make peace with our own life support system? We founded Parley in answer to these questions.

The Strategy to End Plastic Pollution

On June 29, 2015, at our “Oceans. Climate. Life.” event held at the United Nations headquarters in New York, we presented the first adidas x Parley prototype: a shoe made with plastic waste collected in the Maldives, and illegal fishing nets recovered from the Southern Ocean by Sea Shepherd Conservation Society during their record-breaking campaign to thwart notorious toothfish poachers. More than a shoe, it became a symbol of what’s possible when we work together, and a proof of concept for our strategy — Parley AIR:

Avoid harmful practices and the use of fossil fuels wherever possible – from materials like plastic to industrial fertilizers, which contribute to ocean dead zones.

Intercept and repurpose waste materials like carbon and discarded plastic to create new products with less or zero emissions – while taking these materials out of the environment.

Redesign outdated materials, methods and mindsets, replacing fossil fuel derived products like plastic with natural, neutral, biofabricated and bioengineered materials that work in harmony with nature.

The three Rs — reduce, reuse, and recycle — aren’t enough. They say plastic’s ok, we’re all just using it wrong. This isn’t true, and it puts the onus of responsibility unfairly on the consumer when just 20 companies produce more than half of the world’s single-use plastic waste. Plastic doesn’t work in a closed loop. It breaks apart into tiny pieces, carries harmful chemicals into the food web and emits powerful greenhouse gasses. The images of whales washing ashore with bellies full of plastic trash is proof enough: we need a Material Revolution that makes plastic a relic of our toxic past. The time is up for everything that is harmful to us and the environment. Anything that is exploitative, from mindsets to business practices, must end and be replaced. Parley sees the key to these solutions in creativity and collaboration.

Since 2015, and in the ten years since our founding, we’ve grown our network and scaled our approach through partnerships across the public and private sectors, forming alliances with adidas, Anheuser Busch InBev (Corona), American Express, the Republic of the Maldives, United Nations, World Bank, British Fashion Council, Dior, Brita, Talisker, Sea Change Project, Biofabricate, and collaborators spanning the worlds of science, art, fashion, design, entertainment, sports, space, and ocean exploration.

This is the time to think, dream, and act big. As an environmental organization, our mission is guided by a will to provide the vision and the framework to build a future we can actually live in. With Parley AIR, we have a strategy that can be adopted by individuals, businesses, and countries to create a new economy that works in harmony with nature, and ends the human-driven threats to the ecosystems that make Earth habitable. Through projects focused on communication and education, youth empowerment, direct action, research, and material science, we create success stories that set new standards and provide the roadmaps for others to follow. Our next chapter, the Material Revolution, is all about creating and scaling the materials, methods, and technologies of the future–the innovations that allow us to grow our impact and move beyond plastic.

Man working

The Defining Decade

Scientists say this is the decade that will shape the next 10,000 years on Earth. The IPCC reports warn these are the most crucial months to drastically decarbonize, that it’s now or never to limit warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius — a threshold we will likely cross in at least one of the next five years. From plastic pollution to climate change, we’re running out of time to change the narrative from one of destruction to protection.

With COVID-19, the planet fired a warning shot. The pandemic is a devastating reminder that we are a vulnerable species within an interconnected web of life. It’s also a reminder of how capable we are of change, and how wrong it is to rush back to the “normal” we knew. As the realities of environmental and social injustice make clear — we have so much work to do to dismantle everything that is broken in our world. Everything is up for redesign. This is a challenge for every creator, thinker and leader to own.

There is no magic fix for the complex threats we face, and no one person or group has all the answers. That’s why we aim to connect the many pieces of the solutions puzzle with the inspiration and formula for change. This is our defining decade, our brief window of opportunity to learn to live in harmony with each other and the ecosystem that makes life possible. The goal of Parley is to make sure we move fast enough to rise and meet it. 

Collaboration is the way forward.

Learn more: // @parleyfortheoceans (Facebook) // @parleyforoceans (Twitter)
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At Salesforce, the environment is a key stakeholder. Learn more about our sustainability initiatives in our latest Stakeholder Impact Report.

About the Author

Cyrill Gutsch

Cyrill Gutsch

Cyrill is an award-winning designer and brand/product developer. In 1998 he created a method called Cross Intelligence, which brings a culture of collaboration to major organizations. In 2012 he decided to focus on a new client vital to us all: the oceans. He founded Parley for the Oceans as a collaboration network for creators, thinkers and leaders to raise awareness for the beauty and fragility of the oceans and to develop and implement strategies that can end their destruction. Parley and their partners won the Grand Prix for Product Design at Cannes Lions, two D&AD Pencils and an ADCN Grand Prix in 2014. Gutsch was named 2017 Environmentalist of the Year by the Surf Industry Manufacturers Association for his tireless work for the oceans. In 2018, Parley was named Environmental Organisation of the Year at EARTHx and Gutsch was honored with a Special Recognition Award for Innovation by the British Fashion Council. In 2019, Gutsch was inducted into the UBS Global Visionary community – a select group of leading entrepreneurs and individuals working towards one or more of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals.