Sugar Talk Sugar Talk
Project Seagrass: How support from Ragus is helping to save our seas
As the world’s climate emergency deepens, the conservation of seagrasses – marine powerhouses that remove one-third of all of the carbon that gets sequestered in the seafloor annually – has never been more important. This summer, Ragus has committed to long-term support of Wales-based charity Project Seagrass who help to conserve and restore seagrass meadows all over the world through community, research and action.
Seagrass grows in large, lush meadows in shallow waters. They are havens for biodiversity and powerhouses for fisheries. But now, a light has been shone on seagrasses for their extraordinary ability to sequester and store carbon in the seafloor.
Interestingly, a team of scientists found that seagrasses release vast amounts of sugar, largely in the form of sucrose – along with plant chemicals called phenols – which they use for their own metabolism and growth. In high light conditions, they produce even bigger amounts of sucrose which microorganisms would usually consume and convert into CO2. As we know, too much CO2 is harmful to the environment.
However, the phenols that seagrasses produce deter most microorganisms from consuming the sucrose. The specific kinds of microorganisms that do consume the sucrose in the presence of the phenols produce nutrients like nitrogen, which is essential for marine life.
Unfortunately, because we have exploited this powerful plant for centuries and polluted our coastal waters, the planet has lost much of its seagrass. Once gone, the vacuum left behind becomes a source of, rather than a sink for, carbon. Reversing that loss takes effort and expertise. That’s where Project Seagrass comes in.
Partners in seagrass conservation
When I met the Project Seagrass team in the summer, I knew I’d found the organisation for Ragus to support. Like Project Seagrass, Ragus is both local and global – having been founded by Charles Eastick in 1928 – but with business partners and suppliers all over the globe. Project Seagrass – though based in South Wales – works to support seagrass conservation globally.
Since I started heading up sustainability at Ragus, it’s been top of my agenda to raise awareness of sustainable practices in the food and beverage industry. I see it as our responsibility not only to operate sustainably ourselves, but to spread the word among all our stakeholders and partners on what needs to change. The food and beverage industry comes under regular fire for its ecological footprint, contributing to greenhouse gas emissions from livestock methane and using huge amounts of water to grow crops. While everyone at Ragus is proud to say our sugar is sustainably procured, there’s always more we can do.
Raising awareness of marine ecosystems
It’s vitally important that everyone in the food and beverage industry is working towards the same goals. I’m excited to be working with Project Seagrass because they do so much education and research on top of working with the seagrass itself. It’s such a privilege to hear about their findings first-hand because I can then take that evidence and use it to raise awareness within this industry, which is ultimately what CSR is all about.
The runoff from crop farming has a long standing history of generating toxic algae blooms that decimate marine ecosystems. Even a landlocked field far away from any rivers or seas can carry substances like fertiliser into the water system, overfeeding algae. Excess algae lowers oxygen levels and harms habitats for both animals and plants that live in the sea.
There are ways to minimise water pollution from agricultural practices, and industry and government need to get together to work with farmers to develop ways to use them. My fondest memories are those spent in and around the sea which is why I’m passionate about the work everyone at Project Seagrass does. Without it, we risk severely compromising the seas for future generations.
From a love for the coast to marine conservation: a lifetime’s passion project
I recently returned from spending a week in Porthdinllaen, Wales, with the Project Seagrass team, snorkelling in the shallows to harvest seeds for the seagrass nursery. As a keen runner and surfer, nature is incredibly important to me, and the British coastline has been close to the hearts of everyone in my family for generations. We’ve always had our holidays next to the sea in the British Isles.
Our backing for Project Seagrass began with a donation in August, which supported a number of projects, including replenishing damaged seagrass meadows in Wales and supporting scientific restoration trials of Zostera marina seagrass at a number of locations around the Isle of Wight and the Solent. We also donate our intermediate bulk containers (IBCs) that are no longer suitable for food use to Project Seagrass, which the team then use to treat seagrass seedlings and process the seeds in the nursery. Both Project Seagrass and Ragus are always looking for circular economy opportunities!
Chief Development Officer of Project Seagrass, Richard Lilley says “Saving seagrass is saving our seas. Like coral reefs and rainforests, they’re full of life, but it’s estimated we’re currently losing two football pitches worth of seagrass from the world every hour. Protecting what’s left is vital.”
Communications and Engagement Lead, Bethan Thomas says “From the moment Henry first reached out to us at Project Seagrass, it was evident how passionate he was about our cause and driving a sustainability agenda. The donation of the IBCs is testament to his genuine desire to help and to think creatively about how Ragus can best support our work.”
We all love the coast and recognise how important it is to the whole planet. Seagrass is one of the foundation stones of marine life, so we couldn’t be happier to have found Project Seagrass. We look forward to seeing how we can create positive impact together in the future.
Our commitment to sustainability and corporate social responsibility is embedded in everything we do. Do you know a charity or community programme we could support? Contact us at email@example.com to find out how partnerships work. To see more partner news and updates, follow Ragus on LinkedIn, or to learn more, contact Henry on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Joining Ragus in 2017, Henry is the fifth generation of the Eastick family to work in the business. He has worked across our company, implementing plant and technology improvements in the factory to working in the lab developing a knowledge for our products. He focuses on our raw materials procurement as well as leading our digital transformation, adapting new technology and plant to meet our needs. His deep interest in nature and sustainability makes him a dedicated and passionate CSR manager.