Blue Business Award Finalists:
The Blue Business of the Year Award recognizes a business that has made outstanding contributions toward promoting and encouraging conservation, restoration, or preservation of marine life and/or marine ecosystems through their business practices, products or technology.
4ocean - Award Recipient
Periodically in history we witness an individual or organization rise up as a leader in conservation. Traditionally, these leaders have been independent researchers, like Dian Fossey, photographers, like Paul Nicklen, or nonprofit organizations, such as Oceana. Historically, it’s been rare to see a for-profit company rise up as a leader in conservation, however 4ocean, a South Florida based company, has revolutionized the business model for ocean conservation. With an innovative business model for cleaning up the ocean, 4ocean has been able to transform the global conversation regarding ocean conservation in less than three years. With
a business model focused on selling bracelets, made from post-consumer recycled plastic and glass, to generate funds to remove trash from our oceans, the company has removed over six million pounds of trash in just two and a half years. By creating jobs, utilizing the latest technology and raising awareness about the impact of trash in the ocean and on marine life, 4ocean is building the first economy for ocean plastic while creating a cleaner, more sustainable future for the ocean.
Although a for-profit company, 4ocean has integrated company components similar to nonprofits. Breaking the mold of a traditional retail company, 4ocean focuses on educating global supporters through ocean conservation education, community cleanups, and investing in new technology to remove ocean trash and create a safer environment for all life. With a unique approach to retail and ocean conservation, 4ocean has successfully created an “ocean-conscious lifestyle” brand, in which supporters have globally bandwagoned.
As noted on 4ocean’s social media pages “the biggest threat to our planet is believing that someone else will save it” (Robert Swan, 2012). In 2015, Andrew Cooper and Alex Schulze internalized this quote during a surfing trip to Bali and made a promise to “do something” and “create change.” While the company originally formed with only two founders, who decided to act, the company has since expanded to a global company with over 300 employees, countless volunteers, over 15 partnering environmental organizations, and additional partnering retail organizations. From local employees and volunteers near their South Florida headquarters, to employees and volunteers in Bali, Haiti, and Indonesia, 4ocean has created action in every corner of the globe.
The founders commitment to the motto “think locally, act globally” has resonated and inspired their consumers, employees and volunteers to join the ocean conservation movement through adopting an ocean-conscious lifestyle. 4ocean’s retail consumers may purchase the company’s retail options, but they also participate in 4ocean’s community cleanups, such as the Bahia Honda Key Beach Cleanup on March 16th, 2019. Often, conservation can seem daunting or overwhelming to the general public, however 4ocean has simplified ocean conservation to “buy a bracelet, remove a pound of trash from the ocean and coastlines” in order to propel the movement. Continuously, 4ocean encourages supporters to adopt a more environmentally-conscious lifestyle, even if it means one step at a time.
To further extend the company’s reach, 4ocean has begun to organize community events, such as the 4ocean village in North Miami on Saturday, August 14th 2019. These events are designed to make ocean conservation education and practices more accessible, as well as facilitate a local community centered on ocean conservation. These family friendly events feature local organizations, eco-friendly vendors, and sustainable food trucks, thus inspiring a new generation of eco-advocates.
The company’s passion for ocean education has generated the following of nearly six million total users across social media platforms. While critics may claim 4ocean is a retail fad, 4ocean has shown commitment to the ocean conservation community by partnering with nonprofit organizations across the country and globe to help raise awareness for more specific environmental causes, such as everglade and coral reef restoration, as well as generating funds for these nonprofits. The company’s mission exceeds promoting ocean conservation and encompasses the promotion of global conservation, restoration, and preservation through education, sustainable consumption and production, and technology. In a sense, 4ocean’s social media platforms have become an aggregator site to promote ocean conservation across the board, thus propelling ocean conservation to a new awareness level. To further counter the label of “retail fad,” 4ocean has recently announced their intent to continue to expand their retail operations. Currently, the company is in the process of building the infrastructure to create an assortment of high quality, sustainably-made products that will help people reduce their dependence on single-use plastic, reuse the materials the company collects from the ocean, and celebrate an environmentally conscious lifestyle.
In addition to expanding 4ocean’s retail endeavors, the company has helped improve other organizations through the creation of environmentally-conscious partnerships aimed at reducing the amount of single-use plastics that enter our oceans. Within the last year, 4ocean partnered with Delivery Dudes to reduce single-use plastic in food delivery orders by offering the option to say “no” to single-use plastic utensils. Recognizing that “convenience” options contribute to the amount of plastic in our oceans, 4ocean launched a partnership with Air Canada in an initiative to eliminate single-use plastics. Partnering with an airline is the first step in transforming “convenient travel” to “sustainable travel.” From dine-in and take-out to staycations and vacations, 4ocean is creating a global ocean-conscious lifestyle brand and reducing the amount of single-use plastics that end up in the ocean and endanger marine life.
