Flash Interview: Paul Strike (Fourth Element) on Ocean Positive Business
At BOOT 2020, we interviewed a number of interesting and inspiring people from different ocean-related companies. What is diving and surfing with purpose? How does an “Ocean positive” business look? What are the benefits of adding underwater cameras to teaching situations? Why is visual inspiration key to make more people care about the Ocean? And, why is diving for exploration so important?
This time, we spoke to Paul Strike, co-founder and managing director of Fourth Element.
What does “ocean positive” mean to you?
“Ocean positive” is kind of our own environmental accreditation. It started five years ago when we became aware of teams of divers removing ghost gear and ghost fishing nets from wrecks and reefs in various parts of the world.
We then realized that we could recycle that nylon and use it to create fabric, which, in turn, could then be used to create garments that the divers themselves could wear.
At that point, we felt that we need to get involved in this. We invested a lot of time and energy into creating a range of swimwear and rash guards, which incorporated this recycled nylon. And that was the birth of the “ocean positive” concept.
How has the “ocean positive” journey been for you?
We thought about going this direction way back in 2004. But at that time, a lot of the recycled fabrics that you could get were not high enough in both performance or durability. So we shelved the idea for a little while.
Then came the advent of the recycled nylon, and that opened up a whole new world full of possibilities for us. Since then, we have attempted to integrate as much recycled nylon polyester from plastic bottles or fishing nets to our product lines as we can. And amazingly, the technological development in fabric has been excellent. Now we’re using high-performing materials. They’re equally as durable as anything that has ever been but now with significantly more recycled content.
Do you think the industry as a whole is ready for an “ocean positive” direction?
It is becoming increasingly so, and that’s fantastic. Just the amount of efforts and initiatives that so many companies within the diving industry are embarking upon, it’s great. And it seems to be accelerating.
Jim (co-founder) and I have kind of introduced the idea of eliminating single-use plastic from all of our packaging to the diving industry. Since then, we’ve been incredibly encouraged by how much other, also competitive companies, and organizations have gotten on board and pushed the whole mission forward.
But we still have a long way to go. There are lots of things that we can do differently. And there are lots of opportunities for making a much more significant progress. I feel that as an industry, we’re all very aware that we all got a part to play in actually preparing and improving our sustainability efforts.
We’re all involved in the Ocean. It is bad for everyone on every level if we screw it up and fill the Ocean full of plastic.
If you could give one advice to other companies who want to follow the “ocean positive” mindset, what would it be?
The only advice I could give is: please do it.
But also I think you will need to do it because the consumer is becoming increasingly aware and demands that we do it. I believe in the years to come it won’t be an option anymore. I think if you want to survive in the industry, and probably in any industry, you want to act and to be perceived as a company that is aware of the environment, and that is doing business in a sustainable manner.
Thank you Paul Strike!