Town Haul Podcast | Episode 18

  • Host: Amy Koonin (Rubicon)
  • Guest: Brian Linton (Founder and CEO of United by Blue)
  • Listen Here! 

On this episode of The Town Haul, our host Amy Koonin sat down with Brian Linton, the founder, and CEO of United by Blue, a lifestyle brand focused on ocean cleanups and conservation and another fellow B Corp.

Town Haul host Amy and Brian discuss United by Blue’s humble beginnings, mission, and the dire effects of ocean pollution.

On how United by Blue got its start:

LINTON: “I grew up in the small island nation of Singapore, which, despite being known for being a tech hub and super wealthy, has a fairly large aquatic fish industry. So growing up, I was really into tropical fish. One thing that I learned early on is that to keep fish alive and healthy, you had to have clean water.

Seeing how our natural waters across Southeast Asia growing up were so polluted really resonated with me. So when I came to the U.S. and went to college, I wanted to start a brand that was focused on some type of ocean conservation.

Ultimately I launched United by Blue in 2010, a business that has a tangible impact on ocean and waterway conservation by picking up a pound of trash from oceans and waterways for every product sold.”

On United by Blue’s mission and unique business model:

LINTON: “We’ve removed about 1.1 million pounds of trash. We set our trash goal for the following year based upon the previous year’s sales. Each year, as we grow, we’re increasing how much trash we pick up every year.

The reason why this business model is more compelling than a financial donation model to an external organization is that we’re able to internalize the good in the company and share resources and ultimately have a greater impact. We’re able to leverage the platform of a for-profit business that we are, and also leverage our distribution, which is quite extensive now.”

On how brand power inspires people to get out and volunteer:

LINTON: “People aren’t picking up trash out of rivers and oceans without structure and it being engaging and fun. What we’ve done really well is we’ve created this unique approach to our cleanups and by attaching a brand that has a cool factor to it, and something that is more substantial than just the cause itself. It makes these events frankly more attractive to come out and do good.

So, we get hundreds of volunteers out at these cleanups because of the brand and because of the brand power. And I think that that’s the important part of recognizing that people want to do good, but they want to have some type of reason beyond just picking up trash to go out and do something good, [especially] on a weekend or after work on a weekday.”

On building a lifestyle brand for millennials:

LINTON: “One of the things that we learned early on was that people want to support a brand that’s doing good, but the good alone doesn’t sell the product. It wasn’t until we recognized the fact that our product had to be just as good, if not better than our competitors that weren’t doing good, for us to really be a scalable long-term business.

What we offer are products that are both better than our competitors, as well as more sustainable and more responsibly made. We aspire to be the leading outdoor lifestyle brand for the millennial generation, which cares deeply about these causes, but they also care deeply about wearing quality, and having something that’s going to last.”

On the negative effects of ocean pollution:

LINTON: “It is pretty dire. 5.3 million metric tons of trash, mostly plastics, enter the ocean every year. That equates to about 16 billion pounds of trash. Because it’s plastic, it doesn’t go away. So, it’s been compounding in the ocean.

And when plastics get into the ocean, it gets into our food chain. The smaller fish, and then the bigger fish eat it, and ultimately it’s also getting back to our dinner plates. Many people don’t realize it, but if you’re a seafood eater, you’re actually eating hundreds of tiny bits of plastic annually.”

On the best cheesesteak in Philadelphia:

LINTON: “Surprisingly, it’s a place called Carvers, and it’s newer in the last few years, but I find it far superior to any of the old-timers, unfortunately for them.”