Since pulling their 6 millionth pound in 2019 and attracting nearly the same amount of social media followers across platforms, 4ocean has been invited to attend/ speak at the World Ocean Summit in 2020 in hopes of inspiring others to continue to propel the ocean conservation movement. Engaging in global conservation events aligns with and offers a platform for the company’s mission of ocean sustainability, recycling awareness, creating global ocean economies, and earth preservation.
With global partners, collegiate affiliates, over 300 employees, and nearly six million followers across social media, 4ocean has inspired the public to consider their consumption habits, opt for more eco-friendly options, and create action. For the ocean, with one mission in mind - 4ocean has helped and continues to help end the plastic crisis one pound at a time.
4ocean - 2nd Nomination
Dear Go Blue Award Committee Members:
It is with great enthusiasm that I nominate 4ocean, LLC for the Blue Business of the Year Award. Alex Schultz and Andrew Cooper, two Floridians who turned their idea to improve ocean health by removing trash from the oceans into a blue business. These entrepreneurs formed a novel business the improve the health of the oceans, mangroves and beaches; create new jobs; educate individuals, corporations, and governments; and deploy new technologies to intercept and remove ocean trash. They fund their efforts through groundswell support from product sales – primarily bracelets that are made from post-consumer recycled plastic and glass. Once they brought Ryan Dick on board as the lead marketing manager, the business and their educational outreach (a novel component) has grown rapidly from a local effort to one with global presence in Bali, Indonesia, and Haiti.
There are at least six key aspects of 4ocean, LLC that I would like to emphasize.
(1) They develop and implement effective and innovative ways to collect marine debris and recycle it;
(2) Their local efforts are now being implemented internationally. This is critical because ocean trash rarely stays at home. International efforts are particularly important because more than 80% of the plastics picked up on beaches and in the nearshore waters does not originate locally.
(3) Cleaning up coastal waters, beaches, and mangroves engages and educates everyone who sees a blue 4ocean boat, truck, or staff member, or who participates in a 4ocean Community Cleanup event about the impacts of trash, particularly ubiquitous single-use packages (plastics) on the health of our oceans and marine life.
(4) They continue to work on creating innovative uses for recycled materials. In less than two years, they have removed over 6 million pounds of trash.
(5) They actively seek and partner with nonprofit conservation organizations so a part of the business’s income supports marine conservation activities;
(6) 4ocean’s media efforts deliver simple but clear messages to educate and change behavior so we know how to better protect and respect our oceans. They employ social media very effectively to educate and engage their partners, customers, and media followers in their core mission.
4ocean’s missions and messages align with the Blue Friends and the GoBlue awards.
Their website www.4ocean.com summarizes their core mission as promoting and explaining:
OCEAN SUSTAINABILITY — Healthy oceans are critical for life on this planet. They provide the food we eat, the oxygen we breathe, and their continued health depends on us.
RECYCLING AWARENESS — Recycling is still an after-thought in many places around the world. So, part of their mission is to spread this awareness globally.
CREATING GLOBAL ECONOMIES — By giving ocean trash a value, they are changing the way people think about the problem and creating new economies in the process.
EARTH PRESERVATION — We only one planet. It is essential to life. It is the only place we can live. Preserving its beauty, function and form for the next generations is the ultimate end goal.
They developed brand recognition. Their blue 4ocean boats are well-recognized locally and their cleanups are well attended.
4ocean is quite innovative. They are using a small portion of their recovered plastic in the production of their bracelets. A new bracelet is released each month in partnership with a nonprofit marine conservation organization to raise awareness about an important marine animal or ecosystem.
Each bracelet purchase covers the removal of one pound of trash from the ocean & coastlines.
The profits pay for their cleanup efforts and 4ocean gives back, by supporting nonprofit activities that align with their core mission. They are expanding their product line slightly to include lifestyle products, which will continue raise awareness about the clean ocean movement, and sustainable products that will help consumers curb their consumption of single-use plastics.
I have been fortunate to work with them and see that they are “the real deal.” Full disclosure: they supported some of my lab’s research and educational activities with unsolicited donations. Through that interaction I was able to see how they work, meet their staff, and now support their efforts –beyond sea turtles – by purchasing their bracelets and sharing their social media. All of the 4ocean staff that I have met “live the mission.”
My own students now take pride in their participations, their recycling, and getting their
friends involved. 4ocean has created a groundswell of interest and engagement in the health and future of our oceans.
In summary, Alex Schultz, Andrew Cooper, and Ryan Dick are faces of a novel blue business and represent a staff with core ideals that align with the Blue Friends and the GoBlue mission. They take great pride in doing, educating, sharing their expertise, creating a new global economy to clean up the oceans, and developing resources to help others. Further, 4ocean is educating their customers worldwide, cleaning up our waterways, and changing the consumptive and recycling behavior of multiple generations.
It is for these reasons that I enthusiastically nominate 4ocean, LLC for the Blue Business of the Year Award.
