Blue Patch was never going to be a fly by night affair. During the summer of 2009 I spent a glorious week by Lake Joseph, one of Canada’s Muskoka lakes. It provided time to think outside the box and I was soon doodling away, a cup of coffee balanced on the deckchair arm and a chipmunk keeping me company. Concern for the environment and the demise of independent local business started to give the doodles direction and the plan for a ‘marketplace with a mission’ emerged.
Our human activities are thoroughly stitched together, we collaborate so productively, yet hyper competitiveness and the race to the bottom line has the opposite effect, destroying quality, limiting choice and making working lives stressful. All this activity just to end up with a surplus of stuff, posing momentarily as possessions before they tumble into landfill or swirl in oceans. Coupled with a sense of inertia and confusion over climate change the future is far from certain.
Blue Patch was and still is, an intense learning curve. The United Nations International Year of Biodiversity (IYBUK 2010) was a real eye opener and listening to scientists describe species collapse ( Royal Society conference, Integrating ecosystem services into biodiversity management) got a rocket under Blue Patch’s mission – time is most definitely running out for life on earth.
Emma Kirby and Matt Beale Collins joined the project and we ran a think tank on climate, carbon, shopping habits, bad habits – including our own – picking apart every assumption and collaring the public into answering questionnaires. We concluded that climate change was complex, scary and downright dull – folks switch off.
However people always love to shop – gratification and pleasure magnetically draw us and in this tendency was a solution, not only climate change but also to the hollowing out of local economies.
Blue Patch became a ‘vertical niche’. We gather and promote companies producing high quality, sustainable products and services within the British Isles. Added to this our member businesses provide excellent service and have pride in their products – Blue Patch members are the real thing!
Sustainability, we can tell you after interviewing around 5,000 businesses, is a broad church. One woman’s eco friendly ingredient is another man’s poison. So we simplified our membership criteria to manufacturing in Britain. We carefully interview prospective members to understand where their values lie – it could be the sustainability of their production or providing local employment. Blue Patch’s job is to celebrate all the great achievements of our members – and they really are great, every one of them and we’re so proud to have them light up our website. And to make a useful contribution to reducing carbon, we’ll be able to support members who are producing local renewable energy – the more successful we are, the more we can invest in our members.
I wanted our sustainably minded marketplace to have a radically different new business model underpinning it – it’s simple: we’re a commercial business, we make money. We’re a social enterprise, we have no shareholders, only members. We have a cap on wages at the national average, we’ll pay tax in Britain. Our beneficiaries are our members, the communities where they work and the natural world.
*The name Blue Patch was picked because one cloudy morning through my bedroom window I spotted a blue patch. It cheered me up so I figured it might cheer other people up too.
Blue Patch would like to thank the many people who helped shape and continue to give time and thought to the project.