Faced with the prospect that in 50 years there could be no more fish in the sea, Selfridges partnered with Gabrielle Shaw Communications to create Project Ocean – a retail activism campaign to save the seas. The aim of the campaign was to raise awareness about over-fishing and to celebrate the beauty of the ocean.
From 11 May – 12 June 2011, Selfridges hosted Project Ocean in its flagship and regional stores, in the streets, online, and in print, digital and broadcast media around the world. Using Selfridges’ expertise for driving trends, Project Ocean aimed to encourage consumers to make buying and eating sustainably sourced fish a must-have in their daily lives.
The campaign leveraged Selfridges’ credentials to draw on art, fashion, food, exhibitions and public talks to convey the messages. Leading members of the marine conservation community, NGOs and like-minded celebrities, artists, designers and top chefs became integral to the campaign. Using a spectrum of donation touch points, from campaign ribbons and a bucking whale to pop-up products and a high tech interactive donation window, Project Ocean raised funds to create MPAs (Marine Protected Areas) - conservation sites in the ocean, set aside as safe havens for fish and their ecosystem.
Through Project Ocean, Selfridges achieved excellence on a grand scale. The programme has fostered positive change in the world of marine conservation, pioneered an innovative new approach to CSR, and achieved genuine global reach by maximising Selfridges reputation as a trendsetting and imaginative retailer.
Project Ocean was created by childhood friends Alannah Weston, Creative Director of Selfridges, and Alannah Weston, and Jonathan Baillie, Director of Conservation for the Zoological Society of London. The unlikely partnership was created out of a shared understanding that if a change did not occur, a number of frightening predictions could become reality:
• By 2050 there could be nothing but jellyfish left in the world’s oceans
• 85% of world fish population is overfished and facing potential extintion
• Only 1.7% of the world’s oceans are protected
For Selfridges, there was a clear starting point – to ensure its Foodhall, restaurants and third party partners (Eat, Yo Sushi!, Pret a Manger and others) were all leading the way by selling no endangered fish.
But there was also a need to raise the alarm within the mainstream - reaching business, government, and everyday consumers. Jonathan noted marine conservation is often perceived as a dry topic relegated to niche forums. However, with Selfridges full creative arsenal and clout as ‘The World’s Best Department Store,’ they could bring marine conservation to the mainstream in a way that would be impossible to ignore and delivered with Selfridges’ unmistakable sense of style and fun.
1. Raise awareness (understand the plight of the oceans)
2. Change consumer habits (buy and eat only sustainable fish)
3. Raise funds (create marine protected areas)
How Project Ocean Worked:
The project reached out to the public through exhibitions, talks, entertainment and fundraising. It was designed to be solutions oriented, but unreservedly highlighted the often-disturbing realities that threaten global marine life. For the 1 million customers who passed through the store during Project Ocean, all activity was designed with a high dose of style and entertainment, but also to demystify the issues and allow people to ‘vote with their fork’ when it comes to choosing sustainable fish. Likewise, alongside ZSL, Selfridges led the way to show businesses that there are real advantages to working towards a sustainable future. The store’s Ultralounge became a platform designed to bring consumers, businesses and government together for discussion and debate.
A host of partners were engaged to support Selfridges’ and ZSL’s in-house teams in bringing the campaign to life and amplifying it through PR. Ultimately, Project Ocean had an impact that far surpassed the expectations of everyone involved. Its alternative approach to CSR has now been dubbed ‘Retail Activism’. Despite being funded by a UK-centric brand, the Project Ocean story was picked up by media in 36+ countries, with a reach of well over 200 million. More importantly, the campaign dramatically raised awareness of consumers, fellow retailers and restaurants, and through the EU Parliament creating and agreeing to the ‘Selfridges Declaration’ to work towards making sustainable fishing the law across the continent.
• Activist Fashion Designer Katharine Hamnett – designed a capsule collection for fundraising
• Fashion Curator Judith Clark – created an innovative sea themed exhibition in the concept store
• New York Artist Jason Hackenwerth – filled the atrium with giant sea inspired balloon sculptures
• Video artist Beth Derbyshire – Seven Seas installation in the Ultralounge
• London’s top chefs including Giorgio Locatelli, Tom Aikens, Antonio Carluccio, Tom Hix, Sanjeev Kapoor and many others demonstrated and offered tastings in the Food hall
• Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall – involved his own Fish Fight campaign in Project Ocean
• Prince Charles - President of the Marine Conservation Society, spoke in store on launch day
• 22 NGOs including Greenpeace, Seaweb, WWF and a host of others served as collaborators
• Queen Noor and Oceanographer Sylvia Earle presented in the Ultralounge, along with top speakers
• House of Fairy Tales and Guerilla Science hosted events for families
• Raised over £120,000, 10% of which was raised by Selfridges staff themselves
• Sustainably sourced fish policy across all food departments and restaurants in Selfridges
• In-store initiatives (fashion exhibition, art installations, global NGO talks, the Dive Bar)
• Free pocket fish guide and app for consumers to know which fish to buy, wherever they shop
• Selfridges iconic windows transformed into creative delivery of marine conservation messages
• Fundraising merchandise included ribbon pins, artist design tea towels, bags, event tickets, etc
• Funds raised will be donated to create and support the Marine Protected Area in the Philippines
• The Happy Catch van hit the streets with samples of sustainable fish baps
• Troops of frogmen marched the store, and ‘information’ lifeguards spoke to customers about the sea
Project Ocean pioneered a new direction in CSR for the environment, achieving many ‘firsts’ and legacies:
• Global media coverage across 36 countries valued at over £6 million with 200 million people reached
• Inspired change with consumers to make sustainability relevant and desirable to a wide audience
• More than doubled the anticipated funds raised from the public
• Laid groundwork for significant change within the fishing industry with the ‘The Selfridges Declaration’ - an agreement made between EU Ministers at a conference at Selfridges to stop by-catch and put into practice healthy fishing tactics to save the seas. The agreement enabled Europe to take global leadership on sustainable fishing, and was named after Selfridges not only because of the location of the forum, but because of the change that Project Ocean inspired
• Ultralounge Ocean Talks drew packed audiences and stimulated discourse and cultivated positive leadership amongst consumers and suppliers of fish
Project Ocean by the Numbers
• 7000+ items of Project Ocean merchandise sold
• £120,000+ in total donations… and rising
• 45,000 Fish Guides given away to consumers
• 4 million people have seen the Project Ocean windows on Oxford Street
• 12 million people exposed to Project Ocean advertising
• More than 1 million people experienced Project Ocean in the London store
• 90 print articles to date with uptake in 36 countries including print articles in UK, USA, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, UAE, India and the official magazines for Eurostar and British Airways which has taken the news around Europe
• 200+ online articles and blogs
• 8 broadcast segments for TV and Radio
• 718 Twitter followers and 2400 Facebook Fans
• Over £6,000,000 in PR value achieved
• 200+ million people reached by PR
• ‘We love Project Ocean’ – The Independent
• ‘Project Ocean is nothing less than retail activism’ – Maclean’s (Canada)
• ‘A tipping point in raising awareness’ – International Herald Tribune
• ‘Definitely worth a visit’ – Telegraph Magazine
• ‘A major high-street environmental campaign’− Evening Standard
• ‘Fishing for our future’ – Evening Standard
• ‘We Love: Project Ocean’ – Metro
• ‘Fashion gets serious’ – The Guardian
• ‘A high dose of style, fun and entertainment’ – This is London
• ‘Fish have never been so fashionable’ – Marie Claire