Coles Group commits $10m in research funding to Great Barrier Reef over the next decade

May 27, 2022
By Ioni Doherty

Coles and the Great Barrier Reef Foundation have today announced a 10-year, $10 million partnership to help strengthen the regeneration and resilience of the Great Barrier Reef.

The Blue Carbon Partnership is intended to help mitigate the impacts of climate change and protect marine ecosystems across the iconic Great Barrier Reef in alignment with Coles’ Together to Zero sustainability ambitions.

Coles will dedicate funds towards a number of innovative projects based on ‘blue carbon’ – the process of capturing and storing carbon in oceanic or coastal ecosystems such as mangroves, tidal marshes and seagrasses.

The ecosystems absorb carbon dioxide molecules from the air and have the potential to capture and store more carbon than tropical rainforests as well as hold it underground for centuries – helping in the fight against climate change.

Thinus Keeve, Chief Sustainability, Property and Export Officer ( pictured below with Traditional Owner Eric Lymburner and GBRF Managing Director Anna Marsden) said: “Coles is already making great strides in our Together to Zero emissions ambition and our partnership with the Great Barrier Reef Foundation represents the latest phase in our commitment to show leadership on sustainability.”

“Our investment in the regeneration and revegetation of coastal ecosystems will help build the resilience of the Reef and deliver projects that can make a difference at a meaningful scale,” he said.

“We all have a part to play to ensure Australians can continue to enjoy the Reef for generations to come. The partnership we are announcing today is one example of how Coles is working collaboratively with our team members, suppliers and communities to ensure generational sustainability, while helping mitigate the impacts of climate change.

Australia has some of the greatest potential for storing blue carbon anywhere in the world given its coastline, climate and rich reef systems – and there is no greater example than the Great Barrier Reef.

Blue Carbon Partnership projects include:

  • Working with farmers to reinstate a significant coastal wetland in the Great Barrier Reef catchment aimed to restore coastal habitats and serve as highly effective carbon sinks.
  • Developing the first large-scale seagrass nursery in partnership with leading seagrass researchers and Traditional Owners of the Reef and a demonstration site that can unlock the science needed to support seagrass restoration at scale.

Coles will also engage customers, inspire team members and work with suppliers to raise awareness of the need to protect Reef habitats and ecosystems.

Coles CEO Steven Cain said: “Unlocking Australia’s blue carbon potential by investing in projects that support revegetation and regeneration of coastal ecosystems is crucial to preserving the Reef…

“The programs we support will provide benefits that stretch far beyond the reef itself, by working with farmers and traditional landowners to restore coastal ecosystems, protecting the ocean, providing habitat for native wildlife and capturing and storing atmospheric carbon.”

Great Barrier Reef Foundation Managing Director Anna Marsden applauded Coles’ leadership in recognising the emerging opportunities of blue carbon and the capacity to harness the desire of their customers to see the Reef survive and thrive.

She said, “In supporting these innovative coastal restoration and seagrass projects, Coles is also paving the way to unlock a pipeline of blue carbon projects in the future to accelerate investment in nature-based solutions that improve the health of our Reef.”

Chief Scientist of the Great Barrier Reef Foundation Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg said: “We need the best science to develop bold, innovative ideas to protect coral reef habitats and slow the impacts of climate change, which is the biggest threat to the survival of the Great Barrier Reef…

“Coles’ partnership in blue carbon projects with the Great Barrier Reef Foundation is a prime example of the way we all can be working together to help the Reef and all its living diversity now and into the future. It is terrific to see one of Australia’s corporate greats generously engaging to solve one of the greatest challenges facing Australia.”

Coles’ investment will commence with two pilot projects designed to unlock the Reef’s blue carbon potential, increase biodiversity, accelerate scientific research and support communities along the Reef.

The projects are:

  • Coastal habitat restoration: Working with farmers to reinstate a significant coastal wetland in the Great Barrier Reef catchment. It is the largest blue carbon project to date in Queensland’s Great Barrier Reef catchment and is designed to deliver benefits to the ecosystem. Restoring these wetlands will also help reintroduce highly effective carbon sinks to capture and store atmospheric carbon. Wetland restoration boosts water quality, supports biodiversity and builds the resilience of coastal habitats in the face of climate change.
  • Seagrass nurseries: Developing the first large-scale seagrass nursery in partnership with leading seagrass researchers and Traditional Owners of the Reef. Seagrass meadows reduce the impact of catchment run-off, provide breeding grounds for fish and shellfish, as well as capturing and storing carbon. The creation of a seagrass nursery and a demonstration site will help unlock the science needed to support seagrass restoration at a scale that makes a meaningful difference. It also supports a healthier marine ecosystem, increases blue carbon capture and fosters long-term job creation.

Photo by Alex Coppel.

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