By Mia Overall
Before turning it over to the brands to tell their stories, Greiner reminded everyone about the five principles of soil health:
1. keep soil covered year round
2. minimize soil disturbance
3. plant diversity
4. keep plants growing on the ground year round
5. integrate livestock on the ground where possible
First up, James Rogers, Director of Sustainability at The North Face, explained that North face knows its biggest impact comes from materials. They’ve partnered with a local ranch that raises sheep using farming practices that help sequester carbon in the soil. The Cali Wool Beanie — now its most sustainable product, uses wool only from this farm, and boasts a cool label that tells the story of how carbon is sequestered. “It’s been a journey, and for an approach like this to work for The North Face, we’ll have to find a way to make it scale,” Rogers said.
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Next up, Marci Zaroff, founder of MetaWear — the first GOTS-certified and Cradle-to-Cradle certified turnkey apparel manufacturer in North America — shared how its Resetpilot program is working with 88 farmers in India to help them adopt regenerative agriculture practices. Farmers are learning to move away from genetically modified seeds and chemical fertilizers — which reduces their input costs — and instead use manure, cover crops and low-tillage practices, which increase their yields. Farmers make up to 90 percent more money and reduce social and environmental harm. “This whole movement is about connecting source to story and at the same time being able to ‘storydo,’ so that there can be a win-win,” Zaroff said.
Gavin Hollet, Manager of Lush’s Supply Chain Investments, shared that Lush is investing in its future supply chain through the Sustainable Lush Fund. The Fund invests 2 percent of raw materials spend per year in projects around the world that support regenerative agribusiness and put more money in the hands of farmers. Through one project in northern Uganda, it has invested in designing, planting and scaling a variety of different agroforestry systems. The locally managed team has a processing plant that is now crushing oil seeds from the moringa plant for sale to Lush.
Paula Contim of Natura Cosmeticos, Brazil’s largest cosmetics company and the first publicly traded B Corp, inspired the group with an agroforestry project designed to counter mono-cropping of oil palm. Natura embarked on a 20-year project with a cooperative of smallholder farmers to intersperse native Amazonian fruit trees with the oil palm trees. So far, their productivity actually exceeds that of a monoculture system. “This project shows we can produce palm in a more sustainable way, not having to use chemical fertilizers, because nature is showing us how to produce,” Contim said.
Finally, Shauna Sadowski, Head of Sustainability at Annie's**,** shared her story of how the General Mills family starting asking itself how it can think about how food is grown in a way that brings all brands together. “I want to bring farming closer to food,” Sadowski said, “and elevate the importance of farming and agriculture in the sustainability debate.” General Mills is doing this across several brands by converting traditional cropland to regenerative organic cropland in South Dakota, by partnering with the Land Institute to commercialize kernza, a perennial grain that sequesters carbon in the soil and by partnering with the Savory Institute to create the first verified regenerative supply chain.
Great questions from the moderator and audience highlighted common challenges and approaches across the companies — including the importance of showing farmers that the economics work. Farmers learn best from other farmers, so reaching scale will take time.
Meanwhile, with terms such as “soil matters” and “climate beneficial wool,” brands are starting to tell the story to consumers.