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Mary Mazzoni headshot

3p Weekend: 8 Companies Going All-In on Ocean Conservation

By Mary Mazzoni

With a busy week behind you and the weekend within reach, there’s no shame in taking things a bit easy on Friday afternoon. With this in mind, every Friday TriplePundit will give you a fun, easy read on a topic you care about. So, take a break from those endless email threads and spend five minutes catching up on the latest trends in sustainability and business.

On June 8, people and organizations around the world marked World Oceans Day, an annual commemoration of ocean conservation and health. Of course, the battle for healthier oceans will take more than 24 hours to wage, a fact both sustainability advocates and forward-thinking organizations know well.

Day-in and day-out, advocacy groups and non-governmental organizations work to address pervasive problems like ocean warming and acidification, plastic waste, and overfishing. But here at TriplePundit, where we champion public-private-NGO partnerships and corporate social responsibility (CSR), we wondered what companies are doing to fight this fight. From startups founded with conservation at their core to leading companies making oceans a CSR focus, this week we tip our hats to private-sector firms making a difference.

1. Whole Foods Market

Whole Foods Market caught some flak last year for selling tilapia farmed by prison laborers earning $1.50 an hour. But a few months later, Greenpeace was quick to remind consumers that the health-focused grocery chain is actually ahead of the pack when it comes to seafood sourcing -- giving Whole Foods top ranks in its annual report that tracks environmental and human-rights issues in seafood supply chains.

But beyond the products it sources and sells, Whole Foods makes ocean conservation a key focus of its CSR efforts. Earlier this year, Whole Foods linked up with the Nature Conservancy and the Billion Oyster Project to revitalize the New York harbor and restore oyster fisheries. A healthy one-acre oyster reef has the potential to filter approximately 24 million gallons of water per day, say the partners. So, beyond sourcing tasty seafood, restoring New York's oyster fisheries is a boon for the whole harbor. Whole Foods plans to partner on similar oyster-restoration projects in Seattle, Atlanta, New Orleans, Oakland and Austin, Texas.

The grocery chain also makes it a priority to educate consumers about conservation and the importance of sustainable seafood, including efforts such as this Twitter chat with TriplePundit.

2. United By Blue

United By Blue Brand Video from United By Blue on Vimeo.

Founded in 2010, outdoor apparel startup United By Blue began with ocean conservation in mind. For every product sold over the past six years, the Philadelphia-based company removed one pound of trash from oceans and waterways through company-organized and hosted cleanups.

The company and its founder, Brian Linton, have hosted 151 cleanups in 25 states -- removing a staggering 284,467 pounds of trash from rivers, streams, creeks and beaches. The company also hosts an ongoing social media conversation around ocean and wildlife conversation -- encouraging fans to share their outdoor, travel and volunteer photos with the hashtag #BlueMovement.

3. Monterey Bay Aquarium

The Monterey Bay Aquarium, a not-for-profit corporation founded in 1978, opened to the public in the 1980s and now attracts nearly 2 million visitors annually. While some have come to shudder at the thought of sea creatures in captivity, the Monterey Bay Aquarium Foundation is an entirely different animal (excuse the pun).

The foundation works to promote ocean conservation and sustainable fisheries through both research and policy advocacy. Its Seafood Watch program, established in 1999, is one of the most respected sources of science-based information used by business and consumers to find and purchase seafood from ocean-friendly sources.

The aquarium also offers free access for students and teachers to bolster the next generation's appreciation for our oceans. Since 1984, more than 2 million schoolchildren and teachers took part in free in-depth programs on ocean biodiversity and conservation.

4. Norton Point

If you've never heard of Norton Point, don't feel too out of touch. The eyewear company officially launched two days ago with the campaign and hashtag #SeaPlasticDifferently. The social media moniker is fitting with the company's story, as well as its flagship product: the world's first line of sunglasses made from post-consumer ocean plastics.

