Through the North Pacific Ocean runs a 600-meter-long floater. From high above it looks like a black snake turning and twisting at the surface of the water. It carries a system that collects and retains garbage, and the goal is to remove plastic from the oceans with what will be one of the largest cleanups in history.
According to the UN Environment Programme, more than eight million tons of plastic leak into the ocean every year. The garbage compile in patches, and one of the largest is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch between Hawaii and California. Therefore, when the floater took off from San Francisco Bay in the fall of 2018, the course was set for the North Pacific.
The floater is developed by the Dutch non-profit organization The Ocean Cleanup, who has joined forces with Deloitte as a knowledge partner. It is designed to capture plastic ranging from small pieces just millimeters in size, up to large fishing nets tens of meters wide.
The floater is carried by the current and captures the plastic with a three-meter-deep skirt attached below, making it impossible for the plastic to slip through; An innovative solution to one of the biggest challenges the world faces, says Bahare Haghshenas, who leads the strategy and innovation services on the Sustainable Development Goals in Deloitte Denmark.
“Plastic waste in the oceans is a crucial challenge. We see it on the political agenda in several countries around the world, and with very good reason. Studies show, that the world contains enough plastic to cover an area the size of Argentina, ankle-deep,” she says.
“In Deloitte, we believe that the SDG-challenges such as plastic waste in the oceans must be addressed with innovative solutions, and that is why we engage in a wide range of innovative projects such as the Ocean Cleanup-project,“ she adds.
Deloitte engages in many different projects related to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). For instance, the UNDP SDG Accelerator-programme, supporting 30 Danish small and medium-sized industrial companies to use the SDGs as a starting point for business innovation. One of these companies is the Danish cleantech startup Plastix. The company transform fishing nets, fibres and rigid plastic waste fractions into high quality plastics raw materials to recycle the plastic that is already produced. Another is Desmi, that develops equipment to clean some of the world’s most polluted rivers.
A strong partnership
On areas ranging from tax and finance to risk management, Deloitters work together across borders to make sure, that the project floats steadily.
Working on the project is nothing ordinary and it requires a great personal motivation, says Melissa Dezijn from the Deloitte Tax & Legal team in Amsterdam:
“As an avid scuba diver I have – unfortunately – witnessed how badly the ocean is polluted by plastic. Watching this young organization trying to achieve a greater good increased my awareness of the importance of proactive, entrepreneurial minds setting out to make a change.”
Marnix Franssen from Deloitte Consulting in Amsterdam has also worked closely together with The Ocean Cleanup to analyze their finance processes. He and his colleagues compared the processes to the industry standards and came up with 30 recommendations on several finance areas such as Procure-to-Pay, Order-to-Cash, Month End Close and Reporting.
“It felt as an honour to be part of this great initiative, knowing that it helps them being ready, from a finance perspective, for all the good things that are coming for The Ocean Cleanup in the future,” he says.
According to the Ocean Cleanup models, a full-scale roll-out, with a fleet of approximately 60 floaters, could clean 50 per cent of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in just five years.
“The coming years will mark further growth as we are aiming for a full scale-up of the cleanup in 2021, and we want to keep the distractions on our mission to a minimum. Luckily, we can count on a broad range of support from Deloitte,” Jos Huijbregts, CFO of the The Ocean Cleanup, says.
The partnership between The Ocean Cleanup Foundation and the Deloitte Impact Foundation runs until 2020.