Women in Energy: In conversation with Flo Janin on banking to coral conservation

2 Apr 2024
Women in Energy: In conversation with Flo Janin on banking to coral conservation

In the ever-changing world where banking knowledge meets environmental care, Flo Janin leads the way as the VP of Sustainability Strategy at Archireef. Drawing from her extensive background in banking and sustainability, she guides initiatives to enhance the company's communication strategy, commercial efforts, and alignment with global ESG standards and frameworks like TNFD. Since April 2023, Flo has played a crucial role in Archireef's journey, initially as a Sustainability Communications Advisor before stepping into her current position as VP of Sustainability Strategy in September 2023.

Before joining Archireef, Flo founded BRAVE, a Dubai-based communications agency focused on Sustainability and FinTech. Her expertise in consultancy benefited numerous businesses in the UAE and GCC, earning her recognition with multiple awards. With over 12 years of international banking experience, including roles at industry giants HSBC and Barclays, Flo brings a wealth of knowledge to her current role. Her passion for marine conservation, cultivated through decades of diving at some of the world's most vulnerable coral reef sites, uniquely positions her to drive Archireef's mission of creating coral highways and establishing a global network of substrates for reef restoration.

What is your personal objective behind Archireef?

The establishment of Archireef was significantly shaped by the personal experiences of our CEO and co-founder, Vriko Yu. During an early diving expedition, she came face-to-face with the alarming effects of coral degradation, highlighting the critical need for immediate intervention. This eye-opening encounter motivated her to embark on a journey of discovery and innovation, culminating in her pursuit of a PhD at the University of Hong Kong. Her research focused on developing innovative strategies to accelerate the recovery of coral reefs. This combination of personal commitment and scholarly pursuit provided the groundwork for Archireef, signifying the start of our unwavering mission to rejuvenate and strengthen marine ecosystems.

Following more than 10 years of research, the goal of actively restoring coral reefs became viable, as we developed the world’s first 3D-printed Reef Tile made from clay. The idea was to create a stronger foundation for corals to grow on, and our success to date suggests that we are on the right path.  

Beyond coral reefs, we want to apply our eco-engineering knowledge to other marine ecosystems, creating more modular methodologies to help recover ecosystems like intertidal coastlines, mangrove forests, and more. 

In the medium term, Archireef wants to scale its technology across the Middle East (the Arabian Gulf and Red Sea in particular), Asia, and MesoAmerica (extending from Mexico and down to Costa Rica). 

On an immediate basis, our plan is to deploy more coral reef sites, and to install our first seawall structures in Abu Dhabi, showcasing a completely new way of protecting the biodiversity of coastlines in Abu Dhabi.

We are also working with thought leading companies on extending ocean literacy workshops to all Hong Kong and UAE residents, starting with students.

My personal ambition is to help Archireef achieve its ultimate goal to create coral highways and build a global network of substrates to help save and recover coral reefs around the world.

Why is it important to restore the marine ecosystem?

We have already lost 50% of our coral reefs, and if we don’t act now, most of the world’s coral reefs will be gone by the end of this century.

This is particularly important because the world has a huge dependency on corals.
Coral reefs are home to 25% of all marine life. They are a food source for over 1.2 billion people, delivering $36 billion a year in tourism dollars.

Maritime traffic and deep water trawling are some of the biggest threats to corals as they contribute to the loss of a natural substrate on ocean floors, leading to coral reef degradation and loss. 

Archireef is re-creating a natural substrate for corals to grow and thrive on.

Could you elaborate on how your work contributes to addressing climate change?

Our eco-engineered products play a key role in restoring marine ecosystems,  but they do not play a direct role in the energy transition. However, as a Nature-Based Solution, we can help reverse the current nature-climate losses and help mitigate climate change. Climate change, overfishing, various types of pollution, rising sea temperatures and acidification have killed 50% percent of the world’s coral in the last decade; and 90 percent are projected to disappear by 2050 without drastic action. The time for action is now.

Why does your focus primarily lie on the marine ecosystem rather than on climate emissions?
Coral reefs provide major benefits, such as supporting marine life and coastal protection, as well as offering medicinal properties, among other benefits. These benefits have an estimated economic value of $2.7 trillion annually. Many studies have been conducted on coral reefs, revealing that they are biodiversity hotspots and are facing significant threats.
A lot of companies are focused on land based activities, which are important, such as planting trees, but we need to look at climate change more holistically and include the Ocean more on this agenda.

Net zero for example, symbolises an important sustainability milestone, with commitments and actions made towards the reduction of greenhouse gases. We see this commitment as critical as it was the first enabler that empowered people to take  concrete steps and action to reverse global warming.

