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The natural products industry's need for diversity and inclusion

Withstanding future market disruptions and other unprecedented challenges will require diverse teams and inclusive business practices.

The natural products industry often talks about what unites us. For many it is the purpose and passion we share, a motivation to balance people, planet and profit in our way of doing business. A desire to challenge the status quo and use business as a force for good. Or a focus on creating more conscious, authentic and responsible products, supply chains and business cultures.

These all have created strength, resiliency and growth for our companies and industry over the decades. They are also the the key to growing consumer engagement with our industry and brands. Data being collected as part of Informa Market’s Industry Health Monitor suggests that doing good is good business, and this may prove to be a resilient strategy during the era of COVID-19.

And yet something is missing. We can do better.

Following the COVID-19 pandemic, many of our businesses will reflect on what we can do to create resilient businesses that are capable of withstanding future market disruptions.

In addition to building resilient supply chains, rethinking cash management and thinking differently about inventory management, building diverse teams and inclusive businesses is something we need to do better. Diversity in business management, the customers we serve and problem solving methods is something we must invest more in as an industry.

“As an industry of innovators and leaders in our food and agricultural systems, we have a vital business challenge facing us–a lack of diversity of human ingenuity, perspective and talent. Unless we work to overcome it, we will not be able to forge breakthroughs into new systems, products and services to best meet the demands of our customers in an increasingly multicultural America. With an industry-wide commitment to justice, diversity, equity and inclusion (J.E.D.I), we can and will attract the best people, the best ideas, and the best way forward toward a more just and prosperous future for all.”

- J.E.D.I Collaborative  

The recently launched J.E.D.I Collaborative is raising awareness while facilitating and inspiring the industry to commit and act. It emphasizes that more diverse teams bring greater perspective, generate better ideas and see around corners that prepare them to address challenges. The business case is clear: 

  • Companies with organizational diversity yield 21% higher financial performance and 27% higher likelihood of long-term value creation, per McKinsey and Co.’s “Delivering Growth Through Diversity."
  • Inclusive organizations enjoy 300% revenue growth, according to “A Great Place to Work for All" by Michael C Bush and the Great Place to Work Research Team.
  • Diverse teams are more likely to question assumptions, remain objective and yield more dynamic innovation—also from "A Great Place to Work for All."
  • There is a 44% jump in average share price for companies with diverse boards vs. 13% with no diversity, according to “No More All-White, All Male Boards” by Aimee Picche.

As an industry, we have a lot of work to do. The first annual Natural and Organic Industry Benchmarking Survey showed that our industry leadership teams and boards lack diversity.

And our products and brands attract a consumer base that lacks racial diversity.

The unfortunate result is that our industry is not set up to serve an increasingly diverse population, and we will struggle to engage the diversity of thought and problem solving that will help fuel continued industry growth and create the resilience necessary to withstand the shock of future market disruptions.

Survey conducted by New Hope Network in partnership with J.E.D.I Collaborative. Survey conducted Q4 2019, asking industry members to tell us about the makeup of their company leadership, board of directors, CEOs and founders. Roughly 220 industry leaders completed the survey, providing a view into approximately 1,000 leaders, 725 board members, 220 CEOs and 210 founders.

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