This expression came to us in one of our early team meetings when the OB team and I were discussing what made us different. We want to rid the world of ocean plastic. But our mindset, what drives our decisions, is no bullshit sustainability.
In shorthand, N.B.S. signifies not only our commitment to our cause, but also to our customer. It’s not meant to be a buzzword you hear from a new start-up, but rather a mantra for how we do business.
Why N.B.S Matters
We’ve all heard the statements companies use to draw a connection between themselves and helping the environment or other altruistic endeavors. More and more we hear about social responsibility, charity contributions, or volunteering work being part of every day in companies. Don’t get me wrong, I’m extremely happy this is happening. But I can't help but wonder — is the true intent to give back to the community, or is it for show?
You might be thinking that it doesn’t matter. Giving back, regardless of the circumstances, is a positive thing. I tend to agree with this sentiment. But when companies make these statements, and consumers use the information as a basis for their purchasing decisions, we must be sure to follow through and read the fine print.
Statements like “Company X will donate a Y% of their profits” or “a portion of our sales will go to the benefit of a Z charitable trust” are misleading at best and a plain lie at worst. Profits are misleading because they can be easily manipulated. Worse, donating profits without tracking and following up on its impact is essentially throwing money at a problem and praying that something might happen.
If a company is willing to commit itself to a cause, why not pledge tangible numbers that can be easily tracked and showcase the actual contributions. Why not focus on the impact, rather than the action?
Another issue is companies that attempt to make a difference, but fail to thoroughly examine the problem. These are companies that invest resources to solve problems that do not need to be solved or those which actually create more problems in the regions they promised to help by donating products which actually wipe out local producers.
I’m not saying these companies are trying to be purposely shady. I’ve been very lucky to be part of some amazing organisations with some first-class corporate social responsibility. But these need to be the norm, not the exception.
No-bullshit sustainability is saying exactly what we will do, actually doing it, and tracking it. For each sale of our first product, The Ocean Bottle will fund the collection of 11.4 kg of ocean-bound plastic. That equates to over 1000 plastic bottles in weight (at an average weight of half-liter PET bottles) — essentially a small sedan full of single-use plastic. We do it by funding plastic collectors in impoverished regions to collect plastic before it enters our oceans, and by contributing to the development of long-term recycling infrastructure. All funds are transferred via a transparent IBM blockchain platform operated by our partners, The Plastic Bank.
Not only does the IBM platform offer transparency, but the model creates a system of economic incentives around plastic turning plastic into a currency that can be exchanged for food, medical insurance, off-grid solar and even micro-finance. Instead of pure donations, our aim is to create a sustainable economy around recycling where it’s needed most.
Going forward as consumers
Social impact is becoming the norm for companies to give back to their communities and shareholders. We as customers can incentivize companies to keep doing this work by buying products because of the value they represent to us and to the corporate social responsibility work. As we take this one step further, we must make sure to hold these companies accountable for their promises, to help them become more transparent, and most importantly to make sure help is being delivered where it is needed.
With the Ocean Bottle, we promise to always hold true to our commitments and will strive to become the model for the next generation of no-bullshit sustainability.
Message in a bottle brought to you by Mauricio