The Economist Group and The Nippon Foundation, Japan’s leading philanthropic organisation and a champion of ocean science, are launching a multi-year initiative on pollution and ocean health.

The ocean is Earth’s largest ecosystem and faces critical challenges. Back to Blue, an initiative of The Economist Group and The Nippon Foundation, brings together two organisations that share a common understanding of the need to improve evidence-based approaches and solutions to the pressing issues faced by the ocean, and to restoring ocean health and promoting sustainability. The initiative will focus initially on aspects of the vexing challenge of pollution.


The ocean is drowning in plastic: 11 million tonnes enter the seas each year. Without dramatic action, this could double or nearly treble within the next two decades, new research suggests. Policymakers, business leaders, non-government organisations (NGOs) and the public have become increasingly aware of this urgent crisis as initiatives to raise awareness and address the problem have multiplied over the past few years. Back to Blue seeks to address important gaps that remain in our understanding of the issue, with new Economist Intelligence Unit research slated to launch in mid-2021.


Awareness of chemical pollution of the ocean remains far behind that of plastic pollution, despite a growing scientific consensus that the threat posed to ocean, and human, health is at least of equal importance. Back to Blue asks how greater attention and focus can be brought to this poorly understood, often-neglected aspect of ocean health, building a global programme of research and multi-stakeholder engagement around what is frequently referred to as the invisible threat to our seas.


Back to Blue will consider how pollution has impacted the health of ocean ecosystems, biodiversity, and how our present fragemented knowledge on these impacts can be improved as tools for guiding and sharpening policy.

The world ocean initiative

The Economist Group's World Ocean Initiative imagines an ocean in robust health, and with a vital economy. Year-round and at our flagship World Ocean Summit, we foster a global conversation on the greatest challenges facing the seas, inspiring bold thinking, new partnerships and the most effective action to build a sustainable ocean economy.

The Initiative concentrates on three cross-cutting levers of change—finance, governance and innovation—each of which concern the ‘what’ and the ‘why’ for a sustainable ocean, but most of all they explore the ‘how’.


Sign up to the Back to Blue newsletter to receive latest news and research from the programme, including a plastic management research which will be released later this year.