B Inspired: United by Blue

 

One of the greatest things about being a B Corp is meeting other companies committed to using their brands for good. In the months ahead, we’ll be introducing you to some of the B Corps who inspire us. Starting with the good folks at United by Blue.

What is your brand mission/vision?

For every product sold, we remove one pound of trash from our world’s oceans and waterways.

 

 

What sets you apart from other brands in your industry?

Our business and mission go hand-in-hand:  The same week we sold our first T-shirts, we hosted our first cleanup. While we will never pivot from that original model, we are constantly considering the ever-evolving idea of sustainability and how we can challenge ourselves to be a holistically sustainable company. That idea extends to how we leverage resources to organize cleanups, the materials we use to craft our products, even how much ink and paper we move in our office printer.

Our Company organized cleanups: We created this company because we wanted to make a bigger, more measurable impact on our oceans and encourage people to do the same. So we stopped simply writing checks and started organizing and hosting these cleanups. We wanted to do our part to clean the waterways ourselves.

Our Products: We believe that products designed for enjoying the outdoors should also be kind to the outdoors. We put a lot of thought into the materials that make up each piece and always opt for textiles that keep our oceans, air and soil a little cleaner.

 

What’s a little-known fact about your brand/founder?

Founder: Brian Linton grew up in Singapore with about 30 fish tanks in his room.

Brand: We’ve removed over a million pounds of trash so far (1,039,456 and counting!).

 

What’s your favorite/most memorable customer story?

Brian Linton (Founder & CEO): I don’t have one specific favorite customer memory, but rather something that has been happening and developing over time. That is, when we first started hosting cleanups it would essentially be a couple of us from UBB and a few people from the community. Our volunteers early on never wore UBB product as they often didn’t even know what we made. Over the years our cleanups have grown into events that often have more than 100 volunteers — and what’s even more exciting is when these volunteers are wearing UBB product. We started this because we wanted to create a brand and product that would fit the lifestyle of those who care about our world’s oceans and waterways…seeing this converge with people wearing UBB and picking up trash is very fulfilling!

Mike Cangi (Co-Founder & Brand Director): My favorite customer story happened this year at our very first international tradeshow in Germany. At the time we did not have an extensive presence in Europe and were a relatively new brand to the vast majority of customers at the tradeshow. On the second day of the show, we had an Italian buyer walk into our booth and start looking through our product – he was wearing a United By Blue beanie which he had bought the month prior at our NYC store location while he was visiting the states. It was a pretty surreal and humbling experience to see someone walking around another continent wearing UBB product.

 

B CORP

 

When and why did you decide to become a B Corp?

Became a certified B Corp in 2012, the certification is a natural extension and complement to what UBB already strives to do: engage with our community, create sustainably made products, channel our proceeds towards environmental conservation (waterway cleanups) and work towards a shared vision with key stakeholders and employees. Also about being part of a progressive business movement.

 

What was the most challenging part of the B Corp certification process for you?

The most challenging part of becoming a B Corp is setting up a structure that measures and reports on our impact. It’s natural for us to do good, but organizing and quantifying that information was a challenge for us.

 

What has been the most meaningful influence/impact of B Corp on your company?

Business is, in it’s nature, a competitive field–especially the retail industry. Despite this, the most meaningful lessons in dealing with operations or personnel challenges, for example, have come through conversations with other B-Corp businesses who are more than willing to share their personal experiences and advice to push a fellow B-Corp towards positive growth. That’s a unique, impactful  advantage of becoming a B-Corp.

 

What would you like to say to the business leaders of the world considering becoming a B Corp?

Business leaders who care about their company’s long term health and success should seriously consider becoming a B Corp. A business exists to make money, but no business will be able to make money on a planet that we kill or to communities that we abuse. Taking a stand and setting new standards of social and environmental responsibility is no longer just for the exceptional businesses, it needs to be for all businesses.

We became a B Corp because it aligned with our personal and business philosophies, but we didn’t anticipate the strength and camaraderie among the B Corp community. As part of the B Corp family we have had the privilege to meet other business leaders who are going through the same struggles and addressing similar challenges – many of these connections have been facilitated by B Lab, which has proven to be a great resource.

 

MISC

 

What is a B Corp or nonprofit that inspires you – and why?

Dansko–for realizing and sticking to their vision of an employee owned, mom-and-pop feel business despite year after year of impressive sales growth. They are the real deal when it comes to their commitment to the environment, calling to mind specifically their massive LEED certified building and the owners/Dansko Foundation’s significant financial commitment to Stroud Water Research.  Of course, they are also a Keystone State B-Corp!

 

If you could redesign any one thing (product, process, problem, etc.) in the universe, what would it be, how would you improve it and why does it matter?

The retail industry uses far too much plastic. One of the things that I find to be the most wasteful uses of plastic are the polybags that all products are wrapped in after they are manufactured. They’re used to protect the product from the factory to the customer, but then they are often discarded. We haven’t come up with a solution for this and we too use polybags (we recycle them all at our warehouse however). But recycling is not good enough. We need to work towards a long term solution that avoids the use of plastic in packaging all together.



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