Tensions were already running high during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has exposed and intensified societal inequities. Clearly, there’s a hunger for change demonstrated by activists today, and they are holding everyone accountable, including companies which have been compelled to reassess their operations and brands for bias. On a foundational level, it’s important for everyone, especially those in leadership roles, to reflect on the circumstances.
If you’re in a position of privilege (and as a white man born and raised in the U.S., I’m here with you), we have a responsibility to reevaluate our thoughts and actions. As a growing and profitable industry, how can we be more inclusive and responsive, and also reach consumers who really stand to benefit from the products companies offer?
After all, health and wellness are front and center for everyone right now, and consumer trends reflect that. For example, dietary supplement sales this year are expected to surpass $50 billion for the first time, according to Nutrition Business Journal, which is estimating 12% growth in 2020.
Food is powerful. Not only does it reflect health, but it also represents culture. The late Anthony Bourdain once said, “Food is everything we are. It’s an extension of nationalist feeling, ethnic feeling, your personal history, your province, your region, your tribe, your grandma. It’s inseparable from those from the get-go.”
Food and health play vital roles in how people and communities thrive. Food is culture, but also influence, according to Lara Dickinson, co-founder and executive director of OSC² (One Step Closer to an Organic and Sustainable Community), who recently spoke to me about the launch of the J.E.D.I Collaborative, promoting Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion.
“The natural products industry has a huge ripple impact not just across our food system, but across our culture,” she said. “I think we’re in a place of every company being pivotal to societal growth and more regenerative societal change.”
Mission-driven companies that look beyond short-term profit to uplift communities will find themselves on the right side of this movement for equal justice, she added. “Moving from silos and oppressions and bias to a more open, human-centered way of conversing with each other will create so much more long-term fulfillment, and reduce a hell of a lot of anxiety that’s pervasive in our society right now.” (You can hear our full conversation as part of our podcast series “Mapping the Nutraceuticals World,” available wherever you typically listen to podcasts.)
After leaving the White House, at the end of her Becoming book tour, Michelle Obama said, “If we can open up a little bit more to each other, and share our stories—our real stories—that’s what breaks down barriers. But in order to do that, you have to believe that your story has value. Be vulnerable. Dare to be vulnerable. We’re at a crossroads, of where we have to think about, who are we as a nation? I remain hopeful that people want better, if not for themselves then for the next generation.”