When it comes to community, AHPA subscribes to the “rising tides float all boats” theory—the idea that healthy competition can live within the sphere of cooperation, and that sharing knowledge helps us all thrive.
Addressing Key Issues
As we’re navigating our way out of the pandemic, our members told us that while they are hopeful about turning the corner, they didn’t want to leave behind lessons learned during this difficult time that could help all companies be better prepared for the future. Our member community is asking AHPA to use our platform as the voice of the herbal industry to address some of the key business issues that came into sharp focus for our industry in 2020. Specifically, the importance of implementing sustainability focused practices, and secondly, the significance of supply-chain relationships based in trust and mutual respect.
When talking about sustainability, AHPA and the botanicals industry have continually addressed practices that protect the environment and preserve ecosystems that are biodiverse and can sustain wild populations of our favorite herbs. Almost two years ago, AHPA formalized its ongoing commitment to sustainability by chartering a new standing committee, co-chaired by Bethany Davis of MegaFood and Banyan Botanicals’ Erin Smith. Sustainability includes not only environmental stewardship, but also the social and economic spheres.
The committee identified among its goals to bring together industry leaders to identify, analyze, and find solutions for key social and brand risks that require collaborative industry action. In addition, the AHPA Sustainability Committee seeks to encourage conversations between all stakeholders, large and small, including industry, regulators, herb farmers and wildcrafters, conservationists, and scientists.
The committee is focused on sustainability beyond ensuring that plants will be around for generations to come, broadly encouraging discussion surrounding the economic sustainability of the people, families, and communities who work the fields and forests, from diggers to farmers, from Appalachia to India.
For an industry that believes in community, it makes sense to help companies find ways to partner fairly from seed to shelf so that the plants and the people will thrive.
Education and the passing of traditional knowledge is critical. For example, my colleague Edward Fletcher of Native Botanicals, and chair of AHPA’s Raw Botanicals Committee, urges an older generation of wildcrafters to teach newcomers the ropes of what is both an art and a science—he calls it a craft—so that we don’t lose the ability to wildcraft popular plants like black cohosh and echinacea used in dietary supplements and other natural products.
AHPA takes seriously our role as a leading educator for the industry. Our educational resources, webinars, and virtual events, featuring experts from companies keen to share what they know with colleagues, are produced for the good of the industry to help companies gain insights and practical information to assist them in making informed decisions about sustainability and botanical supply chain stability.
AHPA recently released its current Tonnage Survey of Select North American Wild-Harvested Plants,1 a report that quantifies annual harvests of certain North American herbs in commerce. This most recent report includes two surveys, one from 2011-2013 and the other from 2014-2017. This is the 8th report that AHPA has produced on this topic, going back to 1997.
This free report is just one of a number of botanical-focused resources accessible from AHPA’s website.2
One of the industry’s most popular botanical resources is the AHPA Botanical Congress, held for the 9th time this past May. The all-day virtual event featured five sessions that addressed regulatory, supply chain, and other business-related issues. FDA’s Dr. Cara Welch was a
Still Much to Learn
As an ethnobotanist by training, I’ve long been interested in medicinal plants and how human societies use botanicals as foods, medicines, and in art and material culture.
In fact, before joining our modern-day botanicals industry, I worked in indigenous communities and experienced the deep reverence for plants held by many. There’s still so much to learn from other cultures, and the session at AHPA’s 9th Botanical Congress on “The Impact of COVID on the North American Traditional Healers” was, as expected, quite powerful. I am honored to have had the chance to listen and learn from people who are connected with the roots of the botanicals industry.
Living in the times of COVID has clearly exposed some stark human inequities including in access to healthcare, not only here in the United States, but globally. On the positive side, the pandemic generated an interest among consumers in health practices that will hopefully continue beyond the pandemic. In the botanicals industry there is an ongoing commitment to the areas of sustainability, supply-chain transparency, and science to ensure that consumers have informed access to a wide variety of high quality, safe, and beneficial herbal products.
The 9th AHPA Botanical Congress took place virtually on May 24 and is now available on demand on AHPA’s website.3
Holly Johnson, PhD, is the Chief Science Officer at the American Herbal Products Association (AHPA), the national trade association and voice of the herbal products industry. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; 301-588-1171, ext. 103.