Ambio article named best academic research with societal impact by the Financial Times

The prestigious business newspaper Financial Times has awarded Rafael Sardá and colleagues the prize for “Best academic research with societal Impact: publications and outreach that have influenced policy or practice”. The article was published in 2023 in Academy’s environmental science journal Ambio – A Journal of Environment and Society.

Their research was praised by the judges as “comprehensive and a nice blend of being academically grounded but also practical, raising awareness of a woefully understudied topic”. Judge Karthik Venkataraman was particularly impressed by the entries that examined problems at the intersection of environment and society, and the cross-sectoral efforts required to address them. “My sense is that environment and social topics still tend to be siloed, when we should all be pushing more to understand how these topics are deeply intertwined,” he says. In other words, perfectly aligned with the scope of Ambio for the last 50 years.

The article used natural language processing and AI to analyse sustainability reports and measure how seriously 2,500 companies took ocean-related challenges. It found that the UN Sustainable Development Goal, Life below water, was one of the lowest priorities of all the goals. Only half of the companies were aware of the ocean-related challenges in their sectors. And those companies that did address ocean-related issues tended to take a reactive approach – such as mitigating risks to meet compliance requirements.

The authors recommend practical ways for companies to reduce their impact on the ocean. It has also led to the creation of the Ocean Disclosure Initiative, a framework aimed at raising awareness of corporate pressures on the oceans, requiring the disclosure of key data and providing an assessment methodology for corporate risks related to marine ecosystems.

Sardá and colleagues conclude: “We have noticed that despite the delay in recognizing this major challenge, once companies are informed, there is a strong interest and willingness to actively engage.”

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