Natural products are champions for the environment. Shoppers want to feel good about their purchases including how their choices positively impact the environment, climate and the health of our planet. Learn how a grass roots movement is leading the way.

As you listen to this podcast, you’ll routinely hear me talk about how important it is for these brands to be tied to a cause bigger themselves, tied to causes that are focused on giving back, on local, healthier, food solutions that are more nutritious for us. And one of my favorite focus areas is giving back to the world. Helping to make our world a better place, by reducing carbon footprint, by reducing the amount of pollution we create, with a focus on sustainable packaging. This has already been the focus of a few podcasts, and it will be the focus of future topics.

In fact, I’m so passionate about this, I’m going to use this as one of the lessons in my future courses. Here’s why it matters. If you’re going to merchandise your product on a shelf and drive customers into a store, you need to have packaging that fits the shelf, that helps your product stand out in a crowded shelf, and more importantly, gives consumers an opportunity to feel good about your purchase, not because of what’s in the package, but the package itself. 

Today I have the honor of speaking with Lara Dickinson, who is the Co-Founder and Executive Director of OSC2, an organization focused on the important things that we’re talking about on this podcast, and especially in this intro. I had the privilege of meeting with Lara at a breakfast they hosted at Expo West.  It was inspirational. The different speakers shared their thoughts and beliefs on what’s going on in the world, along with their commitment to do good. 

In addition to that, during this breakfast, I also had a chance to listen to and learn a little bit more about the Climate Collaborative, which is closely tied to OSC2. I will include links to both OSC2 and the Climate Collaborative in the show notes, and on this podcast webpage.

Download the show notes below

Click here to learn more about OSC2

Click here to learn more about Climate Collaborative



Hello and thank you for joining us today. This is the Brand Secrets and Strategies Podcast #37

Welcome to the Brand Secrets and Strategies podcast where the focus is on empowering brands and raising the bar.

I’m your host Dan Lohman. This weekly show is dedicated to getting your brand on the shelf and keeping it there.

Get ready to learn actionable insights and strategic solutions to grow your brand and save you valuable time and money.


Dan: Welcome. As you listen to this podcast, you'll routinely hear me talk about how important it is for these brands to be tied to a cause bigger themselves, tied to causes that are focused on giving back, on local, healthier, food solutions that are more nutritious for us. And one of my favorite focused areas is giving back to the world. Helping to make our world a better place, by reducing carbon footprint, by reducing the amount of pollution we create, with a focus on sustainable packaging. This has already been the focus of a few podcasts, and it will be the focus of future topics.

In fact, I'm so passionate about this, I'm going to use this as one of the lessons in my future courses. Here's why it matters. If you're going to merchandise your product on a shelf and drive customers into a store, having packaging that fits the shelf, that helps your product stand out in a crowded shelf, and more importantly, gives consumers an opportunity to feel good about your purchase, not because of what's in the package, but the package itself.

Today I have the honor of speaking with Lara Dickinson, who is the Co-Founder and Executive Director of OSC2, an organization focused on the important things that we're talking about on this podcast, and especially in this intro. I had the privilege of meeting with Lara at a breakfast they hosted at Expo West. It was inspirational. The different speakers shared their thoughts and beliefs on what's going on in the world, along with their commitment to do good.

In addition to that, during this breakfast, I also had a chance to listen to and learn a little bit more about the Climate Collaborative, which is closely tied to OSC2. I will include links to both OSC2 and the Climate Collaborative in the show notes, and on this podcast webpage. Here's Lara.

Lara, I want to thank you for coming on today, and before we get started, could you please share with our audience, a little bit about yourself and your journey to OSC2 and any other projects that you're involved in?

Lara: Oh, thank you Dan. So, the journey, really I think, like you, passionate about mission driven brands, and it has been a journey.

As I shared, I started out in big CPG and brand management, and then had the good fortune early in my career to work for a little brand, who was about 10 million in sales, as their Head of Marketing in the late '90's. It's called Balance Bar. Through this mission, but also hard work and good business insights and analytics, we grew the brand very quickly to 120 million in sales in the four years that I was there and we went public, and we sold it to Kraft Foods, and it was, like you would want to say a big success story at the end of the day, and I had all kinds of great opportunities.

And so, that’s was where I was, and then over the next few years, I kind of, realized that wasn't the end of the story, and I watched the brand really go sideways, and then rapidly downhill as they really left what we'd put so much work into, in terms of mission and focused just purely on short term promotions, and not really adding value, or mission, or innovation particularly around sustainability to the brand.

And I watched the brand Cliff Bar, who was much smaller than us early on and maintained a private place in the industry and throughout ownership, really start to grow phenomenally from what was half the size of Balance Bar when I left, to become this incredible icon in our industry. And truly, by doubling down on their mission, I believe that, that is why they've been able to grow so much while I watched this other brand start to really go sideways and downhill.

And so, as I watched that, and I continued to work in the industry, I really got a sense of the importance of mission, and long view with brands, but that can be hard to do when you're needing to maintain, sort of, the short term day-to-day cash flow. So, there's this long view that we all want to take and this big vision, but we oftentimes lose sight of that, or have to sacrifice that as we start to break out.

