Posted on in Healthy Living by Kat Schuett-Reue

Some of the members of OSC2, left to right: Sheryl O’Loughlin (REBBL), Mike Anzalone (OSC2), Lisa Curtis (Kuli Kuli), Edouard Rollet (Alter Eco), Les Szabo (Dr. Bronner’s), Timothy Childs (Treasure8), Lara Dickinson (OSC2), Christina Vogel (Dr. Bronner’s), Bill Reed (Pasture 1), Ahmed Rahim (Numi Tea/OSC2), Neil Blomquist (Sustainable Solutions), Chris Mann (Guayaki), John Tansey (Happy Family), and Jesse Solomon (Emmer & Co.)
Some of the members of OSC2, left to right: Sheryl O’Loughlin (REBBL), Mike Anzalone
(OSC2), Lisa Curtis (Kuli Kuli), Edouard Rollet (Alter Eco), Les Szabo (Dr. Bronner’s), Timothy
Childs (Treasure8), Lara Dickinson (OSC2), Christina Vogel (Dr. Bronner’s), Bill Reed (Pasture 1),
Ahmed Rahim (Numi Tea/OSC2), Neil Blomquist (Sustainable Solutions), Chris Mann (Guayaki),
John Tansey (Happy Family), and Jesse Solomon (Emmer & Co.)

Purpose-Driven Brands Join Together
to Fight Climate Change and Create
Regenerative Business Models


In the fight against climate change, a team of superheroes has assembled. They don’t wear Spandex or capes. Instead, they are disguised as everyday products found at grocery stores: A beverage that saves rainforests from being chopped down. Rice grown in a way that cuts water use in half, saving tons of H2O. Chocolate wrapped in a foil that transforms itself into soil. Cheese that prevents methane from building up in our environment. And there are many others…

This group of 23 purpose-driven brands calls themselves OSC2. The meaning behind this acronym, and their organization, is to work together to take “One Step Closer to an Organic and Sustainable Community.”

And they have taken some major steps toward their vision. Together they have:

» Conserved more than 200,000 acres of forest

» Planted more than 16 million trees

» Offset nearly 16 metric tons of CO2

» Provided more than $12 million for Fair Trade premiums and social and
environmental programs for farmers

» Sequestered carbon and kept toxic pesticides out of our environment by
purchasing more than 200 million pounds of organic produce

What’s more, last year OSC2, in partnership with the Sustainable Food Trade Association, launched a project called the Climate Collaborative. The Collaborative has brought together 200 companies in the natural products industry to make 800 commitments to help reverse climate change.

In real life, these climate change heroes are just normal folks like us. The difference is that they run purpose-driven businesses—companies created to drive positive change.

We need more brands to step up to be heroes. In today’s world, business practices are to blame for much of the climate problem. According to the United Nations, agriculture is responsible for 75% of all deforestation, and studies published in the Annual Review of Environment and Resources estimate that food systems account for 19-29% of greenhouse gas emissions. To win this fight, we need companies to change the way they do business and join the battle in a big way.

Changing the Way Business Is Done

Imagine a world where business practices serve the needs of society while honoring and protecting the integrity of nature. Where instead of just using the earth’s resources, businesses give back just as much as they take, restoring, renewing, and revitalizing their own sources of energy and materials.

The word used to describe this concept is “regenerative” and OSC2’s manifesto is to help turn this concept into a reality by building a global regenerative economy.

Instead of merely using soil to grow food, regenerative systems feed soil organisms, creating more nutrient-dense food and sequestering carbon. Instead of cutting down forests to grow monocrops, regenerative models plant crops in the shade of existing trees, fostering a biodiverse environment. Instead of creating petroleum plastic and GMO packaging, regenerative businesses use plant-based, non-GMO packaging that can be composted to support new life.

“By taking care of our planet and ensuring social/environmental integrity along the supply chain, regenerative businesses take care of each stakeholder as a core member of the entire unit. This empowers and drives everyone to give, including nature and all species that exist. Everything is connected and dependent on one another,” says Ahmed Rahim, OSC2 co-founder and cofounder and CEO of Numi Organic Tea.

