Sustainable Blue Economy

Sustainable Blue Economy

Learn about the Sustainable Blue Economy

The ocean covers 70% of our planet, carries 90 % of globally traded goods, feeds billions, and provides jobs to hundreds of millions. The blue economy is said to be worth trillions of dollars – but what exactly is the blue economy? Where is it? Who is part of it? How does it connect with the wider economy? What part do I play in it? What does it mean to have a sustainable blue economy, and how do we achieve it?

If you have ever struggled to address any of these questions, the resources on this page might be helpful for you. 

Here, we define the blue economy as:

  • The ocean environment and human activities at sea (the dark blue economic sphere), and
  • Land-based upstream and downstream actors and activities connected with the ocean and with maritime activities (the light blue economic sphere).

The two spheres of the blue economy are embedded in the wider economy through economic supply and value chains, environmental connections and impacts across ocean-land-atmosphere boundaries, and the many benefits that flow from the dark blue sphere through the light blue sphere into the wider economy. Ocean-going activities generate money and non-monetary benefits (e.g. energy, food, health, rest and spiritual nourishment). The ocean itself even generates benefits for us without us having to go to sea at all: About half the oxygen in the air we breathe is produced by marine phytoplankton.

Our perspective is that a sustainable blue economy should enhance wellbeing, create prosperity, and increase social equity at multiple scales (from local communities to national and global societies), through activities that respect ecological limits, and that protect, regenerate and maintain the integrity of marine and coastal ecosystems. The sustainable blue economy should aim to keep human societies within the “safe and just space for humanity” in between the social foundation and the ecological ceiling. In other words, a sustainable blue economy has to be part of a fair, just, and ecologically regenerative wider economy that meets the basic needs of every human in current and future generations within the limits of what the ecosystem can provide and sustain in the long term.

Learn about the Sustainable Blue Economy

The creation of a sustainable blue economy is a challenge that none of us have fully achieved yet, but sharing knowledge, tools and experiences is the best way for us to make progress globally, nationally, and within our own communities. Transitioning to a sustainable blue economy will require a myriad of actors undertaking different tasks and actions, from local community initiatives to global cooperation. Social and environmental priorities differ between localities and scales, so each initiative and action needs to be adjusted to its specific scale, context, and circumstances.

Different regions, countries and communities can’t each follow identical pathways. However, individual pathways and actions can be guided by the same vision of the “safe and just space for humanity”, and make use of existing frameworks, approaches and methods whenever appropriate. The resources on this page might help you make progress in your own role along your own pathway. The video clips and publication below illustrate how different individual transition pathways can look in practice, and might serve as inspiration.

For those focused on strategic processes, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is currently working on a package of guidance called the Sustainable Blue Economy Transition Framework, in collaboration with a number of partners. This Transition Framework aims to guide countries in their transition process and assist in the delivery of national and international policy and development goals, including the SDGs and other global commitments.

The Transition Framework is targeted primarily at governments and public sector officials, to assist them in their role in the strategic development and implementation of policy at a national level. Other actors (including public and private financiers of blue economy sectors and activities, private enterprises, educational institutions and non-governmental organisations) may also find the Transition Framework useful.

People who can help to sail the Sustainable Blue Economy Journey:

Here you will find our ever expanding database of trainers who have Sustainable Blue Economy in their blood: They live it, sleep it, and will die for it…

Erick Ross Salazar

Katrin Münch

Louise Lieberknecht

Susanne Altvater

Resources to embark the Sustainable Blue Economy Journey:

Capacity Building resources:

Are you embarking on your own pathway towards building a sustainable blue economy? If so, our capacity building resources might help you. Our sustainable blue economy training workshops are designed to help you identify and put into practice your own actions and pathways for progress. We don’t have a ready-made set of perfect, one-size-fits-all answers, nor can we provide an easy step-by-step instruction book for how to build a sustainable blue economy, but our highly interactive workshops will provide you with an opportunity to explore concepts, frameworks, tools and guidance that can support you on your journey of finding the right answers and solutions for your own context. Follow the links below to our trainer hub, where you can contact us if you are interested in a training workshop.


You can also access and use our capacity building resources yourself if you wish. The materials can be used to convey and discuss conceptual knowledge on sustainable blue economy development, and to create interactive work sessions that provide participants with opportunities to practice methodologies and tools that they can take away from the training workshop and use subsequently with their own colleagues and collaborators. You can explore the training materials using the links below. The Trainer Manual is a good place to start.

Visual communication Resources:

We have created visual communication resources related to sustainable blue economy development, which you can use and share with colleagues. The “blue economy in a nutshell” video gives a short introduction to what the blue economy entails. The story map is an interactive journey that explores the concept of the sustainable blue economy in more detail. The “circular blue economy” video talks about the different actors and their connections in what we call the circular blue economy. The graphics are a series of standalone graphics, based on the design of the story map and the “blue economy in a nutshell” animation.

This video gives a quick overview of the materials provided for the Sustainable Blue Economy course.
This document showcases 11 Solutions that illustrate pathways for Sustainable Blue Economy development.
Downloadable graphics for use in other works
Blue Solutions video about Blue Economy development in a region where indigenous and western culture co-exist.
Blue Solutions video about how seaweed farming empowers women in Zanzibar.
Blue Solutions video about how TONTOTON addresses plastic pollution in Vietnam.
Blue Solutions video about Social Enterprise approaches to Blue Economy.
Video explains the broad concept of circular blue economy.
Video as an introduction to the concept of SBE.
Storymap as an introduction to the concept of SBE. Will be released in the course of the year.