Avoid Arctic shipping routes. That’s the message Nike and the Ocean Conservancy want businesses to hear today.
The sportswear giant and the environmental nonprofit launched Thursday the Arctic Shipping Corporate Pledge, which commits signatories to keep cargo traffic away from Arctic Ocean routes that have recently opened up because of retreating ice. Although such routes can reduce transit times, they argue, increasing vessel traffic along the Northern Sea Route and similar passages poses “great risk and potentially devastating environmental impacts.”
Apparel brands that have agreed to “not intentionally” dispatch ships through the Arctic include Bestseller, Columbia, Gap, H&M, Kering, Li & Fung and PVH Corp., along with transportation companies CMA CGM, Evergreen, Hapag-Lloyd and Mediterranean Shipping Company.
The Arctic is a vital instrument for regulating global temperatures and slowing down climate change, environmentalists say. But Nike and the Ocean Conservancy also warn that cutting across the lonely and largely uncharted reaches of the Arctic is “dangerous and risky,” particularly in the event of a stranding or an oil spill. The latter, in particular, could cause irreparable harm—not only to sensitive ice-dependent ecosystems but also the subsistence livelihoods of indigenous communities.
“The dangers of trans-Arctic shipping routes outweigh all perceived benefits and we cannot ignore the impacts of greenhouse-gas emissions from global shipping on our ocean,” Janis Searles Jones, CEO of Ocean Conservancy, said in a statement. “Ocean Conservancy applauds Nike for recognizing the real bottom line here is a shared responsibility for the health of the Arctic—and believes the announcement will spur much-needed action to prevent risky Arctic shipping and hopes additional commitments to reduce emissions from global shipping will emerge.”
Global shipping accounts for roughly 3 percent of greenhouse-gas emission worldwide—equivalent to the annual carbon footprint of Germany or Japan—but is not included in reductions commitments by countries that have signed the 2016 Paris Agreement to limit temperature increases to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
“At Nike, we exist to serve athletes. That means taking climate action through Move to Zero, Nike’s journey towards a zero-carbon, zero-waste future,” said Hilary Krane, chief administrative officer and general counsel at Nike, said. “We know climate change impacts how our athletes train and play, and whether they get to enjoy sport at all. Through this pledge, we’ve made a clear choice–to help protect the planet and preserve the Arctic.”