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5 can't-miss Natural Products Expo Virtual presentations of 2021

Can't-miss Natural Products Expo Virtual presentations of 2021
Although we couldn't gather in person, virtual presentations offered expertise on a variety of industry-related topics in the spring.

This past year saw dramatic growth within the natural and organic industry. With more families cooking at home, U.S. organic sales reached nearly $62 billion, an increase of more than 12%, the highest growth rate since 2008, says Laura Batcha, CEO and executive director of Organic Trade Association.

By 2023, U.S. natural and organic industry sales are set to surpass $300 billion.

These five Natural Products Expo Virtual presentations give a strong overview of where the industry is going and how it needs to focus more on climate justice, climate racism and climate change—all of which disproportionately impact communities of color.

Here are five can't-miss presentations from this year.

Engaging Outward: Building Justice, Consumer Advocacy and Supplier Engagement Into Your Climate Action Plan

When it comes to climate mitigation and reversal, it’s critical for companies to tackle their supply chain. Up to 95% of carbon footprint is through a company’s supply change, said Katherine DiMatteo, an independent consultant specializing in organic regulations and non-profit management.

There’s no “one-size-fits-all model,” but regardless of a company’s size and scope there’s a variety of ways to engage in a climate action plan, says Alisha Real, director, sustainability and social impact at UNFI.

A smart supplier would start now to deal with the climate crisis, climate impacts of their products and start getting the data together so they can disclose the carbon footprint of each product, says Brenna Davis, VP Social and Environmental Responsibility at PPC Community Markets. Companies can receive additional education and training through the Climate Collaborative, a project of One Step Closer (OSC2) and Sustainable Food Trade Association (SFTA) to help natural products companies take climate action.

Climate Justice Keynote

Rev. Lennox Yearwood Jr., president and founder of Hip Hop CaucusThe Rev. Lennox Yearwood Jr., the president and founder of Hip Hop Caucus, rallies the natural and organic products industry about what is possible and what can be done before it is too late.

"Climate justice is racial justice, and racial justice is climate justice," says Yearwood, whose Hip Hop Caucus' Think 100% platform has created podcasts, music and documentaries. "We've seen the same viewpoints of not viewing humanity in a proper way have tremendous impacts and consequences."

Climate change and climate justice is also a health issue as historically marginalized communities face the worst consequences of climate change and suffer the most, despite being the least responsible, says Lara Dickinson, executive director and co-founder of One Step Closer (OSC), a network of leaders focused on maintaining and improving sustainability standards within the natural products industry.

Experts say it will take people of all races and genders—and from the entire political spectrum—to make this shift happen. But the natural products industry, with its massive influence on the food and agriculture industry and customer reach, is better positioned to do it than most.

Organic Education in Partnership with OTA

Experts from the Organic Trade Association, The Organic Center and academia discuss top issues and trends within the organic sector. Much of the conversation centers around the hidden toll the use of agricultural pesticides has on communities of color.

The Mississippi Delta region, which has some of the most fertile land in the U.S., is home to some of the highest food insecurity in the nation, says Brian Williams, Ph.D., Mississippi State University. The high use of commercial herbicides for commodity crops and industrial agriculture makes it difficult to grow food, disproportionately impacting communities of color, he said.

Jade Algarín, a soil conservationist with the USDA, shares the problems of pesticides on communities of color and how legislation can have a negative effect.

Other speakers discuss their personal stories:

Earcine Evans, founder of Francis Flowers and Herbs, talks about being exposed to DDT, getting sores on her legs while working in cotton fields and being treated with herbs by her grandmother.

Javier Zamora, founder of JSM Organics, details his experience of growing certified organics in Salinas, California, and the impacts on the Latino community members who harvest produce.

Announcing the NEXTY Awards Winners!

The NEXTY Awards showcase the "pinnacle of excellence" in the natural products industry, showcasing brands in the natural products industry that inspire a healthy, sustainable future for people and planet. Twenty-five awards were given. Categories include best new drinks, supplement, food, natural living product, personal care or beauty product. Judging criteria is based on innovation, inspiration and integrity.

Justice, Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Keynote

CNN host and political commentator Van Jones and Magatte Wade, speaker and the founder of Skin is Skin, examine the importance of natural products companies being actively involved in Justice Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (J.E.D.I.) Collaborative and uplifting BIPOC leaders and entrepreneurs within the industry.

It's important to show empathy. "Can you truly understand where the other person's coming from?" Jones says. In this toxic cancel culture where so many people talk over others, it's important to be able to say, "I may not agree with you, but I want to understand," he explains. "People think that disagreement is the problem; disagreement is not the problem. Democracy is about disagreement."

It's about being able to understand where emotions are coming from and emphasize even if there is disagreement. "It's a lack of context of understanding that makes a disagreement untenable," Jones says. "You have to develop empathy. You have to listen to stuff you don't agree with to understand what's between the lines."

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