B Corps Show and Share Regenerative and Inclusive Innovations at Natural Products Expo West 2023
In the natural products sector known for innovation and exploration, Certified B Corporations are showing how they go beyond the status quo and work to create a more inclusive and regenerative economy. At Natural Products Expo West 2023, an annual event in Anaheim, California, for the natural products industry, more than 130 exhibiting B Corps showcased innovative products and business models that positively impact workers, communities, customers, and the environment.
Expo West 2023 aligned with B Corp Month, an annual celebration that gives businesses in the global B Corp community the opportunity to share how they are pursuing new and different ways of doing business to help improve their social and environmental impact. This year, B Corps are highlighting how they go beyond business as usual to instead use their companies as forces for good. At Expo West 2023, natural product B Corps had an opportunity to share — in sessions, booths, and other formats — innovative practices and products propelling them forward on their impact journey with the more than 60,000 attendees.
The roundup below includes examples from Expo West 2023 of B Corps showing and sharing how businesses are going beyond business as usual. From new ways of packaging to collective action groups, these are just a few of the ways that B Corps are going beyond the expected to address climate change and social justice while also building a strong bottom line.
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B Corps Go Beyond By Building Strong Supply Chains for Social and Environmental Impact
The first day of Expo West 2023 included a Climate Day panel with Heather Terry, CEO of GoodSAM Foods, a U.S.-based B Corp that works with farmers in Colombia, Kenya, Mexico, and Bolivia. As companies explore ways to address climate change that go beyond carbon offsets, GoodSAM serves as an example of a business built with a sustainable supply chain. Terry noted that GoodSAM travels to work on-site with its suppliers so it knows the source and method behind its chocolate, coffee, and nut products.
“As brands and companies in the natural products industry, we do have to start thinking about climate and the people who have been those stewards of the soil on the ground for hundreds if not thousands of years; [those] who have known for a very long time these climate outcomes have happened and are continuing to happen,” Terry said. “They have a tremendous amount of knowledge and wisdom to share with us if we would only allow them to.”
Terry believes in the power of strong partnerships that encourage regenerative agriculture practices and expand a company’s impact beyond the bottom line, she said. “It starts to drive the momentum not just for selling a product on the shelf but for a movement that is literally going to help save the planet.”
Viewing farmers as part of the GoodSAM team also means valuing their product and ensuring they earn a living wage for their work, Terry said. “Most of the western world, most of the developed countries, have treated farming and farmers as if they are in servitude to us. They’re actually running businesses. And we do not pay them enough,” she said. “If we want to continue to have food and we want to have farmers do regenerative agriculture, we have to start paying attention, buying in, investing, building that infrastructure within the systems.”
B Corps Go Beyond Through Regenerative Agriculture and Responsible Sourcing
Later in the week, a live recording of the New Food Order podcast at Expo West 2023 included Olivia Sanchez-Castro, Vice President of Marketing for plant-based beverages at B Corp Danone North America. During the roundtable discussion, Sanchez-Castro said customers have three primary needs when trying plant-based products. “They’re coming in for taste and texture; they’re coming in for health. And then there’s the third part … the planet,” she said. “That’s where companies have a responsibility to source their ingredients in a responsible way.”
Relationship-building and ongoing support are important components of strong supply chains, she said, pointing to the B Corp’s current work with growers in central California almond orchards as a good example. “Regenerative agriculture is central to their mission and our mission,” she said, noting their collaborative efforts to take care of soil health, pollinators, and water usage while also producing a quality crop.
Learn more: Hear more of this session in an upcoming episode of the New Food Order podcast with Danielle Gould, Founder and CEO of Food Tech Connect, and Louisa Burwood-Taylor, Head of Media and Research at AgFunder. Other panelists include Miyoko Schinner, Founder of B Corp Miyoko’s Creamery.
The Climate Justice Playbook for Business
This practical guide from B Lab features information to help business leaders understand the intersection of climate action and social justice and advance a justice-centered approach to climate action.
