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Ethics, sustainability top of mind for Richmond company

A Richmond company has received certification that, not only are its products sustainably sourced, but that its workforce is treated well and able to give back to the community.
Ocean Brands
Ocean Brands employees took part in a shoreline cleanup at Iona Beach Regional Park recently.

A Richmond company has received certification that, not only are its products sustainably sourced, but that its workforce is treated well and able to give back to the community.

Ocean Brands, a supplier of canned seafood under the Gold Seal and Ocean’s brands, received a B Corporation certification after a rigorous nine-month process, showing they run their business with high standards of social and environmental performance, transparency and accountability.

Ian Ricketts, president of the company, told the Richmond News they’ve been working for several years towards improving their business practises.

“Since 2012, the company has been very focused on the sustainability of the products we’re selling (and) really paying attention to our community and our people and the greater world,” Ricketts said.

But the pitfall of trying to do it on their own was like “drinking your own Kool-Aid,” he said. That’s not where he wants the company to be in 2019.

“We need to be, as a business owner and operator, aware of the changing landscape and relationship to our environment,” he said.

The company was trying on their own to find sustainable ways to conduct their business, but when they discovered B Corp, it immediately felt like the “right fit,” Ricketts said.

The B Corp process, which is verified by a third party and uses scientific and measured methods, was rigorous, taking about nine months to complete, he added.

Many people think there’s a trade-off when conducting business, that to make a profit, you can’t also look after the environment and your people as well as you’d like to. Ricketts disagrees.

Ocean Brands has a workforce of 32, and their health and wellness are important for the company. Every employee gets four weeks of vacation starting in their first year. The company allows employees to work from home to reduce carbon emissions as well as the stress of being on the road during a daily commute.

They also allow each employee 16 hours annually for volunteer work. In addition, all employees earn a living wage.

Ricketts said their workforce is a diverse group representing 20 different countries, and he believes their company policies don’t just promote diversity, they promote inclusion.

“The potential of diversity is unlocked by inclusion,” he said.

While programs like Ocean Wise promote sustainable fishing, B Corp goes beyond the environmental concerns – it also requires that people working for B Corp companies are treated well.

Ocean Brands rewards its suppliers if they go above and beyond what’s expected, and they have a supplier code of conduct and third party audits of their suppliers.

It’s like fair trade and Ocean Wise “all rolled up in one,” Ricketts said.

“It’s not enough to have sustainable products if the people on the supply chain aren’t treated fairly and equitably,” Ricketts said.

The certification process has allowed Ocean Brands become part of the “B Corp community,” Ricketts said, whereby companies learn about sustainable practises from each other. There are more than 2,800 companies certified in 60 countries.

The company has embarked on a journey and they still have a lot of work to do, Ricketts said, but they are “serious and committed” to improving how they do business.

The company’s Gold Seal brand is 100 years old this year, Ricketts said, and with their sustainability measures, they are thinking forward to the next 100 years.

“We’re trying to build something that’s bigger than ourselves,” he said.