The winners of Fast Company’s 2024 World Changing Ideas Awards were announced today and the Ocean Conservation Commitments (OCCs) concept was named the winner of the contest’s Nature category, with Niue Ocean Wide (NOW) Trust and Conservation International honoured on behalf of the project.

OCCs were rolled out in the South Pacific nation of Niue late last year, with each OCC – available for sponsorship from anyone around the world – representing the ecological protection of one square kilometer of ocean for up to 20 years.

While critical for both climate and biodiversity, ocean conservation can often be expensive. And for a Small Island Developing State (SIDS) like Niue, where the square kilometers of ocean outnumber the human population by almost 75-to-1, supporting the ongoing management and protection of so much marine territory is a significant financial challenge. The OCC funding structure help ensure adequate and reliable funding for the next two decades.

“It’s exciting to see the project recognised for its ingenuity and potential, and I hope it will bring more international attention to the some-110 thousand OCCs still available for sponsorship,” said Maël Imirizaldu, Senior Regional Programme Officer at the Blue Nature Alliance within Conservation International’s Centre for Oceans.

Imirizaldu supported the development and launch of the program alongside the NOW Trust and OCCs architects Coral Pasisi and Brendon Pasisi, President of Tofia Niue and Project Manager of the NOW Project and NOW Trust administration, respectively. The President of the NOW Trust, is Dalton Tagelagi, who is also the current Premier of Niue and is championing ocean protection in the region.

The Pasisi siblings, together with other passionate local stakeholders through their nonprofit organisation Tofia Niue, and Imirizaldu, through the Blue Nature Alliance, worked alongside the government of Niue and several technical partners to bring the OCCs instrument to fruition and facilitate the initial 1,870 OCC sponsorships from sponsors in 21 countries. The NOW Trust, Niue’s first public-private partnership organisation, will continue to hold and manage the funds raised through OCC sponsorships.

OCC sponsorship is facilitated through the NOW Trust website, and many more are available to sponsor now.

Fast Company’s Spring 2024 issue (on newsstands Tuesday, 21 May) will profile the project in greater detail, including insights from Imirizaldu and the NOW Trust team and updates on the project’s progress, now six months along. The OCCs concept also received an honorable mention in the World Changing Ideas Awards’ Water category.

This year’s World Changing Ideas Awards showcase 50 winners, 127 finalists, and 172 honourable mentions. A panel of Fast Company editors and reporters selected winners from a pool of more than 1,300 entries across climate, social justice, wellness, politics, technology, corporate social responsibility, and more. The 2024 awards feature entries from across the globe.

“I was struck this year by the global sweep of the honorees,” says Fast Company editor-in-chief Brendan Vaughan. “It’s endlessly inspiring to see how the world is coming together to devise inventive solutions to our most challenging problems. We need ideas from everywhere, and this year’s World Changing Ideas Awards are an extraordinary encapsulation of the innovation and creativity that is so abundant around the globe.”