Natural Products Expo
Lara Dickinson Climate Collaborative

Collaborative urges natural products companies to make formal climate commitments

Engaging industry CEOs will be the first step for the forthcoming Climate Collaborative.

Attendees at Natural Products Expo East this year can get a sneak peak at a new partnership being launched to encourage more natural products companies to transform their sustainability positions into formal commitments to fighting climate change. Don’t miss Thursday’s panel, Climate Collaboration: The Business Path for Reversing Climate Change, to learn more.

Here, Lara Dickinson, industry consultant and executive director of OSC2 (One Step Closer to an Organic Sustainable Community), shares some highlights.

Can you give us a preview of what you’ll talk about during your session?

Lara Dickinson: We’ll present a sneak preview of something we’ll be fully launching at Expo West: the Climate Collaborative for the natural products industry. Food and natural products companies can come together to take bold steps and actions to reverse climate change.

It’s an extensive program with goals in the first year to get 100 companies on board to make formal climate commitments, and within three years to have 1,000 companies engaged in the Climate Collaborative with at least three climate commitments each.

There are 10 big potential initiatives companies can take in different areas: renewable energy, greenhouse gas emissions reduction, transportation, short-lived climate pollutants, food waste, agriculture, deforestation, packaging, energy efficiency and policy. Companies need to take at least one of these on to register for the Climate Collaborative, but we’re projecting that a lot will take on several. 

Some of these areas are important but haven’t been raised to a very high profile and will start to gain more attention through us, like packaging and agriculture—particularly positive regenerative agriculture. Different companies have different areas that they can influence first and more effectively, depending on what their supply chain looks like.

The panel will directly follow Paul Hawken’s keynote, and that’s intentional. He’s a formal advisor, as well as some pretty great climate luminaries.

What led to the formation of the Climate Collaborative?

LD: We’re probably the most progressive industry in the world, yet there wasn’t a single true natural foods company registering a commitment in Paris. We’ve been trying to get to the bottom of this and figure out how to make this a call to action. A lot of the panel will be shining a light on best practices.

At Climate Collaborative, we want to get CEOs engaged in big movements and to take action. That’s the first step, CEO engagement. The second is to create a clear path to action. Those are the two biggest barriers—making it a priority and then figuring out what to actually do, because it’s such a big problem.

Companies including Guayaki, Dr. Bronner’s, Organic Valley and Numi Teas are supporters of what we’re doing. Some retailers are supportive, too—some have made pledges and are starting to talk about sponsorship, but want to keep it confidential until they share it with their franchises. But we do have some retailers that have pledged support.

What would involvement from retailers look like?

LD: The first step is for retailers to support brands that take this initiative. We see it kind of like the non-GMO movement, but instead of what’s your non-GMO commitment, it’s what’s your climate commitment? There could be screening criteria for retailers to use. But that’s also a big part of what we’ll be figuring out over the next several years, is how retailers can help drive this with us.

What else can we expect from the panel?

LD: We’ll look at companies implementing best practices, and how do we learn from them. We’re shining a light on two areas we think are important: Organic Valley, which is so huge in addressing dairy from a climate-friendly perspective, and Natural Habitats and what they’re doing in palm oil. Those are two shining bright examples of companies taking radical steps toward addressing climate change.

Don't miss the Climate Collaborative at Expo East.
What: Climate Collaboration: The Business Path for Reversing Climate Change
When: 10 - 11:15 a.m., Thursday, Sept. 22, 2016
Where: Baltimore Convention Center, Room 301

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