I have the distinct honor of facilitating a panel discussion this Wednesday at the Climate Action Summit, sponsored by the Climate Collaborative and New Hope Network in conjunction with the always anticipated Natural Products Expo East in Baltimore. We’ll discuss innovations around climate impact, translating nascent ideas into action, and how bottom up and top down leadership inspires new and creative ways to think about climate commitments.
When asked to lead this session, it was a no brainer for me. Not just because I love what panelists from Mom’s Organic Market, Organic Valley and Badger Balm are doing, but because I also love the concept of the Climate Collaborative, and view the Natural Products industry as one of the most forward thinking and actionable in the space of partnerships for social and environmental impact.
What better way to encourage the types of partnerships we like to build at Connective Impact, than support collaborations that truly make a difference?
The Climate Collaborative, for example, nary 18 months old, is a coalition of more than 100 manufacturers, retailers, suppliers and other businesses within the natural foods industry “working collaboratively to take bold action to reverse climate change. “ Over time the Collaborative intends to create “big and bold change” from within the natural food products space, which is growing fast, but still makes up only 5% of consumption. Natural and organic food is an 80 billion dollar business, with a bright future and opportunities to make transformational change. What makes the natural foods industry even more attractive, at least in our eyes, is their willingness to partner and collaborate as they have under the Climate Collaborative.
Another example of pre-competitive collaboration can be found in the work of the One Step Closer to an Organic Sustainable Community (OSC2), a group of emerging leaders in the mission-driven natural food products space, including Numi Tea, REBBL, Guyaki, Happy Family and Alter Eco. The group came together in 2012 to create a coalition force for good, building regenerative business models in their farming and agricultural practices. Their focus on regenerative agriculture was the first of its kind, and has made the topic a mainstay within the natural products discussions. It will certainly be a popular session at Expo East this week. The OSC2 has also begun a concerted effort to focus on compostable packaging among its members and others, as well as discussions on the future of food and Drawdown.
Many natural foods brands have engaged in innovative and creative bilateral partnerships to move the needle on social and environmental issues. Chobani, for example, has partnered with some of the biggest brands like Clif Bar (to fund grain research), Save the Children (to focus on underserved youth populations in the U.S. in need of nutrition), and started the Tent Partnership for Refugees to address refugee challenges worldwide. Being proactive in partnership building seems to be a given within the natural products sector. I am so encouraged by this, and when speaking with natural food company leaders, I’m thrilled with how willing and open they are to consider partnerships and collaboration, particularly around some of the more challenging issues these growing companies face. They recognize that by prioritizing sustainability in their operations, they must consider the role of their brands impacting our planet and communities, and that issues like climate change, waste, sustainable energy and other issues many are collaborating around like living wage and gender equity require all of us working together in concert.
Are you a natural product company looking to engage with more partners? Let us know and we’ll swing by your booth to chat. You may find the tools on our website helpful as well.