CEO, Honest Tea
When we launched Honest Tea in 1998, the only assets we had were five thermoses, an empty Snapple bottle with a label pasted on it, and the name “Honest Tea” (though the thermoses were actually on loan). Our beginnings were modest, but our vision was bold: We wanted to create a delicious, healthier drink with a consciousness about the way the ingredients were grown. We always knew the enterprise would be about more than moving cases—we wanted “Honest” to stand for a different way of doing business—a brand that is what it says it is, and that strives for authenticity in the way it treats its customers, its stakeholders, and the natural environment.
The most meaningful environmental commitment we’ve made has been converting our entire tea product line to qualify for USDA Organic certification; we made this commitment when we introduced the world’s first organic bottled tea in 1999. It took us six years to develop the supply chain so that we could make the rest of our bottled teas organic, but we knew it was a commitment that would resonate with our consumers. Since 2004, when we converted our entire tea line to USDA organic certification, our sales have grown fifteen-fold. In 2012, we purchased 4.9 million pounds of organic ingredients, which is enough to cover 2,000 football fields (or 4,875 acres). Our mindfulness about the natural world has not held our business back at all. In fact, it’s one of the reasons we’ve thrived.
Tea leaves are grown all around the world in subtropical countries where the climate supports incredible wildlife biodiversity. As in many parts of the world, the wildlife in these areas is threatened or endangered by habitat degradation, including pollution and urbanization. For instance, the Kaziranga National Park in Assam, India, is home to endangered species such as the Bengal tiger, Asian elephant and one-horned Indian rhinoceros. Following the deaths of elephants near non-organic tea estates bordering the wildlife sanctuary, officials and locals have called for a no-pesticide zone around the park.
By insisting on organic tea from our suppliers, we are doing our part to help keep these ecosystems free of synthetic pesticides, fertilizers, and other potential toxins. Our commitment to organics helps create a healthier, honest relationship with our customers and our planet.