Renewables present solutions to ocean pollution

Aberdeen Standard Investments' David Smith says address the issue of microplastics and microfibres

We need to increase the production of ocean-derived protein, but we need to do so in a sustainable way that reduces the significant impact that fishing has had on the environment, safeguards marine habitats, and protects the livelihoods of those involved in fishing.

Our oceans are home to astonishing biodiversity, yet the impact of human progress and industrialisation has been dramatic and severe. Whether from overfishing, the use of fertilisers on land which leach into the sea, acidification from carbon emissions, or plastic pollution, human actions are affecting the oceans around us. Sometimes these are seemingly small actions that lead to big impacts.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) estimates between 15% and 31% of all of the plastic in the oceans could come from primary sources, small microplastics that enter the oceans after being released from household and industrial products. These microplastics are part of everyday life – they could be added to shower gels and scrubs, for example, or could come from the synthetic textiles we increasingly wear.

The IUCN estimates around 35% of all primary microplastics released into the world’s oceans come from the laundry of textiles. Washing synthetic textiles leads to the release of microplastics, and research from 2011 found that “a single garment can produce >1900 fibres per wash”.

It’s vitally important we address the issue of microplastics and microfibres to help protect the oceans around us. As part of our ownership strategy we are actively and urgently engaging on this issue with a number of white goods manufacturers to raise awareness and improve standards.


Renewable energy, in many cases and in many locations, is one of the cheapest if not the cheapest source of energy. Offshore wind is one area that has significant potential – unobstructed landscapes with high wind speeds suggest that offshore wind could play a big role in the move to a low carbon energy system driven by renewable energy. Offshore wind could also play a key role in the production of ‘green’ hydrogen.

The pressure to decarbonise industries is being felt across a number of sectors, and this includes shipping. The IMO estimates although the carbon intensity of the industry has improved in recent years, emissions from international shipping accounted for around 2.9% of anthropogenic emissions in 2018.

The good news is there are potentially solutions to this, including for example, alternative fuels such as hydrogen, and that shipping and energy companies are working together to make these solutions a reality.


Natasha Turner

Natasha is global editor at ESG Clarity, part of Mark Allen Financial, and has been a financial journalist for seven years. She has been shortlisted for Story of the Year and Investment Journalist of the...