Where the Natural Products Industry Goes, So Goes the Mainstream

Author: Brian Frederick | Published: January 2018

Lara Dickinson is the Co-Founding Director of One Step Closer to an Organic Sustainable Community (OSC2) and Cofounder of the Climate Collaborative. She applies over 20 years of consumer packaged goods marketing, sales, and management experience to helping healthy product innovations grow in natural and mass markets.

The goal of the Climate Collaborative is to bring together the natural products industry—from manufacturers to suppliers, distributors, brokers, and retailers—to inspire and facilitate action on climate change. It launched in 2017 at Natural Products Expo West as a project of OSC2 and the Sustainable Food Trade Association (SFTA). On December 20, 2017, nine months after launching, the Climate Collaborative celebrated its 150th member, No Evil Foods, which committed to taking climate action in agriculture, deforestation, packaging, and transportation.

Dickinson earned a B.S. in Business from the University of Southern California and studied European international relations at the University of Oxford. Returning to the United States, she finished her M.B.A at Cornell University in 1994 and started out working in consumer products marketing. Dickinson served as the Vice President of marketing at several companies, including Numi Organic Tea and Balance Bar, and the CEO at LightFull Foods. In 2012, she helped create OSC2 to drive positive change in the natural products industry, provide sustainable leadership, and build a collaborative platform.

Food Tank had the opportunity to talk with Lara Dickinson about the Climate Collaborative and what role the natural products industry can play in mitigating climate change and reducing food waste.

Food Tank (FT): What incentives are there for the natural products industry to mitigate climate change?

Lara Dickinson (LD): Well, the first incentive is that if we don’t actually reverse global warming, our industry will be forced to face some dramatic challenges. But there is a much more hopeful answer. Food and agriculture together represent the number one cause and also most hopeful solution area for climate change. We have made the journey more straightforward for companies. In our initial survey of the industry, nearly every natural product business leader we spoke with agreed that they, and the industry, can and must do more. But the majority also shared that they were not clear on the most important thing to do. So we have identified the nine priority commitment areas where companies can have the most impact. We provide tools, resources, webinars, and case studies to help them on their path. The industry is a leader in so much—organics, animal welfare, non-GMO—and climate is now a focus. Retailers, such as NCG and INFRA, and distributors, such as KEHe, are a part of this network of companies working together and recognizing best practices among the brands engaged. In terms of incentives, there are solutions that actually have long-term cost savings benefits such as increased use of solar power and reduction of food waste.