Together We Are Stronger

Since 2012, leaders from OSC2 businesses have met several times a year to address the toughest sustainability problems and look at ways to build regenerative business models and agricultural systems. The first half of these meetings focuses on helping each other grow, “because when purpose-driven brands win, our food system wins and we all win,” says Lara Dickinson, cofounder of OSC2 and its executive director.

The second half is spent mentoring smaller purpose-driven brands, called Rising Stars, and spearheading sustainability solutions for the natural products industry. OSC2 has launched several impactful projects to help the industry work together including the Packaging Collaborative, Natural Products University, and the Climate Collaborative.

To reach out to the community, OSC2 also hosts a public “Future of Food” speaker series. The next event, “Project Drawdown: One Year and Counting,” is set for May 10th at the David Brower Center in Berkeley and features climate author/activist Paul Hawken along with Rahim of Numi Tea/OSC2 and Sheryl O’Loughlin, CEO of REBBL.

The Pursuit of Sustainable Packaging

Anyone who tries to be green can feel a big pang of guilt tossing packaging in a trash can. And for good reason. It’s estimated that plastic alone, much of it from product packaging, will outweigh fish in the ocean by 2050, according to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.

Purpose-driven companies feel this pang as well. In fact, when the members of OSC2 first sat down together to discuss their most pressing problems, packaging was at the top of the list. They decided to create the Packaging Collaborative that day. “Packaging was the biggest Achilles heel for all of us,” Rahim says.

So OSC2 invited several packaging companies to develop sustainable solutions and work with the member companies to test compostable materials. Other companies outside OSC2 also joined the effort, including Plum Organics, Patagonia Provisions, Amy’s Kitchen, and Ben & Jerry’s. The goal was to find compostable alternatives to flexible overwraps and pouches. This kind of multilayer plastic packaging cannot be recycled and ends up in landfills and oceans.

Members shared their knowledge and in 2013, Alter Eco introduced a compostable truffle wrapper made of birch and eucalyptus. And then in 2016, they launched a multi-layered compostable non-GMO quinoa pouch. “We couldn’t stand to say we were a sustainable company yet be responsible for so much packaging in the landfill, so we had to find a solution,” says Edouard Rollet, co-CEO of Alter Eco.

This fall, Numi Tea will be introducing the first commercially compostable non-GMO tea bag wrapper. Numi’s packaging is made with same compostable materials used by Alter Eco, but with an additional compostable adhesive to make it heat-sealable.

Even with these innovations, packaging continues to be one of the greatest challenges. Compostable packaging is two to three times more expensive than plastic. However, if more brands, especially larger ones, get involved, it would be more affordable for all.

In the meantime, everyone can help. “This matter affects us all. If we each contribute to the cost then it could work,” says Ken Lee, co-founder of Lotus Foods. “Retailers could provide signage for brands who invest in better packaging. And, if consumers were aware, they could choose to pay a little more to support these brands.”

Collaborating to Reverse Climate Change

OSC2 knew that to make the biggest impact possible on reversing climate change they needed to reach out to rest of the natural products industry. So in 2017, they launched the Climate Collaborative. Already it’s become OSC2 ’s largest project, doubling in size since last year.

And the 200 companies in the collective are also reaching out to their partners around the world.

“We know that actions from two hundred or even a thousand natural products companies is not enough to reverse climate change. But when you factor in our value chain, then it starts to get interesting,” says Dickinson. “Clif Bar committed to having fifty climate conversations with retailers. Veritable Vegetable committed to influencing their fifty growers. And General Mills committed all nine of its natural and organic brands to come forward.”

