Innovation That Matters

Winemaker Justin Moran on making a profit for the ocean

Wise Words

We spoke with Hidden Sea's co-founder to understand how the organisation has become a movement that inspires consumers to create sustainable change.

For the Australian wine brand The Hidden Sea, “business as usual” means that with each bottle of wine sold, they remove and recycle 10 plastic bottles from the ocean. The intuitive forms part of an ambitious goal set during July 2020 of removing 1 billion plastic bottles from the ocean by 2030. Since then, they have removed over 3 million plastic bottles from the world’s oceans.

At least 8 million tons of plastic end up in the oceans every year. As a business, they were “inspired to be part of the solution, not the problem”. To do this, they embarked on a mission to do good throughout their business. This starts from the soil up and ends in the creation of a movement that empowers consumers to make positive changes.

In order to fully understand and appreciate the work that the Hidden Sea is doing for our oceans, we recently spoke with its co-founder, Justin Moran.

— Katrina Lane

1. Where did the original idea for The Hidden Sea come from? And what inspired you to materialise it?  

Where our vineyards lie today in South Australia was once covered by a vast Ocean and was home to a thriving marine ecosystem. Ancient mineralised relics, including an extraordinary 26-million-year-old whale fossil and an extensive museum of marine life, are buried beneath the alluvial soils of this World Heritage wine region. We created The Hidden Sea to captivate our friends and allow them to feel a part of something bigger than themselves. For this, we celebrate the heritage of where we make our wine. 

Richie Vandenberg and I were inspired to materialize a wine brand that had a higher purpose.  This is not just about The Hidden Sea creating change. It is as much about empowering consumers to make change happen. And that has resulted in us making wines that matter, for people who care.

2. What does success look like for The Hidden Sea? What are your key objectives at present? 

On July 1 2020, We set an extremely bold goal. With the help of our consumers, market partners and retailers, we aim to remove from the ocean and recycle 1 billion plastic bottles by 2030.

But in addition to our audacious goal, success is that we’ve played a part in educating our consumers about the terrible effect that plastic is having on our ocean while making a tangible difference. The end goal is to rid our ocean of plastic.  

3. What was your background prior to this, and how did that shape your work? 

Obviously, the experience of being entrepreneurial for a very long period of time gives you the confidence to tackle issues bigger than yourself, like our Ocean Health crisis. However, I think my goal-orientated behaviour has been the key factor that shaped my work with The Hidden Sea. So I break my goals into 3 sections. And I focus on end goals, not means goals, they are as follows. 

1. Experiences. What experiences do I want to have in life? The good thing about experience goals is that they don’t require much money, however, you need to be specific! 

2. Growth. For me to be the person that has all of these experiences, how do I have to grow? (How can I learn to be a better father, spouse, business partner, leader, lover, what skills do I need to learn to have these experiences I want). 

3. Contribution.  To be that person that has all of these experiences, how can I give back to the world? (If you want to be happy, make other people happy).  Then just take action, with discipline and consistency. You’ll be amazed at the results. 

4. Who or what inspires you personally? 

My advice is to be open to everything. I draw inspiration from so many different people and genres. However, if I had to name a few people: my mum and dad, my business partner Richie Vandenberg, a few close friends and of course my wife and kids.

I believe we have an obligation and responsibility to leave the next generation in a better situation than we had ourselves. We need to protect what remains. Most of the positive and negative things that bring about change in human civilization start with someone. Although no one can do everything, everyone can do something. 

5. What is something exciting that has happened recently or is taking place currently at The Hidden Sea? 

At The Hidden Sea, we are not creating another drinking moment; we’re creating a movement. For Plastic-Free July we had over 900 people take the pledge to reduce their plastic consumption.  In return, we are now removing over 95,000 single-use water bottles for these pledges. The exciting thing for us is seeing the tangible impact we are making on our environment, since July 1, 2020, we have removed over 5.5 million plastic water bottles from the world’s oceans. 

6. What are the key challenges you face when it comes to removing plastic from the ocean and tracing it back to its source? 

Through a partnership with the ReSea Project, we have been able to hold our ocean health claim accountable, which was challenging beforehand. ReSea Project is independently validated and verified via third party DNV GL.  ReSea is only the second organisation in the world to be certified after a new standard of plastic recovered in oceans and rivers.

7. The Hidden Sea is proving that making a profit as a business and helping the planet can co-exist. What else is The Hidden Sea doing to be more sustainable that can be an example for the industry? 

Everything we do is very quantifiable not only for our consumers but also for our retail partners. As a company,  we are also working towards being Carbon Neutral by January 2022. In our vineyards, there is minimal intervention and 90 per cent of sprays are organic.  As for the winery, it is solar-run, with onsite water treatment and recycling.  By-products such as grape marc and wood chips are used in gardens.

8. What is one book (podcast, documentary, etc.) that has inspired you and that you recommend? 

Ah, such a hard question — but I’m an avid reader (well due to my dyslexia an avid audiobook listener), so anything from Jim Collins. Probably my favourite of his is Great by choice.  

9. Do you have any other thoughts or wise words for aspiring entrepreneurs? 

Not sure they are wise words, but they are certainly non-negotiable.  

·   Always show up with the right attitude, it will trump everything. 

·   Give before you get. You can’t fight physics, if you want to be warm you need to put wood into the fireplace first. 

·   Be prepared to put in the work.  With discipline and consistency. 

·   Never ever give up! 

·   Do the right f%$£@*& thing. And I joke about rule 6 when you get to the crossroads read rule 5.