Gary Hirshberg sounded like an impassioned politician as he spoke Wednesday night to a sold-out crowd of natural foods business people in Boulder, Colo., for the Naturally Boulder Spring Fling event.
He offered clear and rousing opinions about what’s happening in Washington, D.C.—and our nation—when it comes to business and our food system.
This man knows both. After all, he set out to prove a business can make profits and do the right thing as the president and CEO of Stonyfield, the well-loved organic yogurt maker based in Londonderry, N.H. Around there, they aptly called him the CE-Yo.
And he’s done it, proving sustainability can grow business too.
Now, after 28 years, he’s retiring to focus on advocacy. He will remain as chairman of the board.
Stepping away from day-to-day operations allows Hirshberg to stump for future generations, something we can all do every day.
Wednesday, he sounded a call for three things the natural products industry must do toward that end:
Simplify the message.
The industry needs better marketing to overcome the meaningless “natural” term and the trade’s elitist air. Simply put, this issue is about pesticides and chemicals, Hirshberg said.
Organize as an industry.
Natural businesses need to use the same language and better understand consumers. As an example, he pointed to the litany of labels that could overtake a package and mean virtually nothing to most consumers.
You could hear the multiple exclamation points in Hirshberg’s voice as he talked about this important third point. “Money is not an end, it is the means,” he said, as he expounded upon the Citizens United decision that defines a corporation as a person. “We are political organizations that have power to inspire.”
He went on to call the Just Label It campaign “our Occupy movement” and call on the business people in the audience to get beyond our P and Ls because the government is of, for and by the people, not a handful of chemical companies.
The former CE-Yo got a standing O. Now, if we’d all just stand for the cause.