REBBL inspires love of the Plant Queendom to revitalize ourselves, our communities, and our world. We were co-founded by anti-human-trafficking organization Not For Sale as a tool to leverage our supply system to help create a future without human trafficking by addressing it at two of its root causes: economic instability, and climate change.
Our company is built upon the principle that humanity and the natural world have vital interconnections. From our super herb products to our impact initiatives, it is in these connections that we find strength and solutions. In his recent book Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming, Paul Hawken states “global warming should be seen as an invitation to build, innovate, and affect change” and that “no industry has a bigger impact on climate change than agriculture and food, both as a source of the problem and as a solution.”
Businesses have a critical leadership role to play in driving positive climate impact. True leaders will be honest about the challenges they face. They will prioritize transparency in their process, experience, and outcomes, as well as support collaborative approaches to achieving impact goals. One example of how we put this into practice is through OSC2 (One Step Closer 2 an Organic Sustainable Community). We are a leading member of OSC2, which is a community of action-oriented, environmentally focused natural products brands. OSC2’s mission is to “address the toughest sustainability problems facing our industry and our planet by building new regenerative business models and agricultural systems.”
REBBL co-leads OSC2’s Operations Working Group along with Numi Tea. Other group members include Dr. Bronner’s, Guayaki, Lotus Foods, Happy Family, Alter Eco, 18 Rabbits, Miyoko’s Kitchen, Kuli Kuli Foods, and others. In this group, operations personnel of like-minded companies leverage one another’s experience to share learnings, support growth, and explore opportunities for driving impact collectively. The beauty and strength of this group lies in its diversity. Each company has unique supply systems, products, ingredient lists, packaging types, growth goals, impact goals, and perspectives. Our common ground is our shared commitment to healing the environment, and supporting the communities we touch. This is a complex, developmental process and it helps to have the mindshare and support of a community along the way.
The work of this group informs new OSC2 initiatives which have an industry-wide ripple effect. As mission-driven businesses, when we grow, so does our collective impact.
An example of this ripple effect is in the Climate Collaborative, an initiative of OSC2 and the Sustainable Food Trade Association to bring companies in the natural products industry together to make strides toward reversing climate change. This is done through commitments to action in specific operational areas and reporting on progress each year. REBBL also stepped up to the plate to take on a leadership role in the 2016 launch of the Climate Collaborative by sponsoring the program itself. To date, there are over 200 companies signed on to the Collaborative including natural products brands, retailers, distributors, and ingredient suppliers. This is a positive step forward toward the true collaboration we need to see in order to drive systemic shifts and heal our planet.
REBBL is committed to make progress in 6 of the 9 possible commitment areas:
- Regenerative Agriculture
- Food Waste
- Policy Engagement
The 3 areas we did not commit to at this time are: Energy Efficiency, Renewable Energy, and Short Lived Climate Pollutants. We are still a small company with limited bandwidth and resources, and decided to tackle 6 areas to start. As we continue to expand our impact efforts, we plan to make commitments in these areas in the near future!
In this post, we will dive into the first 3 commitment areas: Regenerative Agriculture, Transportation, and Packaging.
Before the concept of regenerative agriculture can truly be understood, one must think about what it means to “regenerate.” Regeneration refers to the cyclical and complex renewal process of living systems. For a food business, this should be paramount, because we rely upon the flourishing, resilient vitality of the natural world to achieve our success. Conventional agriculture is headed down a path of soil health and ecosystem destruction, stripping life force from the Earth for future generations.
Regenerative agriculture is a set of farming and land management practices which can reverse these negative effects, and heal the damage that’s been done by re-creating vitality in our soils and drawing down carbon from the atmosphere. It can include these approaches: permaculture, agroforestry, polyculture, composting, cover-cropping, and low-or-no tillage.
In a broader view, applying the powerful concept of regeneration to business is another way REBBL generates positive impact. Business as usual has caused immense damage to ecosystems and social systems globally. To heal these wounds, businesses themselves must shift their ways of working to mirror regenerative living systems. This means an evolution from Extracting Value, to Arresting Disorder, to Doing Good, to Evolving Capacity (The Regenerative Business: Redesign Work, Cultivate Human Potential, Achieve Extraordinary Outcomes, Sanford) of the systems we are nested within, including our stakeholders. We look at the ways we work together, and also how we work with others in our sphere with the aim to evolve our collective capacity towards a harmonious, mutually supportive vibrancy.
