Investing To Protect The Oceans
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Investing To Protect The Oceans

Why investing in ‘blue-bonds’ could pay.

By Karen Hube
Fri, Mar 26, 2021 10:34amGrey Clock 2 min

Through the explosive rise of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) investing in recent years, the “E” in ESG has been almost entirely defined by efforts to address climate and terrestrial problems. Investors wanting to leverage their capital to improve the health of the world’s oceans haven’t had an abundance of options.

But that is finally beginning to change. Some public investments such as new so-called blue bonds—the blue referring to oceans and waterways—and stocks of companies with innovative ocean-protective policies are liquid entry points for investors. Meanwhile, direct private investment options have been opening up for wealthy folks who can tolerate investment lockup periods and high minimum investments.

“ESG and impact investments directly addressing oceans are taking time to develop,” says Justina Lai, chief impact officer at Wetherby Asset Management, a San Francisco wealth management firm specializing in ESG. “But it’s an area that has garnered more interest in the past two or three years as awareness grows.”

Blue Bonds

Among the newest options are blue bonds, whose proceeds are used to fund ocean-related projects aimed at preserving and protecting the environment.

The first issuance was in 2018 by the Republic of the Seychelles to fund sustainable fisheries. More recently, Morgan Stanley underwrote the World Bank’s $10 million issuance of 30-year blue bonds.

“Our goal is to connect capital with solutions, to drive impact around issues of plastic waste,” says Matthew Slovik, head of global sustainable finance for Morgan Stanley, which in 2019 resolved to reduce and prevent 50 million metric tons of plastic waste by 2030.

Critical to the acceleration of change is making impact and ESG investments accessible to average investors. Morgan Stanley is doing its part by offering low minimum investment—$10,000—ESG portfolios that include ocean-supportive investments, Slovik says.

Private Investments

Opportunities are broadest in the private investing arena, where pioneering venture, private equity, and debt funds are channelling capital into companies with innovative ideas for addressing marine challenges.

Among them is Closed Loop Partners, a New York investment firm committed to helping build a circular economy in which products are reused and waste is eliminated before it can reach the oceans. For example, its Closed Loop Venture Fund invests in a Chilean start-up called Algramo, which creates refill stations for household products such as detergent, condiments, rice, and other staples.

Circulate Capital, a Singapore-based private investment company, similarly focuses on plastic reduction in nations including India, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, and Indonesia. Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, and Unilever are among investors in the Circulate Capital Ocean Fund, among whose underlying investments are Ricron Panels, a Gujarat, India-based recycler of plastic waste into materials for furniture and building construction, and Tridi Oasis, an Indonesian converter of PET (polyethylene terephthalate) bottles into flakes used in packaging.

There’s great potential for growth for innovators in the blue economy, says Mark Huang, co-founder and managing director of SeaAhead, which provides a start-up platform for blue innovators and last year launched the Blue Angel Investment Group to connect investors with promising start-ups. The Paris- based Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development estimates the blue economy will double to $3 trillion by 2030.

Blue Angel’s debut was met with the challenging circumstances created by Covid-19, but by February this year had already doubled its entire 2020 capital. Among its investments: Beta Hatch, a young Seattle firm that creates feed for poultry out of mealworms, replacing the typical feed made from ground fish—a product leading to overfishing in the oceans, Huang says.


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Milestone birthdays and anniversaries, weddings, and graduations are momentous life occasions that some like to mark with large and elaborate celebrations.

And the deep-pocketed set are still in catch-up mode after a party-throwing standstill during the pandemic that went on for many months during the height of the lockdowns and social distancing. Bashes since then have become ever more extravagant and experiential—mere get-togethers, they’re not.

Hosts are also seeking any excuse to throw an event and having parties with the same “wow” factor for far less significant reasons, or for micro-occasions as they’re called, and even “just because,” according to luxury event planners who work with this elite set.

Colin Cowie, a planner based in New York and Miami who regularly orchestrates multimillion-dollar gatherings and was behind Jennifer Lopez’s and Ben Affleck’s wedding, calls it the “event revolution.”

“Large-scale events have become the norm,” Cowie says. “The wealthy, who are used to celebrating their life moments in a big way couldn’t do anything during the pandemic and are now going all out for anything they host.”

His company, Colin Cowie Lifestyle, plans 30% more events today than pre-Covid and has a lineup booked for the next two years. An example includes an upcoming million-dollar dinner party in the Hamptons simply to socialise with friends. It’s an affair with free-flowing Dom Perignon, centre-cut filet mignons, and unlimited caviar.

Colin Cowie Lifestyle plans 30% more events today than pre-Covid
Calen Rose

Other high-end planners also attribute the rise of over-the-top celebrations to a “live life to the fullest” attitude that’s become prevalent in the last few years. But they say that these parties aren’t necessarily about spending more than before—rather, they’re increasingly creative, thoughtful, and, with respect to weddings, longer.

Lynn Easton, a Charleston-based planner, says that her typical wedding used to span two days and entailed a rehearsal dinner plus the wedding itself. “Now, it’s a five-day bonanza with events like a groomsman lunch,” Easton says.

Easton also plans glitzy milestone birthdays such as one for a 60th where the host flew 60 friends and family to a private island. Dinners were multi-hour affairs in various locations around the isle with the showpiece being a five-course meal where the food was presented on dishes that were hand-carved in ice.

Another planner, Victoria Dubin, based in New York and Miami, says that, in a new precedent, the weddings she’s tapped to design kick off with striking welcome meals. She recently planned an al fresco rehearsal dinner at the Brooklyn pizzeria Roberta’s that recreated a Tuscan garden. Elements included potted herbs, lemon trees, vintage olive oil cans, ceramic plates, and table cards presented with palm leaves in limoncello cans.

Another planner, Victoria Dubin, recently planned an al fresco rehearsal dinner at the Brooklyn pizzeria Roberta’s that recreated a Tuscan garden.
Aletiza Photo

Pashmina shawls hung from chairs to keep guests warm, and freshly baked pizzas and Aperol spritzes were in ready supply throughout the evening.

Stacy Teckin, the groom’s mother, hosted the party with her husband, Ian, and says she sought to pull off a dinner that made an impression on their guests. “The wedding was delayed because of Covid, and now that we had the chance to celebrate, we wanted to go all out,” Teckin says. “I’m not sure we would have done that before.”

In another example, acclaimed planner Norma Cohen threw a wild safari-themed bar mitzvah for a client.

A four-day wedding in Paris where the ceremony was in a historic chateau and the host paid for guests to stay at Hotel Crillon
Norma Cohen Productions

The memorable occasion transpired at Spring Studios in downtown Manhattan and saw 400 guests be transported to the African plains: Details included mammoth replicas of wildlife such as giraffes and elephants, servers in safari themed attire, and entertainment dressed like giraffes. The event was one of several over-the-top parties Cohen’s arranged recently.

A four-day wedding in Paris where the ceremony was in a historic chateau and the host paid for guests to stay at Hotel Crillon, one of the city’s most luxurious properties, also ranks high in Cohen’s memory.

Then there’s a destination party in London that Cohen planned for a client who was turning 40. It as a six-day affair with dinners at swanky spots such as Cipriani, the Arts Club, and Cecconi’s at Soho House. The finale was Lancaster House, a mansion in St. James, where guests were entertained by cabaret dancers from the famed Ibiza club Lio Ibiza and feasted on prime rib and lamb chops and imbibed on Krug champagne.

“People today don’t want to host events,” Cohen says. “They want experiences that take you away to a different place and make you forget that the real world exists.”