At Reef-World we pride ourselves on delivering meaningful and tangible results for marine conservation.
"To inspire and empower people to act in conserving and sustainably developing coastal resources, particularly coral reefs and related ecosystems."
Reef-World believes that nobody wants to harm the very environment we rely on to survive, and that by investing in educating people we can achieve conservation impact on the ground and in the reefs.
Reef-World uses the most powerful tool available to us all, education. We provide strategic capacity building assistance, based on sound science to local environmental champions who are well positioned to spread this knowledge within their community or industry for conservation action.
Reef-World's main project, Green Fins works with the marine tourism industry. Scuba diving and snorkelling attracts millions of people from all over the world and the industry itself employs a vast number of people, both foreign and from local communities. By targeting this community to spread our messages, Reef-World effectively helps to protect local ecosystems and build a sustainable tourism industry.
GEARING up to change the world – creating a green economy and measuring success
There are many good projects to protect the environment or improve social circumstances but the questions remains - how to be sure that a project 'does what it says on the tin'? Reef-World's Green Environmental Assessment Rating System (GEARS) goes a long way to being able to show the positive difference the British charity is making to the social infrastructures and marine environment in the locations in which it works. GEARS is a method developed by The Reef-World Foundation, initially to monitor the success of their own reef conservation projects in South East Asia.
How does GEARS work?
Once a project with environmental and/or social goals has been developed, the GEARS system allows an organisation to set up a simple monitoring system.
The success of several objectives or milestones required to reach the overall goals can be measured using a green-amber-red rating system, based on a weighted score for each objective allowing for industry wide problems to be easily isolated.
History of GEARS
GEARS was the brainchild of Anne Miller of The Reef-World Foundation. "I had already been living and working in the dive tourism industry and had started Reef-World in 1999 with help from Leonardo DiCaprio when he came to Thailand to film ‘The Beach’. I was looking for ways to manage and measure our success in the field remotely. I wanted to be able to demonstrate that we weren't just talking the talk, but were making a real difference with our projects – enabling us and those we worked with in the community to be financially sustainable, improving people's lives and protecting their local environment. I was looking for a way to show how well we were performing to a triple bottom line (economically, socially and environmentally). Purely by chance, I took a temporary job at a large pharmaceutical company in Britain that became the turning point for my finding just the approach we needed."
The approach was based on a financial risk assessment methodology being developed within the Group Internal Audit department of this company. The methodology was used to identify financial risks and create controls to mitigate those risks. Anne realised that if environmental risks were approached in the same way, this would be a good basis for a new Reef-World system and began by looking at risks or threats faced by a coral reef ecosystem.
At the time Reef-World was working on reef conservation, education and community based tourism projects and began to use GEARS to help measure the successes of these projects. "I had to make a lot of changes to the original methodology so that we could ensure a level of objectivity, consistency and rating. I started in 2001 and had the rudiments of the system in place that year. It developed within Reef-World over the next few years and was used on smaller local projects in Thailand. I was then on the lookout for an international project so that we could test the system in a larger context".
GEARS and Green Fins
The opportunity arose when Reef-World were approached to take on the Green Fins project. It was at this point where Chloe and James Harvey joined Reef-World and they helped to apply GEARS to the Green Fins Code of Conduct to develop a way to monitor performance of businesses. The Green Fins Code of Conduct includes both social and environmental objectives, such as reducing the amount of waste and discharge of dive & snorkel operators. Using the GEARS method, Chloe and JJ developed the Green Fins assessment system to be able to measure details down to the ground level, for example recording if a dive or snorkel boat provides safe disposal of old engine oil. Along with input from a host of Green Fins champions representing the public, research and private sectors, the GEARS helped to shape what was to become the internationally recognised Green Fins approach.