This award recognises the individual or group that has done the most this year to advance public understanding of marine conservation issues, be it through the mainstream media, art forms, in schools, or through campaigning.
Wise to the knowledge that the “world’s oceans are the lifeblood of The Ocean Race”, the organisers of the 2017-18 Volvo-sponsored contest, a triennial 45,000-nautical-mile round-the-world yacht race for boats with professional crews of between seven and 11, pledged to do everything they could “to inspire sailors, race fans around the world, partners, stakeholders, host cities and sponsors to join us in our quest for cleaner seas”.
Hence its sustainability programme. This strove to minimise the footprint of the teams (which were compelled to sign up to the United Nations’ #CleanSeas pledge) and their boats and sponsors, not to mention the 94,200 corporate guests they entertained at the dozen Race Villages, where single-use plastics were discouraged so obviating the use of almost 400,000 plastic bottles.
Great care was taken to source food and materials sustainably, to conserve water and energy and reduce waste. Vendors were compelled to serve food and drink in reusable washable, or at least compostable, serviceware. Efforts were also made to raise awareness of the dangers posed to the oceans by plastic among the 2.5 million people who came to watch the 2017-18 race as well as with the vast global digital audience who followed it, generating 1.9 billion social-media impressions.
The race itself was also used to advance global understanding of plastic pollution by, in effect, turning all seven participating boats into research vessels charged with gathering water samples and meteorological data from places not often accessible to scientists.
The driving force behind the programme is Anne-Cécile Turner, founder of the sustainability consultancy Blueshift, who has led the Ocean Race Sustainability Programme since 2016.