The Collaborative focuses on nine areas of action: agriculture (organic/carbon farming), increasing energy efficiency, reducing food waste, eliminating commodity-driven deforestation, reducing the climate impact of packaging, advocating for responsible policies, committing to renewable power, reducing short-lived climate pollutant emissions, and transportation-related emissions. To foster collaboration, the Collaborative hosts monthly webinars, and to ensure accountability, companies are required to fill out an annual progress report for each commitment.

Lotus Foods’ rice is grown using up to 50% less water and produces 40% less methane than other rice.
Lotus Foods’ rice is grown using up to 50% less water and produces 40% less methane than other rice.
Guayaki partners with indigenous people in South America to protect and restore rainforest.
Guayaki partners with indigenous people in South America to protect and restore rainforest.

Future Steps

As OSC2 moves forward, hopefully more businesses will become part of the solution instead of adding to the problem. “I imagine a world where hundreds of OSC2 groups are formed and come together across the globe, all with common goals focused on sustainable, environmental, and social values and using business to drive positive change,” Rahim says.

You also play an important role in this. If businesses are to drive change, they need your support. “The Climate Collaborative’s next focus, and my area of excitement, is around customer engagement,” says Dickinson. “As a network of several hundred climate-committed companies, we can now start to educate and share with customers what we are doing and how to be a part of the effort.”

How Can You Help?

First, do your research. What are the brands you buy most often doing to lessen their impact? Then, vote with your dollar. If you want to see more sustainable packaging or renewable energy, then support brands that are leading in these areas.

After you bring home your purpose-driven product, tell your friends about it on social media. Take photos of your favorite organic, Fair Trade tea, chocolate, etc. Post about why you love it and share something about its sustainability story.

Lastly, write and call companies and ask them to join the Climate Collaborative and make commitments to sustainability.

Together we can move closer to a sustainable future, one step at a time.

Kat Schuett-Reue is an award-winning health and sustainability journalist and the founder of The Better World Hub, a purpose-driven community. You can subscribe to her blog at www.thebetterworldhub.com.

OSC2 PurposeDriven Business Members

» 18 Rabbits

» Alter Eco

» All Good

» Ancient Nutrition

» Big Tree Farms

» California Olive Ranch

» Dang

» Dr. Bronner’s

» Emmer & Co.

» The FruitGuys

» Gaia Herbs

» Guayaki

» Happy Family

» Kuli Kuli

» Living Intentions

» Lotus Foods

» Miyoko’s Kitchen

» Numi Tea

» Nutiva


» Square Organics

» Treasure8

» Uncommon Cacao

Award-winning brands
fighting climate change

The Climate Collaborative and National Co+op Grocers recently recognized companies who are leading the way. Here are some ways the award-winning brands are mitigating climate change:

Alter Eco developed an agroforestry model that compensates for all carbon emissions within its supply chain. Alter Eco not only planted 30,000 trees itself, but it also started PUR Projet to help other companies plant trees within their supply chains, totaling more than 12 million trees so far.

Through a community program to construct solar arrays in small Midwest communities, Organic Valley cooperative will be the largest food organization in the world to use 100% renewable energy by 2019. This will also allow residents in these towns to increase their solar energy use by 15%.

Veritable Vegetable has invested in renewable-diesel trucks and hybrid refrigeration units that produce almost zero emissions.

Guayaki Yerba Mate sequesters more carbon than they emit by protecting and restoring 130,000 acres of rainforests. To deliver this organic, Fair Trade product, they created a distribution fleet that incorporates electric vehicles.

Lotus Foods supports farmers who grow rice using the System of Rice Intensification (SRI), a method they call “More Crop Per Drop.” SRI doesn’t flood fields like conventional methods, producing 40% less methane and using up to 50% less water. Rice production uses a fourth of the world’s fresh water and is the third largest contributor of methane. SRI also produces higher yields with up to 90% fewer seeds and zero agrochemicals.

Albert Straus, founder of Straus Creamery, developed a carbon-positive model for organic dairy farming and created the first electric truck powered by manure.

Clif Bar endowed the first domestic land-grant university chairs for organic research and provided renewable energy consulting to its supply chain.

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