Holistic Approach to Sustainability: What Does it Look Like?

Written By Kathleen Tan
Impact

A Holistic Approach to Sustainability

The word ‘sustainability’ is often associated with trees and the environment. But if we examine the Earth as a whole, one might see that there is a strong link between economic stability, social stability, and ecological stability. Humans are not separate from ‘nature,’ in fact – they play a huge role in the health of ecological systems. These three areas are dependent on one another, and necessary for a holistic and sustainable approach to a thriving planet.

This video explains how REBBL’s impact sourcing incentivizes the protection of the rainforest: the lungs of the Earth.

At REBBL, we take a holistic approach to sustainability by leveraging business as a tool to support economic, social, and ecological stability. Our Banana Nut Protein Elixir, for example, creates a solution that address these three areas. This super herb elixir packs 16 grams of protein from plant-based sources, including Brazil Nuts. Through ethical, impact sourcing of  these Brazil Nuts, REBBL helps to uplift an entire community.

By partnering with a Peruvian nonprofit, we work with indigenous communities to source wild-harvested Brazil Nuts from the Madre de Dios region of Peru. This is an area of critical biodiversity and exemplifies our approach to business – incorporating the social, ecological, and economic values of our regenerative business model to ensure the well being for planet and people.

Economic Sustainability

Economic sustainability can be the foundation of social and ecological sustainability. Without economic opportunity, a community may lack basic access to resources like clean water, medical supplies, and power. The lack of economic opportunity can lead members of a community to leave the area in search of jobs. This exodus of people can perpetuate and even intensify the poverty of a region lacking in resources, and this instability can make individuals more prone to the perils of human trafficking.

REBBL’s Banana Nut Protein Elixir utilizes ethical, impact sourcing practices to create economic opportunity in the Madre de Dios region of Peru. Without economic opportunity, poverty becomes a huge problem for communities. It creates a desperation that increases a region’s risk of human trafficking and exploitation of the land.

 

Social Sustainability

REBBL was founded by anti-human-trafficking nonprofit 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.

According to Not for Sale, “Families living in extreme poverty or families in situations of desperation are more likely to accept risky job offers that could lead to human trafficking.”

A core part of our mission is to create positive social and environmental impact through ethical impact sourcing from suppliers who invest in the well-being of the communities where they operate, have strong relationships with growers, and are actively supporting the communities in which they work in order to establish social sustainability.

Ecological Sustainability

Our impact sourcing practices also contributes to the conservation of the Amazon rainforest by using its valuable resources wisely, i.e. instead of clear-cutting rainforests for timber or for cattle grazing, sourcing wild-harvested Brazil Nuts incentives the protection of old-growth Brazil Nut trees and preservation of the rainforest. Our sourcing practices also promotes regeneration, which refers to the cyclical and complex renewal process of living systems.

Regenerative agriculture is a set of 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. In a healthy rainforest ecosystem, trees, soil, leaf litter, and other vegetation absorb and hold carbon. Both flora and fauna play multidimensional roles: supporting the water cycle, conserving soil, protecting habitat and pollinators, and providing for the people who share these landscapes.  

By preserving old-growth Brazil Nut trees, the surrounding ecosystem is able to flourish. These mature trees live for hundreds of years and tower up to 130 feet high, creating a canopy layer with complex understories. They provide shelter for biodiversity, promote healthy soils, and are an important bulwark against climate change.  REBBL has joined with the Regenerative Organic Alliance to continue developing best practices, verification and certification, and shared learnings from our efforts to promote regenerative practices and biodiversity protection throughout our supply chain.

The nuts can be an economic lifeline for the forests. This is just one example that showcases the potential for positive impact in each REBBL Elixir.

REBBL was recently honored with the 2019 Outstanding Value Chain Engagement Award by the National Co+op Grocers and Climate Collaborative for our work in impact sourcing, developing and implementing our Supplier Ethos, driving transparency and reducing supply chain emissions, paired with product launches geared at reversing deforestation.

In addition, REBBL also contributes 2.5% of net sales to our founding nonprofit partner Not for Sale, which is working to eradicate human trafficking while also providing rehabilitation programs to survivors of exploitation. Because social stability and healthy communities are underlying foundations of sustainability.

REBBL Team accepting the Outstanding Value Chain Award at Expo West’s Climate Day hosted by OSC2

 

*Note: We acknowledge that there is always room for improvement and innovation around sustainable and regenerative practices. Sustainability is a complex topic with no definitive “on/off” switch. We do prioritize sustainable practices, and our team is passionately engaged in the plastic bottle dilemma; it is an issue we care deeply about and are committed to re-imagining and re-designing over time. We are currently looking to transition to post-consumer recycled rPET as soon as the end of the year (if not earlier). While this does not at all solve the problem of plastics, it is a step in the right direction to utilize existing plastic rather than contribute to utilizing virgin plastic.
Currently, REBBL uses plastic only because we do not have a choice to bottle our elixirs in glass. There are specific food laws that govern the type of processing that is necessary for the class of foods called “low acid foods.” There is only one type of processing that is legal for low acid beverages (like REBBL) that is also packaged in glass, and this is called “retort” which is essentially pressure cooking the beverage after it has been bottled. The problem with retort is that you have to subject the beverage to incredibly high temperatures (250F) for 30 to 50 minutes(!). This is unacceptable for our products that are made with high levels of valuable and delicate herbal ingredients. So, if you eliminate retort processing as a possibility, there are no manufacturing facilities in North America that can bottle our Elixirs in glass.
We know this is a pressing issue and we are equally passionate about making big improvements in our packaging here at REBBL. We also acknowledge that while we have a lot we can be proud of in our work, values, commitments and business principles — we still have a lot of room for improvement, specifically in this area.

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