B Corps Go Beyond by Exploring and Advancing Anti-Racist Business Practices
The second day of Expo West 2023 included a conversation co-facilitated by Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion expert and longtime B Corp community member Lynn Johnson of Hella Social Impact and Cynthia Billops of One Step Closer and the J.E.D.I Collaborative. The panel discussion on “Pathways to Anti-Racist Leadership: Transforming Corporate Culture in a Race-Conscious World” explored what anti-racist leadership is and what it looks like in action.
With racial equity as one of three pillars in its Theory of Change, the U.S. and Canada B Corp community is leading the way in exploring and developing anti-racist business strategies that can help shape a more inclusive economy. This work includes acknowledging the systemic barriers to inclusion and reshaping policies and practices that reinforce those barriers.
At Hella Social Impact, Johnson works with business leaders who are re-examining practices and policies that reinforce oppressive systems. “I define an anti-racist leader as anyone who consistently and intentionally uses the skills and resources available to them to take bold and brave action toward racial justice,” she said.
The panelists shared what the anti-racist journey has been like for them as individuals and leaders, as well as for their companies, as part of the J.E.D.I Collaborative’s Pathways to Action programming. Lee Wallace, CEO of B Corp Peace Coffee in Minneapolis, said that engaging in anti-racist work requires reflection and a willingness to experience discomfort. “I needed to make sure that the way I think about my business intellectually is truly scalable, and that’s through building a JEDI framework into the way that we operate the business,” she said.
B Corps Go Beyond with Regenerative Organic Certification for Social and Environmental Impact
Ten B Corps showcased their impact-minded practices and products in the Expo West 2023 Fresh Ideas Organic Marketplace, which included several companies pushing the envelope through Regenerative Organic Certification (ROC). Overseen by the Regenerative Organic Alliance, this certification goes beyond current organic standards to include social, ethical, and environmental impact by protecting soil health, ensuring equity for farm workers, empowering farmers, and improving animal welfare.
- Ancient Nutrition: This B Corp has the first farms to become ROC in Tennessee and Missouri and dedicates 1% of revenue to the R.A.N.C.H Project as part of its commitment to regenerative agriculture, nutrition, and climate health.
- Dr. Bronner’s: As a partner and pilot program participant in the ROC standard, Dr. Bronner’s offers virgin coconut oil produced in partnership with Serendipol, the company’s coconut oil supplier in Sri Lanka.
- Gaia Herbs: Its commitment to transparency includes a Meet Your Herbs online tool that allows customers to learn more about the source of their herbs. Gaia grows many of its herbs on its farm near Brevard, North Carolina.
- Herb Pharm: Herb Pharm is the first herbal company to achieve ROC, and its organic farm is a botanical sanctuary for United Plant Savers, an organization dedicated to protecting native medicinal plants and their habitats in the United States and Canada.
- Kaibae: Direct partnerships with suppliers throughout Africa using regenerative practices help ensure quality and transparency, and preserve biodiversity. With a commitment to zero waste, 95% of the B Corp’s packaging is recyclable — and it’s working on the remaining 5%.
- Lotus Foods: Through farming community partnerships, it helps ensure small-scale farmers receive a fair price for their crop. Lotus Foods and its partners demonstrate how farming practices can mitigate climate change, promote farmers’ resilience, and empower women.
- Rogue Creamery: The cheesemaker is USDA Certified Organic by Oregon Tilth, which verifies that the B Corp promotes soil health and biodiversity, preserves native crop varieties, provides healthy working environments for farm workers, and ethical stewardship of land and farm animals.
- Sol Organica: This ROC fruit snack company reinforces its commitment to transparency and traceability through farming practices that go beyond organic standards to regenerate natural resources while benefiting communities and their surroundings.
- TCHO Chocolate: Realizing that most issues in the cacao industry stem from the low prices cacao farmers get paid for their beans, TCHO prioritizes long-term partnerships with its cacao growers. Its traceable cacao tool allows customers to know the source of their beans.
