Interview: Regan McMillan of Stormline – putting sustainability first

World over fishing has become an issue for Stormline. Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images News / Getty Images
World over fishing has become an issue for Stormline. Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images News / Getty Images

Regan McMillan, the third generation member of a New Zealand-based fishing gear company, reckons that sustainability in global fishing industries isn’t just good for the world, but also makes perfect business sense.

“For fishermen having sustainable stock is the lifeblood of their business and livelihood, so they understand intimately the issues involved,” he says. “That also makes sense for our business.”

Stormline makes professional rain gear and recreational wet weather gear in New Zealand for retail and commercial clients worldwide. Sold in a variety of luminous colours, Stormline’s gear is renowned for its safety features, quality and durability. That’s got a lot to do with where the company comes from.

Founded in 1966 by Regan’s grandfather, George McMillan, in New Zealand’s southernmost city Invercargill, Stormline’s products are increasingly being  bought worldwide. As part of those efforts, Regan runs the international sales efforts from his base in London. His father Graeme runs the overall business from Invercargill, where fishing fleets leave for some of the most hostile seas in the world.

Regan reckons that the family legacy is very much part of Stormline’s success. “Being a family business gives a real sense of responsibility and pride in knowing what previous generations have achieved,” he says. “In turn, you know that you are leaving a ‘legacy’ for future generations and you want to ensure that the business evolves to meet the demands of a changing world.”

As part of Stormline’s sustainability efforts, the company recently sponsored a press campaign to raise the profile of sustainable fishing and consumers’ reaction towards it.

“Seventy percent of our planet is ocean yet seafood and fish make up only 2% of the world’s food supply,” says Regan. “On a global scale, almost 3 billion people rely on fish for animal protein and that demand is increasing, so the need for aquaculture as a compliment to fishing is obvious. But if consumers can’t buy with confidence and make choices based on their ethical concerns, we’re missing a big opportunity to keep fish as a sustainable and healthy source of food for billions around the world.”

Despite being still a relatively small business, the McMillan family haven’t been complacent with family business governance issues like succession, says Regan. “Succession planning and ownership among siblings and children can be a real issue and you have to have a clear plan for this. You must protect your business legally to avoid disputes.”

He adds: “Stormline is 50 years old this year and we want to ensure that it runs another 50 years.” That might not just depend on whether the McMillan family manage Stormline well, but also whether the world’s fish stocks can be sustainably maintained. A point very much at the forefront of Regan’s future business plans.

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