The Blue Economy

by Bill Davis

Over the last couple of months I have been introduced into a concept called The Blue Economy which refers to the "sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods and jobs and ocean ecosystem health".  Personally, I would also add sustainable use of ocean resources for recreation given how people here in the US and around the globe enjoy going to the beach.

This idea first emerged for me when I was doing some research on the beach and surfing products market and came across this article in Fortune on Surfonomics which pointed me to The Center for the Blue Economy at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey.  The more I think about the concept of The Blue Economy, the more I appreciate it's value because we as humans have a significant dependence on the oceans for our survival (e.g. food & oxygen supply come to mind), yet our knowledge of ~70% of the earth's surface seems to pale in comparison.

One example of this for me was the fishery depletion off the coast of New England where I grew up from the mid 1970s on and the disruption it caused in the local economy.  I am old enough to remember when the New England fishing ports dominated the top 10 on this list (select 2016 as the Year and click on Submit Query), and now most have been replaced by ports out west (the size of New Bedford's catch is greatly reduced and Gloucester, now at # 19, was always a top port).  And in the 1980s and 90s there were commercial fishing boat buyouts by the federal government to reduce fleet sizes due to stock depletion in the North Atlantic.

As I have been living in Washington state since 1998, with several years back in Maine from 2004 - 09, I have also observed over the years a general decline in salmon stocks in the Pacific Northwest.  Add in the concerns related to climate change and it appears our coast and oceans are being stressed which if this continues seems like it will have negative consequences for us.  And as I have recently started reading Seasick by Alanna Mitchell, it's becoming really apparent that we have a tremendous dependence on The Blue Economy and as a result we have a responsibility for maintaining it so it can continue to sustain us.

While is very much a commercial enterprise, a component of it's mission is also to serve as a steward for our beaches and oceans.  While I have a history in corporate social responsibility having worked at the Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship from 1992 to 1994 before joining the Internet revolution (employee # 8), I have long wanted to put these beliefs into practice.  And within the last week as I was catching up on some reading, I found reinforcement for this in a place I would not have expected.

Forbes' 100th Anniversary Issue was a special edition commemorating ideas from 100 leading entrepreneurs, visionaries and prophets of capitalism.  And it was in Dan Gilbert of Quicken Loans' essay where I found my views on capitalism and doing the right thing highlighted in a way that I couldn't of communicated any better.  While beach products and financial services are NOT closely aligned, his words resonated in a way that I have yet to hear from any other corporate leader:

"And here is the secret sauce: We are absolutely a more profitable (and better) business because we have a mission beyond the sole pursuit of profits.  The investment we make in the community with both our dollars and our team members' time has created a culture and environment that has motivated our people to be better at their day jobs.  The yin feeds the yang, and the yang feeds the yin.  You will attract the best and brightest who are motivated by more than a paycheck.

The more you invest in your mission, the more profits your business will produce.  We are living proof of this.  Not such a bad formula, huh?"

While I never viewed Dan Gilbert as a role model before this, I absolutely do now and it's my hope that will be much better off for it.  Thanks Dan!  And this from a life long Boston Celtics fan (for those who aren't familiar with Dan Gilbert, he also owns the Cleveland Cavaliers).  

And just a quick note to acknowledge Blog has been recognized by Feedspot as a top 30, # 21 actually, beach blog.  Thanks Feedspot!