At Archireef, we are however focused on the transition to the next milestone, Net Positive. Net Positive is a new way of doing business which puts back more into society, the environment and the global economy than it takes out. At Archireef, we believe that active restoration and nature-positivity are critical components for our future, and especially the future of coral reefs. Our ultimate mission is to create coral highways and build a global network of substrates to help save and recover coral reefs around the world. 

Can you talk to us about the technology behind your work?

The tiles are designed to capture sedimentation in their crevices and benefit from the movement of underwater currents. The microturbulence that is generated from increased wave movement actually promotes self-cleaning of the reef tiles, removing the dirt that might accumulate on the top.

As a science backed and science led organization, we are however always looking to enhance our designs, utilizing all existing data and research to restore degraded marine ecosystems is what we focus on. This is a long journey, and as part of our R&D, we have identified the best materials and structures that allow corals to thrive. We have also researched the oceans around our current operational locations, and we now have built a roadmap to the ideal locations for coral growth.

You use 3D printing to produce these artificial tiles, can it truly help restore the ecosystem?

In essence, coral degradation is not only caused by climate change but also by maritime activity such as trawling and other external factors. Over the years seabeds have become desertified, leading to a lack of suitable homes for corals. Corals require porous surfaces to attach to, and sedimentation is a threat.

Our Reef Tiles help renovate the seabed and create suitable substrates for corals to settle and thrive in. The tiles are placed on the seabed and coral fragments are then out-planted onto these tiles. In only a few months after our initial installation, results become visible.

Many conventional restoration methods use materials that can be toxic to the ocean. In addition to this, few restoration methods consider the need for porosity, making the long-term survival of corals on their surfaces unlikely. What’s more, our Reef Tiles support easy assembly and installation. Rather than using heavy equipment for our deployments, we can simply use a single diver to do the work. In terms of scalability, this is a huge plus, and our method lends itself well to actively involving members of the local community.  

Our Reef Tiles are designed to mimic the naturally occurring shape of platygyra (brain coral). The brain design helps to prevent a primary stressor for corals — sedimentation, which can smother corals, interfering with their ability to feed, grow and reproduce. 

The brain coral design is highly attractive to marine life, which can use its twisted valleys and crevices to hide from predators. The design can be adjusted and adapted using the 3D printer to suit a variety of different environments.

You are attracting a lot of business partnerships, most recently FAB, how do you convince these partners that your business is important?

We are unique as we embrace both a B2B and B2G approach. We collaborate with corporations and governments alike, to provide them with turnkey eco engineering solutions, granular environmental data analytics and ocean literacy education. 

Corporations are looking beyond carbon reduction to nature positivity. In fact, 64% of Fortune 500 companies have included nature in their reporting already. 320 companies and financial institutions, including Archireef, have signed up to be early adopters of TNFD, a market-led nature reporting initiative.

Our approach is to proactively engage with private and government entities to discuss how we can best collaborate to impact the restoration of marine ecosystems. Through dialogue and over time, we are able to align our objectives with the local and global conservation goals and recommend the most suitable partnership journey, as they embark, or continue, on their mission to build natural capital.

These partnerships deliver not only tangible ecological impact but also valuable actionable data insights, empowering companies to actively contribute to marine conservation and sustainability.

As a Nature-Based Solution, we continue to seek partners with a genuine interest in restoring nature as well increasing our bankability, and welcome conversations with like minded companies in order to boost our marine ecosystem restoration impact.

For governments, this means framing policies that don't just focus on carbon numbers but also on the overall health of ecosystems. It's about creating environments where nature-positive projects can thrive and become sustainable long-term solutions.

As for organizations and financial institutions, there's a huge opportunity to lead the way in this new era of environmental responsibility. Investing in nature-positive projects can yield significant returns, not just in terms of financial gains but also in social and environmental impact. It's about seeing the bigger picture and understanding that a healthy planet means a healthy economy.      

Could you elaborate on the significance of your company's participation in COP28 and the impact it had on your initiatives?

Being a part of COP28 was a key milestone for us, as on our homeground in the UAE. During the event our goal was to give a voice to the ocean by engaging in vital conversations about marine ecosystem restoration, showcasing our innovative eco-engineered solutions and building new partnerships. 

We exceeded our goals actually. We had thousands of visitors who got to see the world's first 3D printed Reef Tiles in person in our Booth in the Start up Village, we welcomed Hong Kong’s Secretary for Environment and Ecology to our UAE Eco-Engineering facility, and announced a new partnership, which was followed by a series of thought leadership activities and youth-focused activations, focused on accelerating marine conservation awareness and action.


As concerns about the environment grow, Flo Janin and Archireef emerge as leaders in the effort to protect marine life and promote sustainability. Through their work, they forge partnerships and advocate for practices that benefit both nature and business. Their efforts, showcased at events like COP28, inspire others to join the cause, ensuring a future where marine ecosystems thrive and corporate practices align with environmental stewardship.

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