Oceans absorb around 30% of human-made CO2 and capture 90% of the excess heat generated by these emissions. Providing at least half of the oxygen to the atmosphere, oceans provide us with every other breath we take. They are the habitat for many species and the basis for many businesses. Technology plays an important role in helping to safeguard both. World Oceans Day was established to raise awareness of human actions on the oceans and how to keep them healthy.

One of the key allies to keep the oceans healthy are whales. Whales are highly intelligent and social sea mammals. Some live in big families where there are brothers and sisters, grandparents that educate the juveniles, and parents that protect their young ones with the utmost care. All of them play an important role in maintaining the oceans’ resiliency.

Whales provide important nutrients for phytoplankton, which are microscopic organisms doing the crucial job of absorbing CO2 and producing oxygen. In other words, where there are more whales, there is more phytoplankton and, therefore, more CO2 sequestration. During their lifetime of about 40 to 60 years and also at the end of their lives, whales help to absorb a large amount of CO2. Their bodies take up to 33 tons of CO2 to the seafloor when they die, where it gets locked up for a long time.

Just as marine life depends on healthy oceans, so do businesses, like tourism, fishery, maritime equipment production and repair, ports, supply chains, and the jobs generated by these industries that provide many individuals with an essential income. Even the whale-watching business grew to over US$2 billion per year. But that wasn’t always the case. Whales were heavily hunted, driving many whale species close to extinction.

With the Help of Technology, the Future of Our Big Allies Changed

In the 1960s, the songs of humpback whales were discovered. With recordings from the U.S. Navy hydrophone network and the later visualization of what’s recorded, the structured melodies of humpback whales were revealed. When some of these recordings became public, people started to understand that whales are very intelligent. Movements to protect the animals started, laying the foundation for some whale populations to be able to slowly recover over the years.

Today, whales face new human-made challenges. Among them are ship strikes, noise, and plastic pollution, as well as entanglements. Our marine friends in the oceans need more help.

Technology Can Help Change the Tide

Having accurate data available at the right time is crucial for businesses when it comes to eliminating waste, like plastics, from their products and processes. Abandoned or lost fishing gear, for example, is often made of plastics, staying in the oceans for hundreds of years and continuing to catch marine life. Entanglements are a big threat to marine animals, including large whales.

Consumers’ and businesses’ awareness of the overall plastic problem – 8 million tons that reach the ocean every year – has increased. A data-driven strategy helps businesses to understand the usage and implications of virgin plastic. Having information about other options at the right time in the process allows businesses to catch the problem at the source and design out plastics and waste or move to reuse schemes. Data insights with the help of technology, such as SAP Responsible Design and Production, allow businesses to make the right decisions and move to a circular economy, protecting biodiversity and reducing the 45% of carbon emissions coming from producing products we consume and then waste.

Boosted by the increased emissions of human-made CO2 in the atmosphere, the warming climate heats the oceans, making them more acidic and putting the habitat and food sources of many marine lives, including whales, at risk.

With climate change at the top of the list of the most pressing challenges of our time, businesses are moving towards net-zero targets. They need the facts from high-quality data in every business transaction throughout their entire value chain to accurately set targets and make decisions. They need data they can trust. So, it’s time to move from averages to actuals. And it is time to redefine the “R” in ERP (enterprise resource planning) to include sustainability data, starting with carbon. With the move towards transactional carbon accounting, businesses can reach net zero, so our generation can reach the target of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Insights from innovative and intelligent technologies help make the right decisions and take the right actions. Technology will continue to reinvent how we can keep nature as our ally and build a sustainable and livable planet. When we again think of whales, sensors could help to locate lost fishnets, so they can be collected and taken out of the waters. With innovation in technologies, ship traffic can, for example, become less noisy as to not disrupt the communication and orientation of whales. Artificial intelligence (AI) can help ships’ crews detect whales early, so the vessel’s speed can be reduced or rerouted to protect the animals and allow the whales to continue to help keep the oceans healthy and provide their climate action services to us.

Building a sustainable world together needs collaboration. To set the required regulations with governments, innovative, smaller companies and NGOs can help find new ways to address climate action, protect biodiversity, and clean up what we left behind. Companies from every industry must work together to reinvent business models and processes with the help of technology to achieve net-zero and sustainable businesses.