Chris Shearman in conversation with Mathilda D’silva from Ocean Purpose Project, Part 2

Chris Shearmon, Principal at Miramar Global interviews Mathilda D’silva, the founder of Ocean Purpose Project.

Mathilda has witnessed the devasting effects ocean pollution can have on a community and was directly affected by toxins in the waters of Boracay, Philippines which caused her to develop autoimmune diseases. This sparked her desire to not only raise awareness of ocean pollution but also to take action to make a significant difference. We wanted to ask Mathilda her thoughts on the future of ocean pollution and get her insights for people wanting to incorporate sustainability into their organisation.


What do you see as the recent successes for resolving ocean pollution globally?

Success to me is about consistency and traction and moving beyond beach clean ups and campaigns towards larger systemic issues around ocean pollution.

Last year, I spoke at G20, UN Ocean Conference and delivered an hour’s presentation as part of the Singapore delegation at COP 27 about science-based experiments where we convert plastic into hydrogen (plastic to fuel – PTF) and our work in seaweed. After years of talking about PTF and seaweed and being dismissed, we’re finally at a stage where the Singapore government is supporting our work and pulling more organisations to move into this space and support us, and this is a huge success to me.

A huge turning point came when we gained support from UNDP and the Indonesian Government. We receive an amazing array of connections and discussions with regional players who are already tackling the pollution crisis and are offering their knowledge to support Singapore. Our maritime clients in Singapore are also putting us in contact with other like-minded individuals to guide us further.

It’s not just the top level of government who are wanting to make the change, its coming from organisations and even primary school aged children coming up with ideas on how they can participate. The community is starting to come together.


What do you see as the results of Singapore’s contribution to creating sustainable solutions?

There are existing challenges for Singapore regarding existing commitments to fossil fuels, less space in Pulau Semakau with takes the ashes from burnt waste and a consumer addiction to plastics- however the landscape is shifting. Singapore announced in 2022 how it needs to change its dependency on fossil fuels and focus on reusable, particularly hydrogen. The grid will soon have to cater to a hydrogen future so that sends a strong signal to market for multiple hydrogen sources; our work in plastic to hydrogen can solve the waste and energy issue. The first commitment Singapore has made is related to creating sustainable finance mechanisms. In January 2023 the first blue carbon credit was issued; this is a fantastic signal that our work in turning ocean bioremediation into sustainable finance products is coming online.

With electric vehicles and all other forms of infrastructure starting to come online, there will be other forms of infrastructural change that comes online as well. Singapore is short on time and has a very small population and location, so we must move fast to plan for the future; and these are the key areas we’ll need to focus on initially.


What is your advice to people wanting to incorporate sustainability into their corporate role?

Sustainability shouldn’t be the concern of just the Chief Sustainability Officer but be considered across the board. Aside from the initial cost savings of using less paper, electricity, and water, it’s vital that corporates realise the need to sustain the planet is not just an academic or marketing exercise but a question of existence.

A corporate role must make sustainability a priority but also consider what’s the intention and the purpose. It’s not only about doing a two-day sustainability course, designing impact reports and creating sustainability roles. For me it’s important to have a genuine interest in a specific area and have a hands-on approach regarding how you’re going to address the challenges with a core focus on solutions. This requires deep introspection and can lead to new markets, products and divisions created, and maybe a promotion.

There’s also a lot of time needed to invest in researching and gaining community and ecosystem involvement. You need to understand the documentation, local knowledge, and regulatory frameworks around certain processes. Once you’ve found the area you want to focus on, and you’ve completed your research then need to address what value you can add. Sustainability is not a ‘nice to have’ anymore – it’s a requirement for the industry. You can’t just dip your toe into it, you need to dive deep and create specific innovations which address the challenges.


For anyone who would like to be involved the next Singapore beach clean it’s on 26 Feb, 9:00 am – 11:00 am, meeting at Pasir Ris Park Carpark E – 125 Elias Rd, Singapore 519926.


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