Stocking a Healthy Market
A retailer the size of West Marine wields tremendous power. What this mega giant offers for sale ultimately affects what we perceive as our choices in boating gear and, in the end, what we buy. There may be phenomenal products out there, but if we don’t see them — if West doesn’t carry them — we might never know they exist.
Since 2007 West Marine has become serious about pushing eco-friendly products (more than 115 were offered in 2009) and getting the message out that, as chief sustainability officer Laurie Fried puts it, “the oceans and all waters are our responsibility. If we abuse them, we all lose.” It’s both a savvy business decision and an emotional one, having become a core part of West Marine’s corporate culture.
Through this ideology, West annually offers a $30,000 marine conservation grant to nonprofit conservation or recreational fishing groups, and a $10,000 Green Product of the Year Award. It also has its own line of Pure Oceans products developed to standards set by the EPA’s Design for the Environment (DFE) program, which reviews the ingredients for potential human health and environmental effects. Want numbers? The company estimates that in 2009 the products it sold were capable of reducing harmful chemicals released into the environment by about 230,000 pounds.
Which is why, in West Marine’s case, bigger really is better. With a marketing clout of more than 330 stores worldwide, its product choices and the message it brings, it is both global and green. — David Seidman