BLUE, the coolest non-profit on Earth…

An Interview with BLUE’s Founders

If you are a passionate conservationist, The End of the Line 2009 documentary will resonate with you on many levels. This feature-length and award-winning documentary, directed by Rupert Murray and based on Charles Clover’s book of the same name, is compelling in capturing the beauty and bio-diversity of our oceans and immediately juxtaposing this with the reality of slowly but surely destroying them through over-fishing and over-consumption.

If you are not an environmentalist, it would convert you with its stark message: imagine the oceans without fish by mid-century!

This haunting documentary was produced by George Duffield, and exec-produced by Chris Gorell Barnes, winning the 2011 Puma Creative Impact Award and leading to establishing the Blue Marine Foundation, or just BLUE for short.

BLUE is just 7 years old at the time of writing but punches vastly above its weight, largely because its founders are quite formidable.

If there is such a thing as new tech royalty, Gorell Barnes is surely and firmly in that hallowed circle.

A serial digital entrepreneur and brand building expert, he is also Martha Lane-Fox’s partner (they have twin sons together).

When we met briefly one afternoon in London, he used the 15 minutes or so he had to sketch a vision for BLUE’s future,partnering with compatible to tangentially aligned brands. One gets a sense of “the sky is the limit” with Gorell Barnes.

A strategic thinker who’s built his businesses understanding that great ideas need a great narrative and sound marketing, he has very obviously poured both his heart and skills into shaping the foundation’s image.

If ever there were a non-profit that embodied the elusive quality of “cool”, BLUE unquestionably is it.

George Duffield, BLUE’s other half, has pedigree when it comes to philanthropy.

Charles Clore set up his eponymous foundation in the ‘60s, through which he contributed to the arts and Jewish causes. His daughter, and George’s mother, Dame Vivien Duffield consolidated it as the Clore Duffield Foundation.  It is perhaps best known for funding The Clore Gallery at Tate Britain (the Clore Gallery houses the world’s largest collection of the works of J.M.W. Turner) although it supports scores of other cultural initiatives.

Dame Vivien has been a major supporter of, and donor to the Royal Opera House, as well as many other art-related organisations, and it would be hard to overestimate the impact she’s had on culture in general.

This pedigree notwithstanding, or perhaps because of it, George Duffield is nicely low key and quite unassuming.

Both he and Gorell Barnes have day jobs, he tells me, and young families, but the work for the foundation has taken over their lives – and developed a life of its own.

The Mission

If you watch the documentary, you would understand BLUE’s mission in a nutshell: mitigate, on the one hand, the depletion of fish stocks through the creation of marine reserves and on the other, build government and business consensus around research and long-term sustainable solutions for the fishing industry and ultimately the survival of the oceans’ eco-system.

BLUE does this very effectively in a number of ways.

The oceans are, of course, in public ownership. Rather than focus on awareness alone, the charity works directly with governments to implement much needed remedies to what has become a global and urgent problem.

The UK, with its overseas territories, offers a massive scope for creating marine reserves whose model can be replicated on the Mediterranean next and beyond.

The Lyme Bay project is one such model of getting together fishermen, scientists and conservationists to collaborate.

What BLUE does is address the needs of the local community (as opposed to simply preach) and act as a facilitator – in this case, funding the supply of a refrigeration unit critical for protecting the fishermen’s income, resulting in more sustainable approach to fishing.

Partnering with and involving other philanthropic foundations (The Bacon Foundation, Prince AlbertIIof Monaco’s Foundation, Garfield Weston, John Ellermen and the Don Quixote Foundation among others) is another exceptionally effective way to fund important projects in the Aeolian Islands, St Helena, Ascension Island, the Maldives, etc. (full list of projects here:

As George Duffield rightly points out, the ocean crisis requires a global effort, and so BLUE tries to work in collaboration with as many funders as possible.

BLUE worked in collaboration with other NGOs to establish the British government’s commitment to create a ‘blue belt’ around the UK’s overseas territories and is currently urging as many MPs as possible to sign up to a charter strengthening that commitment (find out more at

Combining efforts to achieve tangible results is something that we, at BBeyond, continually espouse both in writing and when we interact with individual philanthropists.

After all, getting consumers, big business, regulatory bodies and public opinion to coalesce around a common goal for the greater good is surely what we should all be striving for?

BLUE’s research and knowledge base are truly impressive: the founders seem to have facts and figures at their fingertips and it is obvious they care deeply about the success of every step along the way. Changing consumer and retailer attitudes, for example, are as important as lobbying governments and the fishing industry.

BLUE has enlisted the support of Ambassadors whose credentials are indisputable and whose names are stellar.

The foundation’s best asset, however, remain its founders.

“This is the most important thing I’ve done in my life”, says George Duffield at the end of our meeting and Chris Gorell Barnes nods in agreement.