Jetty Founding Partner Cory Higgins on achieving B Corp status

Jetty has become one of four companies within the surf industry to achieve B Corporation certification. The Manahawkin, New Jersey-based apparel company prides itself on giving back to the surf industry, both at a local and broader level, says Founding Partner and Chief Marketing Officer Cory Higgins.

To become B Corp certified, a company has to show that it meets rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability and transparency on an annual basis. Other companies in the space who have reached this level, which include Patagonia, Olukai, and United by Blue, are amongst the 2,200 businesses globally that are now coming together to redefine what "success" in business means.

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Jetty CEO Jeremy Defilippis,Creative Director John Clifford, and CMO Cory Higgins. Photo: Jetty

Since it was founded in 2003, Jetty has donated more than $750,000 to the surf community and beyond, including hurricane disaster relief efforts for victims of Hurricane Sandy in 2013, and Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. The brand has formed a non-profit, The Jetty Rock Foundation, and recently began an ocean restoration program that helps filter water in its local Barnegat Bay.

We caught up with Higgins to hear more details behind how the brand reached B Corp status and what it means for the future of the business.

Interview edited for length and clarity.

How long did the B Corp certification process take?

The whole process took a few weeks. For the application, we submitted financial records, and did a phone interview and some follow up. B Lab was really thorough, to not only make sure they had clear and concise answers to all their criteria, but also to make sure that they personally understood our position so they could genuinely sign off on it. I was pretty impressed with the intensity of the application process.

What were some of the challenges of becoming certified?

The biggest challenge was finding the time to get through the application [laughs]. We do an incredible amount of charitable and community work because it's the right thing to do. We didn’t have to change anything in order to become certified.

Could you describe a couple of the standards you had to meet in order to get this distinction?

The two main areas that supported our certification were the amount of charitable donations we make annually in contrast to our revenue, and the environmental impact we’re making with our Oyster Shell Recycling Program. We are working to return used shells back into the bay so that the natural oyster reef can begin to grow again. That's the short version — there's a lot more that goes into it.

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The Oyster Recycling program has been taking off with partner restaurants in South Jersey, according to Higgins.

Can you explain the Oyster Shell Recycling program a bit more?

Oysters need other calcium-based shells to grow. Clams grow in the mud, while oyster spat (baby oysters) needs to find a shell to “set” on to grow.

Ninety percent of the world’s natural oyster reefs are destroyed and gone due to a few causes. It wasn’t until recently that the public became aware that if you are just taking the oysters out and not putting the shell back in, then the oysters have nothing to help them regenerate.

We teamed up with our local municipality, Long Beach Township, as well as Stockton University, Parsons Seafood and a half dozen restaurant partners to collect their used shells, get them spread out on a few plots of land to dry and kill the micro bacteria, and then eventually get the used/cured shells set with spat back out into the bay to begin to create natural oyster reef again.

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Jetty Founder Cory Higgins (center) redistributing oyster shells in Barnegat Bay. Photo: Jetty

This process takes about a year, and our modest operation costs about $60k a year to operate. But in one year, the program will filter enough bay water to fill 475 Empire State Buildings, not to mention the natural reef growth, benefit to protecting our shores, and creating a habitat for sea life.

We’re in the very beginning stages, so we are looking for donor help to scale the project to its full potential. It's really exciting to see something materialize and make such a tangible difference in front of your eyes. It's something we can actually accomplish as a generation. We can begin to reverse the negative effects we've had on our waters.

Go to www.followtheshell.com to learn more.

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Local restaurants in Barnegat Bay area encourage patrons to recycle their oyster shells as part of Jetty’s full-circle reef restoration program.

Can you talk about a couple of the specific ways the Jetty Rock Foundation has raised money to give back to the surf community?

The JRF was formed in the wake of Superstorm Sandy. We raised $500,000 and started with our own surf community to get people back in their homes and businesses reopened.

Jon Rose and his organization Waves 4 Water were a huge influential factor through all of that, and it was the surf community that stepped up to get their hands dirty and make a positive change.

Today, JRF and a few local partners have organized to help the victims of Harvey and Irma. We are working with the surf community in the affected areas. We have a donation drive going that has collected about four pallets of essential goods. We're also planning a fundraiser event with support from W4W that will be split up between TX/FL/Caribbean.

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One of the many fundraising events held by the Jetty Rock Foundation. Photo: Ann Coen

Why do you think there aren’t more brands in our space becoming B Corp certified?

I think it's a relatively new mindset that doing good is good business, and social responsibility and community involvement can translate to brand loyalty.

I’d like to think things are moving in a positive direction overall. Maybe there's still some complacency left over from when the economy was booming and social media didn’t create such transparency. Our industry is so connected to the environment. Everyone should be doing any little thing they can to make a positive impact and using our industry to set an example for others on how to operate.

At the very least, we can make sure we’re using water-based inks with printable garments, and have manufacturing partners poly bag in packs of 12, or just line the boxes. Those tweaks are pretty simple and cost nothing. Not to get on a soap box, but we all agree climate change is real and theres piles of plastic floating in our oceans, right?

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