- ZYN – Turmeric Wellness: This B Corp sources ingredients from farmers and partners that are socially responsible and focused on sustainability. Its core ingredient, curcumin (from turmeric), comes from community-based farms that run on solar energy.
B Corps Go Beyond with 5 Innovative NEXTY Award Winners
The 2023 Natural Products Expo West NEXTY Awards Winners included these five B Corps honored for their innovative products:
- Spinster Sisters Co.: Best New Personal Care or Beauty Product. The Face Serum Stick is made in a microsoapery powered by wind and solar energy and packaged in a 100% FSC-Certified biodegradable paperboard tube.
- King Arthur Baking: Best New Special Diet Food. The 100% employee-owned B Corp is making gluten-free baking tastier with this gluten-free bread flour made with gluten-free wheat starch.
- Blueland: Best New Planet-Forward Product. The dishwasher starter set from Blueland uses dry-form tablets formulated without volatile organic compounds (VOCs), parabens, ammonia, phthalates, or chlorine bleach.
- Three Spirit: Editors’ Choice Award for Inspiration. The Nightcap alcohol-free botanical elixir delivers complex flavors and functional plant-based ingredients.
- Good Food For Good: Editors’ Choice Award for Integrity. For every purchase of its organic plant-based classic bolognese sauce, the woman-owned B Corp donates a meal to feed a person living with food insecurity.
B Corps Go Beyond Through Collective Action for Sustainability in the Beauty Industry
A happy hour event at Expo West 2023 brought together members of the B Corp community, including those in the B Beauty Coalition, which was formed in 2022 as a collective action initiative committed to sustainability. The coalition travels under the banner B Beauty — a tangible standard of social and environmental better practices that help beauty consumers select products with positive impact. Happy hour hosts included B Lab plus B Corps Mustela, Babo Botanicals, MaCher, and Badger.
Among the attendees was Toni DiPrinzio of Expanscience, a B Corp in the B Beauty Coalition. “It is always such a rewarding experience to collaborate with other B Beauty brands and make ideas come to life,” she said. “The B Beauty happy hour was intended to bring people together to show the commitment of the B Beauty Coalition and their work on implementing fair business practices and sustainability. We hope those who attended had an amazing time, made some new friends, and left feeling inspired to tackle the next environmental hurdle alongside other incredible B Corps.”
B Corps Go Beyond By Supporting the Expo West 2023 Sustainability Program
With a history of sustainability, Natural Products Expo West serves as an example for others in the event industry — and B Corp Honeycomb Strategies is part of the team that makes it happen. Corey Clark, Senior Sustainability Manager at Honeycomb Strategies, said they supported Expo West 2023 by devising a strategy and communicating with vendor partners to ensure impact programs meet their goals. This includes working with the cleaning contractor at the convention center to sort compost and recycling bags once they come off the show floor so that contamination is reduced and the waste diversion rate increases, she said. Honeycomb Strategies partnered with rCup to reduce the use of single-use cups and TerraCycle to ensure that hard-to-recycle materials like window clings and lanyards are diverted from the landfill.
“Behind every event is a large amount of data to track and measure. Honeycomb Strategies has been working with Expo West since 2016, which enables us to track progress and improvements that the show has made and achieve the ambitious long-term goals that have established this show as a leader within the industry,” Clark said.
Expo West diverts 50% of its waste annually and historically has donated upwards of 200,000 pounds of food to Second Harvest, she said. Because the event draws more than 60,000 attendees, the amount of food and beverage sampling that occurs over five days has the potential to produce a large amount of waste. The event host encourages exhibitors to use compostable serviceware and not bring giveaway items that will end up in landfills.
While the event presents a big challenge, Clark said it also serves as an opportunity to make changes that have a lasting impact and serve as an example for others. “The exhibitors as well as attendees are passionate about sustainability. They push the show to do more, be transparent, and lead the foods industry,” she said. “Clear communication is key, and by being transparent about goals and providing a space to share exhibitors’ sustainability stories, we can collectively help move the industry forward and support those who need it.”
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