In anticipation of the 2020 National Co+op Grocers Climate Collaborative Awards, we're talking with the leaders of our 2019 award-winning companies to learn a little bit more about what drives their climate leadership.
Our sixth interview is with Miguel Gil, CEO at Organic India, winner of the 2019 Outstanding Company Award.
Congratulations on winning a 2019 National Co+op Grocers Climate Collaborative award! What are you most proud of, when it comes to your company’s climate work?
Miguel Gil: Thank you very much. It’s a huge honor to be recognized for the work that Organic India has put in over the last 20+ years. I am most proud of our constant work in raising the bar for ourselves–whether that’s our ongoing B Corp certification and efforts to improve our B Impact Score, or our most recent exciting bit of news–our new LEED Platinum certified factory!
What were the key factors to success in getting you where you are today on climate?
MG: I think that the key factors can be broken down into a couple of our key approaches to our business practices: one, we have always held purpose and mission at the core of our decision-making process, and we have never made decisions without first taking into account the wide range of stakeholders and potential impacts of that decision. Second, our dedication to people and planet means that we have always chosen to implement and promote practices such as regenerative agriculture and social programming (access to free healthcare, job skills training, and clean water and renewable energy initiatives).
After more than 20 years of our work with small family farmers across India, we have accumulated a huge amount of evidence to support the increasingly accepted fact that when you promote healthy farming communities, who are the integral stewards of the land, you can create resilient, sustainable ecosystems that serve as proof and example for the generations to come.
What are the challenges? Do you see a way for companies to work together on overcoming some of them across the industry?
MG: One of the challenges we see is businesses do not always know where to begin or who to call on to help them operate in a more environmental and climate conscious way. One of Organic India’s goals is to help businesses who are currently in operation convert to environmentally conscious businesses through a systemic framework. Furthermore, we feel it's so important for like-minded businesses to mentor and share their successes in becoming environmentally conscious with businesses that share that goal.
Organic India is currently in the process of bringing these like-minded, environmentally conscious businesses and B Corps together, whether they are currently in operation or looking to break ground on a new business venture. We’re developing a mentoring program that has a framework and structure that can show start-ups and existing businesses the steps they can take to move in that direction.
How do you keep climate action as a company priority, and keep your goals ambitious? What does that look like internally?
MG: Climate action and the effects it has on our environment is at the root of all our decision making here at Organic India. Doing good business and being good to the environment is one and the same. It is a tightrope walk when you are trying to grow your business and compete with other conventional businesses. However, we are proof that small changes can result in large positive impacts. If you are making small incremental changes and sticking to the goals of B Corp, who are forever raising the bar and challenging us to be better and think outside the box, you can be sure you are on the right path.
Looking forward with your own climate work—and the opportunity for industry action on climate—what are you most excited about?
MG: I am most excited about our collaboration with other natural products industry brands to promote the conscious business movement. I think that there is huge potential to gain both market share and capture the hearts of consumers through thoughtful collaborations between brands. We really admire the work of other B Corps and Climate Collaborative participants and see incredible strength in partnerships. One area we are especially excited about is our exploration of innovations in packaging. With zero waste markets popping up in most major cities, and recycling and composting becoming a focus of most households, we know that our customers share in our vested interests—it is not just about what is inside the packaging, but the packaging itself.
What’s your advice for others in the industry looking to tackle climate change in their operations?
MG: My advice is this, just pick somewhere to start, and ensure that your team is aligned with a common goal. Whether you examine your supply chain, your packaging, the source of your ingredients or even something like whether your offices and facilities compost, know that it all matters, and it all has an impact for the greater good of protecting our beautiful planet.