One of the world’s most innovative activist organizations, SoulBuffalo made headlines last year with its Ocean Plastic Summit which took place in the Sargasso Sea, home to the North Atlantic Gyre, one of the largest concentrations of marine pollution.
Today, SoulBuffalo announced the Ocean Plastics Leadership Network, a community to advance scientific breakthroughs, product and process innovation, and new business models to the ocean plastics crisis.
At launch, the Ocean Plastics Leadership Network platform has more than 100 members including HP, Nestle Waters, Clorox, SAP, Dow, L’Oreal, Milliken, Avery Dennison, Charter NEX Films, American Chemistry Council, Waste Management, Milliken, WWF, The Recycling Partnership, Closed Loop Partners, Greenpeace, IDEO, ( and other brands and NGOs to be confirmed).
The intention is to create a network which enables the world’s most committed corporations and NGOs to share innovation and best practices to advance solutions to the ocean plastic crisis. SoulBuffalo also announces a new series of experiential convenings for 2020.
I caught up with Dave Ford, Founder and Partner at SoulBuffalo to find out more.
Afdhel Aziz: Welcome Dave! Why did SoulBuffalo launch the Ocean Plastics Leadership Network?
Dave Ford: We launched the Ocean Plastics Leadership Network to bring together leaders across the solution spectrum, from activist to industry, in the heart of the ocean plastics crisis to collaborate on solutions.
Aziz: What was the experience like on the boat? What were some of the outcomes?
Ford: The experience on our first Ocean Plastics Leadership Summit was powerful. We had 60 organizations on the ship including 26 of the biggest companies in the world. 500 miles off of the coast of Bermuda in the Atlantic Gyre we had the opportunity to get a total of 160 participants in the water where we found a significant amount of plastic waste. Back on board, we ran intensive solution labs driving to action around 12 different issue areas. Six months later, four of the labs have led to solutions-based roadmaps that have significant traction and are in various phases of funding.
Aziz: What are some of the key projects being worked on as part of the network? What could some of the potential outcomes be?
Ford: Here’s some of the key projects:
Waste Picker Collaborative
We established a collaborative working group of waste picking community leaders (from India, Brazil, Kenya, and Haiti), with the goal of connecting global CPGs and brands with the opportunity to source recycled materials from these waste picking communities. Outcome: Improving the lives of waste pickers around the world via corporate engagement.
Plastic Free Villages
The Plastic WasteFree Villages project that was born on the ship via 5Gyres and Pxyera Global has earmarked Takerati, Ghana and Rajasthan, India as the first villages embarking to become plastic waste-free. Outcome: Creating Plastic Waste Free villages around the world, and building a blueprint through successful execution that can be rolled out to similar villages around the globe.
Zero Hero Retail Innovation
Our Zero Hero Retail Innovation Initiative aims to bring consumer consciousness front and center in big box retail and grocery stores around the world, showcasing and promoting innovative packaging in the buying experience. Outcome: Increasing consumer consciousness and engagement around the products they are buying .
Alternative Materials Factory
An alternative materials factory, dubbed Material Metabolism, will bring corporate packaging companies into a cooperative designed to create marine biodegradable, organic products rooted in the principals of Green Chemistry to the forefront to replace traditionally discarded products that frequently end up in our oceans. Outcome: Creating new products that are non-hazardous to marine ecosystems.
Aziz: Awesome, thanks for sharing. What invitation would you like to make to the business community to join the Network?
Ford: We believe that relationships that can take years to build can be developed in a matter of days when leaders congregate in unique, unforgettable settings rooted in global problems. Conference style convenings can be effective, but being “stuck on a boat,” or touring landfills in SE Asia with powerful leaders is a completely different forum for connection and collaboration.
From experience, we also know that having the opportunity to sit down with organizations with different viewpoints and solution mandates can be eye-opening, powerful, and insightful. Tough, challenging conversations can accelerate change.
As a global community, we don’t have a lot of time to solve this problem, and programs developed inside the Ocean Plastics Leadership Network are developed for speed.
Our direct ask is the following, “What powerful and brilliant minds inside of your corporation can you lend to the ocean plastics crisis to work on the issue experientially, with other leaders around the globe?”
Aziz: Thank you. Finally, what does the future hold for the next event at sea?
Ford: In the spirit of this global effort, our next summit will start in the Azores Islands off of Portugal and sail to the southern coast of England. The Summit will feature 110 leaders from around the globe driving to solutions while experiencing the crisis first hand. We are finalizing plans for a summit to take place in the Philippines for 2020 as well, as SE Asia is a vital region with respect to this issue.