The plastic is recovered from beaches and waterways in Haiti, where local community collectors are paid a living wage for the material, the company's founder, Ryan Schoenike, told TriplePundit in an email. Like United By Blue, Norton Point pledges to remove one pound of ocean debris for every product purchased. It will also donate proceeds from its sales to the Ocean Conservancy and partnered with the NGO for education and outreach.

The company, based on Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts, is raising funds on Kickstarter to expand its business operations. With 27 days to go, it raised more than $26,000 toward its $37,000 goal at press time.

5. Bank of America

It may be surprising to see Bank of America on this list, but the financial institution is actually a big supporter of ocean conservation efforts. It has been a "dedicated sponsor" of the International Coastal Cleanup for 13 years, says the Ocean Conservancy, and encourages employees get their hands dirty and take part in the annual event.

Last year, 2,000 Bank of America employees took part in International Coastal Cleanup events around the world, helping to remove millions of pounds of trash from beaches and waterways.

6. The Sea Bin Project

Australian surfers Andrew Turton and Pete Ceglinski spent years watching garbage float by as they headed out to catch the next big wave. Inspired to do something about it, the two devised a concept to engage ports, marinas and yacht clubs in the fight against ocean plastic.

After raising more than $250,000 on the crowdfunding platform Indiegogo, the duo is only a few months from making their vision a reality. Their product, a low-tech rubbish collection system called the Seabin, centers around a shore-based water pump -- which creates a flow of water into the bin, bringing with it bottles, bags and other debris. After securing a manufacturing contract, the company expects to ship its first Seabins later this year.

7. Samudra Skin & Sea

Founded by Shilpi Chhotray, a senior manager at Future 500, a global nonprofit specializing in stakeholder engagement, Samudra Skin & Sea was based on ocean conservation from the start. Even its name, the Indian word for ocean, gives nod to the company's core mission.

The company partners with the Marine Mammal Center, a research and education organization based in Sausalito, California, in an effort to expand knowledge about marine mammal health, ocean health and global conservation. But the product supply chain is where things really get interesting: Its organic skincare line features sustainable wild-harvested seaweed.

The company works with Larry Knowles, owner of Rising Tide Sea Vegetables and Mendocino, California’s resident seaweed expert, to source its main ingredient. Knowles, who has harvested seaweed off the coasts of Northern California since 1995, uses careful and sustainable practices and believes in a systems-thinking approach to marine ecosystems. The small startup sells its wares at a few shops in California, and its online store will go live in August. Click here to check out Chhotray's op/ed on TriplePundit, where she explains more about sustainable seaweed harvesting.

8. Method

Personal care and household cleaning brand Method was a sustainability darling from the moment it jumped on the scene. After launching with a few natural home cleaning sprays in 2001, the company was on Target shelves nationwide only a year later. In 2009, Method became one of the first Cradle to Cradle endorsed companies, with 37 C2C certified products at launch, among the most of any company in the world (now up to 60 certified products and counting).

And in 2012, it rocked the packaged goods industry again by creating soap bottle packaging made almost entirely from recovered ocean trash. The bottle itself isn't intended to eliminate the ocean plastic crisis -- as no single supply chain could accomplish such a feat -- but rather raise awareness of ocean conservation among shoppers, as well as show other companies what's possible with an innovative supply chain. The company continues to champion ocean cleanups with partners ranging from Whole Foods to Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii.

Image and video credits: 1) Flickr/Gail; 2) Whole Foods Market; 3) United by Blue; 4) Monterey Bay Aquarium; 5) Norton Point via Kickstarter; 6) Natarajan Rajan for the Ocean Conservancy; 7) The Sea Bin Project; 8) Rising Tide Sea Vegetables; 9) Method

Mary Mazzoni headshot

Mary has reported on sustainability and social impact for over a decade and now serves as executive editor of TriplePundit. She is also the general manager of TriplePundit's Brand Studio, which has worked with dozens of organizations on sustainability storytelling, and VP of content for TriplePundit's parent company 3BL. 

Read more stories by Mary Mazzoni