As social impact strategists, we have the amazing opportunity to connect with and learn from leaders who are changing the world every day. When we became a Certified B Corps last year, that opportunity expanded even further, as we joined a community that truly believes in harnessing business as a force for good.
We want to make sure you know about some of the amazing work that is coming out of the B Corps community, so we’ve been connecting with leaders from some of our favorite companies so we can share their stories with you. One of them is United By Blue, an organic clothing and accessories line that for every product purchased, removes a pound of trash from oceans and waterways through community cleanups they host. And, let us tell you, they really do impact right.
We had to the chance to connect with Brian Linton, United By Blue’s Founder and CEO, to talk about their work—here’s what he had to say:
We love that you started United by Blue in an effort to create tangible change in an area that you’re passionate about. Which came first: The idea to start an outdoor apparel company, or the idea that you wanted to create a business that would positively affect the environment?
The idea came hand-in-hand: We hosted our first cleanup the same week that we sold our first T-shirt. I founded United By Blue with the idea that a for-profit business can have a meaningful impact on water conservation. As an outdoor apparel company, it’s important that we preserve the place where we play — and for us, that means both using sustainable materials to craft our clothing and picking up a pound of trash for every product sold.
For every garment purchased, UBB removes one pound of trash from oceans and waterways through community cleanups. How did you land on this specific model?
We weren’t satisfied with the idea of writing checks or collecting donations: It’s really hard to see where the money is going and to understand the exact impact of your efforts. We wanted to do something more tangible, which is why we decided to roll up our sleeves and pick up the trash ourselves. We have a dedicated cleanups team who scouts sites and rallies volunteers, partners, and the UBB team to remove waste from the earth’s oceans and waterways.
Do you regularly report on and/or review your impact? If so, has this had an effect on how your businesses has developed?
We keep a running tally of the pounds of trash collected, the number of cleanups we’ve conducted, and the number of volunteers who come out to our cleanups. Since our mission is to pick up a pound of trash from the oceans and waterways for every product sold, these numbers keep us accountable to that goal.
The more our business grows, the more incentive and resources we have to tackle big projects like illegal dumpsite cleanups, or spaces with noticeable amounts of illegally disposed waste. For example, last year our cleanup team identified a spot in central Pennsylvania filled with abandoned tires (and miles away from a landfill or recycling center). They worked with the township to remove 200,000 pounds of tires over the course of a couple days, something that likely wouldn’t happen for years without their dedication to it.
Recently, United By Blue set up an initiative in which you donated proceeds from a particular item to Standing Rock. Do you often respond to current events in that way? If so, how do you determine which causes to support and how to go about it?
Since we’re a mission-based company, our efforts typically center on our cleanups initiative. However, protecting the water is the core of what we do and our ultimate responsibility at United By Blue. Whenever the safety of our water is imperiled, it’s our duty to come to its defense. The proposed extension of the Dakota Access Pipeline threatens the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s access to clean water, so it was important to us to stand in solidarity and to leverage what we do best to support the cause.
Before we took on the issue, we spoke to a handful of people on the ground at Standing Rock to determine how we could make the most substantial impact possible. In addition to donating the profits of our Water Is Life hoodie and tee to the organizations they recommended, Water Protector Legal Collective and Build With Standing Rock, they helped us coordinate a donation of our warm Ultimate American Jackets and Ultimate American Socks to native construction workers who were working to build a camp at Standing Rock. Any time we decide to get involved in a cause, it’s essential that we stick to our overall mission to make a meaningful impact on water conservation and that we do our due diligence to ensure our efforts are tangible.
How do you determine which manufacturers and factories you work with to produce your clothing?
Our product team works tirelessly to source sustainable, durable materials and to identify manufacturers who align with our overall mission. For example, our bison collection of outerwear and accessories is made in the USA, and our product team coordinates directly with ranchers to source bison fiber that would otherwise be discarded. Our goal as a business is to build on these stories and to continue to raise our standards when it comes to the manufacturers and factories who produce our products.
Your cleanups give both United By Blue employees and other community members an opportunity to participate in positive environmental impact. Do you have any stories about a particularly memorable cleanup or interaction?
Each year, we return to the site of our first-ever cleanup, Bartram’s Garden in West Philadelphia, to kick off our cleanup season. The site has changed so much over the past eight years. While we still manage to pick up plenty of trash with each cleanup, we’re no longer dealing with the legacy trash that filled the park during our first cleanup: abandoned grills, auto parts, tires. It’s rewarding to see the space get a little cleaner and to watch more volunteers come out each year.
Not only are companies like United By Blue truly changing the world for the better, they’re also really kind. If you know us, you know how much we value kindness and believe that there’s no greater way to have a positive impact on those you connect with personally. Thank you to Brian and our other new friends for having a positive impact on us!
To learn more about United By Blue, check out their website, and follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. You can find upcoming cleanups here, but if you don’t live nearby, we highly recommend that you buy some of their awesome gear if you’re able!