Now back to our Climate Collaborative commitments!
To implement regenerative agricultural practices in our supply system, we have to work closely with our suppliers and incentivize them to make changes. We developed our Code of Conduct Compliance System to monitor current supply chain practices and drive continuous ecosocial improvements for each of our 70+ raw materials, sourced from 29 countries and counting. In our Code, we include a section on Regenerative Agricultural Practices. All suppliers are required to complete a self-assessment questionnaire based on the Code and engage in dialogue with REBBL about their practices. All improvements are a collaborative, supportive effort between REBBL and the supplier. As part of our regenerative approach to business, we aim to evolve the capacity of all of our stakeholders, including our suppliers. Preview our Code of Conduct and Supplier Self-Assessment Tool, here.
Our next Climate Collaborative commitment is transportation. It is projected that by 2050, global freight transportation emissions will surpass those from passenger vehicles. Knowing this, the transportation pledge focuses on a “commitment to reduce the climate impact of transportation.” Companies taking this pledge promise to adopt practices that will “increase the efficiency of shipping operations and reduce transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions.”
The Climate Collaborative provides support and resources for companies pledging to reduce their transportation climate impact. For example, it provides strategies for establishing carbon footprint metrics and targets, while also pointing to existing technologies and initiatives companies can utilize in their business operations such as the EPA’s SmartWay program. SmartWay is a voluntary public-private program that launched in 2004, and “helps companies advance supply chain sustainability by measuring, benchmarking, and improving freight transportation efficiency.” REBBL currently utilizes a mix of carriers for the transportation of product to distribution centers, 35% of which are SmartWay certified, with that percentage growing as new SmartWay carriers are identified and added to the mix.
REBBL is also constantly working with our transportation partners to identify ways in which shipments can be consolidated onto the same truck going to similar regions, which decreases fuel usage and GHG emissions, while also decreasing transportation costs. Often, reduction in environmental impact in the transportation sector is directly linked to increased efficiency and decreased cost for companies, so it is to everyone’s advantage to take steps toward decreasing climate impact in the transportation sector.
Though there are plenty of touchpoints in the supply chain with climate impact before a product is even manufactured, a product’s packaging indicates the legacy that it will leave on the planet. Resources from the Climate Collaborative reveal that product packaging, which includes both individual containers (bottles, wrappers) and the greater forms in which they’re shipped (cases, boxes, multi-packs), makes up an average of 5% of the energy usage in the the life cycle of a food product.
The Climate Collaborative recognizes that packaging can be a difficult area to address aggressively. There are a variety of factors that would encourage a food company to continue to use unsustainable materials, including consumer preference, shelf-life needs and cost. In addition to providing online resources and networking opportunities to those companies wishing to reduce the GHG emissions of their packaging, the Climate Collaborative has also been working to make certain software tools more accessible. These specific tools track energy usage and help to suggest certain opportunities for a given company to improve the effect of their packaging on the earth.
As part of REBBL’s packaging pledge, we have been working towards reducing the greenhouse gas emissions that our specific packaging contributes to. To lessen our use of resources associated with our packaging, we switched from white cardboard cases to brown, and also transitioned to a lighter-strength box to package and transport our product to our customers. This change in our box means we use less cardboard overall.
Looking ahead at 2018, we are pursuing a transition from virgin plastic (PET) to 100% post-consumer recycled plastic resin (rPET) to be used in all REBBL bottles. We will also assess the reduction of the grams of plastic per bottle, thus utilizing less of the material for our pack. Our bottles and caps are also free of BPA, a controversial component used in polycarbonate beverage bottles (FDA).
This year, as well as the years that lie ahead, is a crucial time for prioritizing action towards positive climate impact. Not only will we be improving our practices in regenerative agriculture, transportation, and packaging, but we will also be advancing our efforts to fight deforestation and food waste, while promoting policy engagement—all of which are important focus areas for reversing climate change. The effects of climate change can be felt in the land, as well as in communities around the globe. That’s why we must all work together.
Our Climate Strategy recognizes that business can be leveraged as a tool for positive impact. As our company grows, so too does our reach as we work towards healing the planet and its people.