Updated: Nov 19
Tom Cotter: We are in a mission to reclaim our oceans by removing as much of this plastic as we can and recycling it into something new.
Tom Cotter from Ireland is a fully sea lover. The idea to create something consistent to support the Ocean cause has been in and out the water for a long time. He has always been passionate of windsurfing and diving, particularly in one location in Greece where he had been used to spend holidays since he was two years old. That brought him to live five years in Australia where he ran one the largest sailing center for getting people involved into it, welcoming about 30-40 thousand visitors per year. Then, he came back to Ireland. After a meeting with a couple of friends skilled in sailing and surfing, a few smart ideas came out. After a first business attempt, they moved towards the idea of creating a product made of recycled materials and implying renewable resources. They started then to choose and test the fabrics while studying the market.
In January 2016, the company was registered still “work in progress” and in mid 2017 they sorted out with the first clothing products sold both online and in retail store. Then, they had been more and more involved by ships' crews and events at international level. The company started to grow and they soon located the production chain in Latvia keeping it mainly as “Made in European Union”. At the beginning the cash was a big problem, but soon after they were contacted by some relevant stakeholders in Queensland (Australia) and Richard Branson’s Caribbean Island where the most luxurious hotel & resort in the world are set. They both were looking for a customized product capable to support the idea of Sustainability at the highest level, enhanced by a cool clothing design. From that moment on the growth of the company has been constant up to reaching a win-win position.
MONACŒCOART® had the pleasure to interview Tom Cotter (T.C.), founder of OCEANЯ during his attendance to the Monaco Yacht Show 2022.
MONACŒCOART®: Tom Cotter, your company is much more than selling uniforms for superyachts, can you tell us where does your detailed economic ecosystem come from?
T.C.: Actually, we have six different pillars that we are developing. First of all, our Fabrics (1) that are partly made by recycled polyester. A choice that has been made since the very beginning, six years ago. The material is originated partly from discarded fishing nets, other ocean waste and recycled plastic bottles. We cannot use 100% ocean waste since it could not fit for the use but we remain consistent with the environmental cause. That balance allows us to make a high-quality garment perfect for the luxury environment we work for. Being as transparent as possible (2) is our second pillar telling people about what we can do and what we can’t. I think that it is quite impressive that 50% of fabrics comes from the ocean waste, and other 30-40% comes from recycled polyethylene. So, we are reducing our water consumption by 20%, energy consumption by 50% and CO2 emissions by 60%* (*Estimated data on recycled vs conventional polyester). For the rest, we use GOTS-certified organic cotton. It is essential to tell the truth! In other words, Traceability (3) is the key. It doesn’t matter for the consumer if it is one or the other, what really matters is to be authentic.
As for waste collection, we know where material comes from, so that we have the guarantee of what we say since the process is already set up in value. All that is strongly linked to a certified Third Parties Audit through a supply chain that is traced in every single step. Moreover, before Christmas we will have a QR code applied to any product so that consumers can learn all information by scanning it: where the plastic come from, how long does the product traveled, people involved, etc. via a user-friendly metric layout.
Carbon Neutrality (4) is another corner stone. Through a targeted life cycle analysis we get accurate data about how much carbon is in each product. We are also committed in planting trees as a CO2 compensation measure. The more the company will grow the more we will be focused on this commitment. Ocean Health (5) is another pillar in cooperation with an NGO operating in Greece, Italy and Africa. Furthermore, we support communities that are engaged in nature preservation initiatives or educational programs for child and adults in Indonesia or any other country. Last but not least Circularity (6). We have recently introduced the idea of returning garments at their end-of-life in order to repair or recycle them. Basically, we offer our clients a discount for new order for whatever product they return to us.
MONACŒCOART®: What do you consider win-win in your environmentally friendly business?
T.C.: For OCEANЯ, a salient driving feature of our organization’s work is our commitment to helping those who take care of our Planet. We are in a mission to reclaim our oceans by removing as much of this plastic as we can and recycling it into something new: eye-catching, boldly designed clothing and product ranges for businesses and consumers.
We can’t embark on this mission alone, thus we embraced the help of Enaleia, the non-profit social enterprise I was telling you before. It works with eco-responsible local fishermen in Europe to create a sustainable marine ecosystem for all. We support them in order to fish for marine plastic and waste during the fishing off season.
Photos >> Recovery of ghost nets in the seabed and storage for recycling by Enaleia © OCEANЯ
MONACŒCOART®: What are your main mission? What specific actions are you taking?
T.C.: We would like to take responsibility for looking after our oceans. Thus, we wanted to make each of us being part of the journey as well. It means that for every product you purchase, one kilogram of ocean waste is removed. We could achieve this through our partnership with Enaleia. Thus, we could conceive our “Kilo for the Planet Initiative”, our commitment in favour of the preservation of the oceans shared by anyone who decides to buy our products.
So far, Enaleia has removed 4,000 kgs of marine plastic (marine litter) from our oceans every week, while increasing the income of over 700 fishermen. That is definitely a win-win combination for the Planet’s sake.
MONACŒCOART®: What does ‘Я’ stands for?
T.C.: Many indeed wonder what it refers to. We started calling it Rash'R and then we rebranded it in the end of 2020, early 2021. It was definitely a great idea also in terms of business connections. When you start a business you don not really think that branding makes a difference. As soon as we changed, the number of followers raised up. So, ‘R’ linked to Ocean can be interpreted in different ways, notably the most popular three 3Rs that stands for ‘reduce’, ‘reuse’ and ‘recycle’, just to name one.
Photos >> Sea garments for men by © OCEANЯ
MONACŒCOART®: How many people are involved in the company?
T.C.: About 68-72 people are now working for OCEANЯ. As for clothing industry, it is considered as a small reality but we do not want huge volumes. What we really care about is to offer an all-inclusive business ecosystem through meaningful pillars constantly monitored by a targeted environmental management system. It is therefore much more than just having a green logo.
Photos >> Sea garments for women by © OCEANЯ
MONACŒCOART®: Can you describe your company with three adjectives?
T.C.: Sure. I would say Ethical, Responsible and Transparent.
To know more about OCEANЯ please visit: https://oceanr.co/
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By Maurice Abbati