Is 4ocean a Non-profit? Nope—And Here’s Why

4ocean Team

Discover how being for-profit helped 4ocean reach our goals

Since 2017, 4ocean has recovered over 30 million pounds of trash from the world’s oceans, rivers, and coastlines; created hundreds of full-time, living-wage jobs; diverted more than 300 million single-use plastics from the waste stream; donated nearly $2 million dollars to nonprofit ocean conservation organizations who share our mission; and, through our partnership with SeaTrees by Sustainable Surf, have offset our entire carbon footprint (and then some) by planting more than 18,000 mangrove trees and restoring over 4,5000 sq. ft. of kelp forest.

But we still get a lot of questions asking “Is 4ocean a nonprofit?” so we wanted to answer this question once and for all.

So what’s the deal? Is 4ocean a nonprofit or a company?

No, 4ocean is not a nonprofit. But we’re not a company in the traditional sense either. We’re what’s known as a Public Benefit Corporation, or PBC, which is a for-profit company that has a legally binding commitment to a social or environmental mission (in our case, cleaning the ocean and empowering people to take action that prevents plastic pollution) which must be balanced alongside—and sometimes prioritized over—maximizing value for shareholders.

By their very nature, PBCs are designed to generate social and public good while operating in a responsible and sustainable manner, which is probably why people tend to automatically assume we’re a nonprofit.

In addition to our legal status as a PBC, we’re also a Certified B Corp—just like Tom’s, Ben & Jerry’s, and Bombas to name a few—which means the third-party nonprofit certification organization B Lab has audited our business, including in-depth reviews of our financials, operations, and other documentation to verify that 4ocean has met specific standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency.

Ultimately, our legal status as a PBC and our B Corp Certification mean that our entire business model is designed to advance our mission of ending the ocean plastic crisis by funding daily ocean, river, and coastline cleanups; creating jobs for people whose lives and livelihoods are impacted by plastic pollution; creating an economy for recovered ocean plastic by using the materials we collect to create new products that support our mission; and inspiring people to adopt a more sustainable lifestyle that will help keep plastics out of the ocean.

4ocean crew posing after ocean clean up project.

How does being for-profit help 4ocean’s mission?

It’s simple really: We can have a much bigger impact on the environmental, social, and economic impacts associated with plastic pollution as a for-profit company than we ever could as a nonprofit.

Instead of relying on volunteers or third-party collection centers, 4ocean is one of the only companies in the world that directly employs full-time captains and crews for the sole purpose of cleaning the ocean. We cover 100% of all healthcare costs and provide additional bonuses and incentives for all captains and crews. We pay fair living wages and provide steady employment that allows our crew members and their families to break out of the cycle of poverty and pursue their dreams.

Our entire business model was created to balance the triple bottom line of people, planet, and profit—always in that order.

If you’ve been wondering, “Is 4ocean a nonprofit?” and you’re still interested to understand the business model further, we’re here to clarify. As a for-profit business, 4ocean utilizes its financial structure to fund the removal of plastic pollution and other man-made debris from the world’s oceans, rivers, and coastlines.

With more financial stability as a for-profit company, 4ocean is better equipped to fund our missions, scale operations, expand our reach, and make a more significant impact in tackling the ocean plastic crisis. The for-profit structure also allows 4ocean to have a sustainable and self-sufficient financial model, reducing reliance on external funding sources and providing long-term sustainability for our mission. 

What does 4ocean do with revenue?

For every product our customers purchase, 4ocean removes five pounds of trash from oceans, rivers, and coastlines. The revenue generated from these sales is directly used to fund daily cleanups, pay a fair living wage to our captains and crews in addition to providing healthcare benefits, and further our efforts to clean up the oceans.

4ocean also offers a monthly subscription as part of the Plastic Offset Subscription, which allows individuals to offset their use of plastic items that can’t be avoided. Even when we do our best to avoid using plastic items, it has become so ingrained in our lives that certain products can’t be avoided—often packaging.

On average, an individual uses 9 pounds of single-use plastic each month. But with our Plastic Offset Subscription, you can choose from three plans to help offset your plastic use and further your sustainability journey.

  • Plastic Offset Plan: Pulls 5 pounds of trash from the ocean for $10 / month
  • Plastic Neutral Plan: Pulls 9 pounds of trash from the ocean for $18 / month
  • Plastic Negative Plan: Pulls 18 pounds of trash from the ocean for $36 / month

4ocean also uses some of its revenue to fund nonprofits with climate change and plastic pollution goals that align with our mission. Since 2017, the company has donated nearly $2 million dollars to nonprofit ocean conservation organizations and, through our partnership with SeaTrees by Sustainable Surf, have planted more than 18,000 mangrove trees and restored over 4,5000 square feet of kelp forest to offset our company’s carbon footprint.

4ocean team weighing trash recovered from the ocean.

100% of our profits go to support our mission

Every time you shop 4ocean, you’re funding our global cleanup operation and supporting our mission to end the ocean plastic crisis. This includes:

  • Funding for daily ocean, river, and coastline cleanups that remove plastic pollution and any other man-made debris that doesn’t belong in the environment
  • Salaries, healthcare, and other benefits and incentives for our captains and crews who do the hard work of cleaning our oceans seven days a week
  • Acquisition and maintenance of all vessels, vehicles, machines, tools, and equipment used in our cleanup and material processing operations
  • Permitting and licensing from local, state, and federal agencies for all operations as well as special projects like the Osborne Reef Tire Cleanup
  • Overhead for dedicated facilities where our teams can meet, store vehicles and equipment, and process recovered materials so they don’t re-enter the environment
  • Processing of all recovered materials which includes all plastic resins as well as metals, glass, electronics, rubber, and any other man-made debris our crews collect
  • Product development, sourcing, manufacturing, packaging, and shipping, including teams of skilled bracelet artisans in Bali and Guatemala
  • Education and awareness initiatives (i.e., marketing, advertising, speaking engagements, public appearances, partnerships, etc.)
  • Research, development, and investment in new products, strategies, infrastructures, partnerships, and technology that have the potential to advance our mission and maximize our impact
  • Donations to other ocean conservation organizations that align with our mission through our membership with 1% for the Planet.
Large group of 4ocean workers celebrate after a long day of removing plastic pollution from the ocean.

We know that companies don’t always have the best track record when it comes to driving positive change on important social and environmental issues, which is probably why people wonder “is 4ocean a nonprofit?”

As a Public Benefit Corporation, we’re able to ensure that our mission to end the ocean plastic crisis is always the #1 priority and that our ocean-first philosophy and commitment to preventing plastic pollution never changes, no matter what the future brings.

Want to support our mission? Discover how you can get involved in the clean ocean movement!


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