I would like to enthusiastically nominate FORCE BLUE for the Blue Business of the Year Award (https://forceblueteam.org/). FORCE BLUE’s mission is to unite the community of Special Operations veterans with the world of marine conservation for the betterment of both. This nonprofit was founded by retired combat divers from all branches of the armed forces in an effort to connect with marine biologists to conserve the marine environment. Through their scientific contributions, FORCE BLUE not only serves to protect the Earth’s natural resources, but also to provide proactive “mission therapy” for former combat divers, all of which suffer
from post-traumatic stress disorder.
Since their establishment in 2016, FORCE BLUE has taken off in assisting with numerous research projects in collaboration with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Coral Restoration Foundation, Frost Science Museum, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Puerto Rico Department of Natural Resources, the US Virgin islands Department of Planning and Natural Resources, The Ocean Conservancy, Florida Atlantic University-Harbor Branch, Inwater Research Group, The Turtle Hospital, and Loggerhead Marinelife Center.
One notable mission took place after Hurricane Irma made landfall in the Florida Keys, where FORCE BLUE divers were dispatched to the Tavernier Florida Coral Nursery to search for coral that had been displaced due to this storm. On this eight day mission, the divers worked to overturn displaced coral back into place, stabilize fragments of endangered corals, and collect corals for cementation back onto reefs. During this “mission,” as they call it, the members of FORCE BLUE were able to cement 500 new fragments of endangered corals into the nursery area, which will then be taken back to the reef tract for restoration. Members of the team also “painted” antibiotics onto diseased corals in the area; through these efforts, a number of the corals have recovered.
Stemming from the mission to restore reef tract damage from Hurricane Irma, FORCE BLUE was then asked by NOAA to deploy to Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria. The mission here was similar and served as an emergency coral reef recovery and restoration project that provided critical triage, assessment, and emergency restoration of hurricane-damaged reefs in the area. This mission went on for 50 days, covering eight different reef sites, where over 4,200 corals were reattached to their reefs.
Most recently, the team traveled to the Florida Keys with a team of sea turtle biologists and researchers from Loggerhead Marinelife Center, Inwater Research Group, FAU-Harbor Branch, and The Turtle Hospital to study the health and disease of juvenile green sea turtles residing in the Florida Keys. The goal was to find where these turtles live and feed in the Keys, determine an estimated fibropapillomatosis (FP) prevalence rate, and better understand the general health of these animals. During the ten-day study period in June 2019, the team captured and collected samples from 26 green turtles in the lower Florida Keys, which included data on body condition, epibiota identification (i.e., organisms that live on the skin and shell of the turtles), and documentation of the presence of external FP tumors. Surprisingly, only 7 of the captured turtles had external FP tumors; however, FORCE BLUE and its collaborators plan to continue sampling in this area in subsequent years to increase the sample size and get a better estimate of the true FP prevalence rate for this region. This mission was different from what the FORCE BLUE team was typically used to, as most of this work took place above the surface of the water. However, they were enthusiastic, engaged, and hard-working. This mission was described by some of the members of FORCE BLUE as the “coolest yet.”
It can be seen very easily that in just a short amount of time, they have hit the ground running through numerous and very impactful ocean conservation efforts. In speaking with members of FORCE BLUE, they describe their work with ocean conservation as “proactive” and “positive,” which helps with their healing process as military operations can often be “destructive.” They hope that their program will serve to unite ocean conservation with the armed forces through retraining, retooling, and deploying them on missions of preservation to improve and conserve not only our planet, but also their own lives and the lives of their families.
Stoked on Salt, SOS Ocean Cleanup
Lisa has been in Fort Lauderdale here and since being enthralled by the beauty of the shore line and ocean during her teen years, she has worked with passion and conviction to protect, clean and conserve them. She is an amazing artist in her own right and uses "shoreline debris" as her only painting tools. She has a clothing line dedicated to bring awareness to the debris and conservation issues. Her SOS Ocean Clean Up group has held hundreds of successful Shore line Cleanups in Broward. She has worked in Lauderdale By the Sea businesses on a "Ban the Bag" program to stop the use of plastic bags. She has worked for hours on the beach at night behind a couple of Galt Mile hotels during spring break cleaning up the huge mess left over from the college parties to prevent the trash from being dragged into the ocean during high tide. She has painted amazing murals at the Windjammer and on buildings in Fort Lauderdale dedicated to bring awareness of endangered sea life, again using only "debris" as her tools. She has held events in Oakland Park and worked at Tortuga for the same reasons. News papers have written about her work in ocean conservancy. When I saw that you were taking nominations for a business that practices Ocean Conservation, Lisa and her businesses are shining examples. I hope you visit her facebook pages and web sites to get a true understanding that Ocean Conservancy is who she is. Oh and she is an avid diver who does reef clean ups too! See more at stokedonsalt.com/sos-media-coverage.html
*Lisa also nominated in the Blue Ambassador Category