4ocean is a purpose-driven business that we founded to help end the ocean plastic crisis. We’re not a nonprofit, which makes us different from many other environmentally-focused companies.
Today, we have a global team that’s both cleaning the ocean and trying to influence consumption habits on land to stop the inflow of plastic. But when we started in 2017, we were only focused on the cleanup side.
We decided to hire boat captains and other local workers to clean the ocean full time and chose places where a lot of plastic and other garbage were regularly accumulating so we could make the biggest impact on this global problem.
We needed a way to pay these workers, though, which is what led us to our business model. We didn’t know very much about grant writing or asking for donations, but we had followed successful lifestyle brands that grew quickly and built massive followings and we thought we could take a page from their books to pay our workers, fund cleanups, and spread the word about the ocean plastic crisis.
We developed the 4ocean bracelet, pledged to pull a pound of trash from the ocean for every product we sold, and tried to market our products like the outdoor lifestyle brands we admired. We then used the money we generated to scale our cleanup operations, make donations to ocean-related charities we believe in, and build an organizational infrastructure to support our growth.
There are other benefits to being a corporation, as well. Some nonprofits rely on funding which may be earmarked for specific periods of time or for specific projects. We’re funded exclusively by our own business results, which means we have flexibility in how we deploy our resources and are motivated to conduct business in ways that generate long-term sustainable results.
Being a corporation could also allow us to raise investment capital in the future that will help us scale operations even more quickly in ways that a nonprofit model would not allow.
We’re dedicated to finding the balance between cleaning the ocean and our company’s financial success. We are a now certified B-Corporation. B Lab is an independent nonprofit that certifies companies as B Corps. Before any company becomes a B Corp, they must complete the B Impact Assessment, which requires them to document their positive impact so B Lab can assess the overall impact a company has on its workers, suppliers, community, and the environment. In order to maintain B Corp status, this rigorous certification process must be completed every three years.
In their words, “Certified B Corporations are a new kind of business that balances purpose and profit. They are legally required to consider the impact of their decisions on their workers, customers, suppliers, community, and the environment. This is a community of leaders, driving a global movement of people using business as a force for good.”
Using business for good is exactly why we started 4ocean and decided to follow the corporate rather than nonprofit business model.