Roadmap for the Botanical Industry
“You bring about change one herb and one product at a time. You can’t be perfect. Just start somewhere.”
– Cindy Angerhofer, Director of Botanical Research, Aveda
Climate Collaborative, AHPA’s Sustainability Committee, and the Sustainable Herbs Program partnered to host a special introductory webinar about climate action in the botanical industry. The webinar was a panel discussion with Erin Smith, Director of Science, Sustainability, & Education, WishGarden Herbs, Josef Brinckmann, Research Fellow, Traditional Medicinals, and Cindy Angerhofer, Director of Botanical Research, Aveda, facilitated by Erin Callahan, director of Climate Collaborative, and Holly Johnson, Chief Science Officer of AHPA.
The discussion was far ranging and touched on a number of important points, many of which were also discussed at the SupplySide West panel discussion. Our hope is that these conversations can now be used as a foundation for diving into these issues more deeply and beginning to take action. As everyone on the panel said, the most important thing is to do something. Just Begin.
You can watch the complete hour long discussion here. We’ve also highlighted 9 important takeaways below. We’ve linked them to posts and videos on the SHP site to build on and deepen the conversation.
How to balance priorities
Every company has to begin where they are. As a small company with limited resources, Erin balances what needs to be done with what they are able to do. Identify workable goals, state those clearly, and then focus on the one or two things you are working on now. Remember that no one is perfect and no company can do everything, Erin said, echoing what Josef and Cindy said as well.
For other suggestions on what companies can do, see the SHP Take Action Section.
Quality is a Climate Issue
Developing relationships to source consistently high quality raw material is a way of taking on climate action. Sourcing poor quality plant material is unsustainable because it generates more waste of raw material and more resources in processing, storage, transportation, etc.
See more about the links between quality and sustainability in this video on Quality and Sustainability in the Botanical Industry
Sustainability in Sourcing
Cindy said that people in purchasing at Aveda have always wanted a sustainable supply chain, which to them means being able to buy the same plant at the same quality for roughly the same price. Companies are now recognizing the need to expand that to include social and environmental issues, because these issues are impacting their ability to purchase consistent quality plant material.
Each panelist said it can be hard to know where to begin – and each recommended starting with one plant.
Josef elaborates in the SHP post, Pick a Plant.
That’s the best way to see what needs to be done and to identity other opportunities. No one can visit all of their producers all of the time. But being on the ground not only develops relationships and lets you see where the challenges are. You are also able to identify other opportunities for adding value in the region.
When Erin can’t work directly with growers and harvesters, she develops relationships with the brokers and dealers who do work directly with them, making sure they are in alignment with WishGarden’s quality, values and sustainability goals. “I ask a lot of questions,” she said. “That is a way of getting information and of developing relationships with them.” If she can’t work directly with wildcrafters, she tries to be only one step removed.
“We also rotate through our suppliers for in person audits. We prioritize according to the herbs that are most important to our operation and sustainability concerns and often both,” Erin said.
Watch the video to see the ways Sebastian Pole and Ben Heron from Pukka Herbs work with their partners in the field: Relationships through the Supply Chain.
Voluntary Sustainability Standards
These standards – (for ingredients: Organic, Biodynamic, Regenerative, Fairtrade, Fair for Life, FairWild; and for company performance: B Lab Standards for Certified B Corporations) – verify that a company is actually sourcing in ways that are protecting biodiversity, supporting rural livelihoods, and producing products that are as free as possible of contaminants (pesticides, heavy metals). For smaller companies these standards can be ways of building trust when they don’t have resources to visit all of their suppliers.
But you don’t have to start with certification. Even though WishGarden is not yet a certified B Corps, Erin uses the B Corps assessment tool to bench mark. “It’s a great tool to identify where we are doing really well and where we need to do more,” she said. “These assessments can be tools to help get you to where you want to be,” she added. Start where you can.
See Biodiversity and Wild Plants for a summary of voluntary standards for biodiversity.
- Not just plants
Cindy said that Aveda is often sourcing extracts and fatty oils made from plants, not the botanical raw materials. So it is important to make sure the plant-based carriers and functional excipients are sustainably produced as well. She looks for green solvents as well as sustainably sourced plant material as a way of taking climate action. Work with your entire supply chain to assess and lower your imprint with suppliers as well.
See Waste in the Botanical Industry for more information (coming soon).
Rapid loss of biodiversity is directly related to climate
Climate action is not just about emissions. The rapid loss of biodiversity is directly linked to the climate crisis. They share the same human caused drivers: land use change and pollution (agrochemical, industrial, vehicle). Change in land use is among the biggest contributors to the rapid loss in biodiversity globally. Conversion of natural forest and meadow areas to intensive agriculture farmland or grazing land is one of the main threats to biodiversity.
Josef explained that Traditional Medicinals’s focus on biodiversity is part of their climate action. By committing to source herbs from their native habitats where the organic wild and FairWild standards have been implemented, the company is actively expanding protected areas of natural biodiversity, helping to prevent local temptation of land use change to mono-crops or grazing. On farms, TM requires voluntary sustainability standards that require maintaining and improving the biodiversity in and around the farm. Organic standards, Biodynamic standards, and even the Fair Trade Standards have requirements for biodiversity conservation.
For more on biodiversity in the botanical industry watch the SHP video Biodiversity and FairWild
How to get buy in
And one of our favorites because it is so simple and something we can all start doing today: Ask Questions.
As the one person doing sustainability in her company, Erin started by asking a lot of questions. By asking questions, others began to think about the issues as well. And so now she isn’t the only one asking those questions. Erin also meets with the heads of each department to talk about issues, see where to make changes, ask them for ideas. This is creating an extended department through the company.
Executive buy in is important. Erin emphasized that you will get a lot more done and faster if those at the top agree it is an issue and part of the company’s core mission. But creating partners in different departments is equally important. Change can also happen sideways or from the bottom up.
Don’t be afraid of working together. All the panelists agreed that companies need to come together to get this done. It will take everyone. Just begin.
Josef describes the importance of collaboration in building support for developing Wildlife Friendly Tea.
SHP-ABC, AHPA, and Climate Collaborative are collaborating to continue the conversations on these issues that we initiated at SupplySide West 2019.