And so, that is a big part of why we created OSC Squared, which is a network of sustainable food and natural product CEO's and leaders, to help each other not compromise as we break out, and not lose any sight of our values in terms of breaking down. I can go into the mission and vision of it more, but overall, the vision we have at OSC is to help, through business, build a more regenerative global economy. That's the large vision, and the mission is to do that by working on building more regenerative business models and agricultural systems in collaboration across a number of businesses.

Dan: Love that. In fact, that is so important. So, let me, kind of, back up a little bit. The reason that you and I are connected is because, I believe it was in episode nine, I was introduced to Kelly Williams, who is with FlexPacknology and Futamura. I was the keynote speaker at his event that he had at Atlanta, and we talked about sustainable packaging, the whole ecosystem of how brands, like you said, need to be mission focused, and how that's one of the key drivers in terms of what consumers are looking for.

And so, with that said, I love what OSC is doing. I think it's so important that you are helping the brands get on the shelf, and empower brands. Going back to one of the things you said, Lara. You were talking about how a lot of brands kind of lose sight or struggle with staying focused on that mission, or what they're trying to do, because of all the daily struggles that they encounter.

And of course, my mission is to help make our healthy way of life more accessible, by giving these brands a solid foundation. Can you go into a little bit about how you help brands? And where I'm going with this is at the breakfast where we met at Expo West, you talked about your Rising Star program, which I'm really interested in learning more about.

Lara: Yes, so we work with brands of a number of sizes. Our Rising Star chapter was created a year ago, and it's for CEO's running companies in the one to ten million dollar range. The previous, or the current core CEO group that we launched six years ago is for companies that are 10 million and larger, and are profitable, or very fast growth. And so, the reason we started with that was because we felt like, until you get to that place of breaking out, and of being, which is still small but at least 10 million and financially stable, it's really hard to start to contribute back to the industry, and to really double down on sustainability. But then we realized, well a big part of our mission is to improve the food system, and who's going to do that? It's the next generation of food leaders. So we need to also really be supporting that younger group, or newer group.

Dan: Absolutely.

Lara: And so, that's what the Rising Star chapter is, the emerging next generation of food leaders, and we support them in a number of ways. So, OSC is, it's pretty holistic in our approach, but we gather the CEO's together a number of times a year, both the Rising Stars separately, the core CEO's separately, and then also together, to inspire mentorship and cross learning, and we work on big hard problems they're having in their businesses as well as industry problems with anything from, how do I navigate a whole new retail landscape at Whole Foods and Amazon, to how do I think about rebranding, if I need to go to the next phase?

So, we'll do that, but we also spend a good deal of time on how do we actually do more on behalf of the industry, and that's where some of our projects come out for the industry. But beyond that, what we think is really important is, we've got the CEO's engaged, but for the companies to really be supported, we need to go down into each of their departments.

And so, we have a working group for each of the major departments, and they're very actively engaged with OSC. So, we have a marketing working group, a finance working group, an operations and supply chain working group, and we've just kicked off our sales working group. And so, we actually go deeply within the company, across all the working groups to inspire and foster collaborations and leverage each other, and they really do. I mean, it's everything from in the meeting, which happens pretty regularly, I feel like I'm in a lot of meetings, but they're highly attended ... to mastermind and help each other, choose sort of bigger things, like how could we cross collaborate?

So, we'll look at things in the supply chain and upside. Right now, we're looking at potential supplier engagement strategies, where we create and compare notes on our impact report, codes of contacts and even buying power programs. On the marketing side, we look at how can we get collective discounts, and we do that through certain marketing agents using groups.

And so, we feel like yes, there's an idealistic approach, where we want to learn and improve the world, but we also really need to help each other and take real advantage of the fact that we are driving mission, and we trust each other so much to help leverage our impact together, and also just be more successful by being in community together.

Dan: Love that Lara. In fact, going back to the mastermind idea, it's so important that these young brands have mentors, and I spent a lot of time volunteering, working with brands, and tease about how I'm the hardest working volunteer in the industry. The point working with these young brands ... I was a mentor and Selection Committee member on this year’s Pitch Slam at Expo West. This whole idea of the rising tide floats more boats, we rise by lifting others….it’s critical to every brand's success. The reality is that brands don't know what they don't know, that's the title of my blog.

Where I'm going with that, is being able to share those insights, and be able to share that information across all the different brands, the different platforms, and the best part about it, the thing that I love, that your kind of hinting at, is that sometimes ideas and inspiration come from places that you don't necessarily find them. And for you to keep brands engaged and focused and interested in what they're doing, when that opportunity comes around, they get burned out or frustrated because things didn't go the right way. That is so critically important. Could you talk more about that?

Lara: Yeah, you're tapping into, I think, a really big thing that just settles that important part of who we are at OSC. We believe that mission driven leaders must win for us all to win as a food system. And so, and it is hard to be mission driven, it's sort of going back to this whole idea of like how much do I really try putting so much integrity into my products, when or how much do I compromise?

And then, how long can I do this? I've seen, you know, we have two companies who I just love that are in our core group, one is Alter Eco and the other is Lotus Foods, and they have worked so hard for well over a decade, literally, very high, they manage their cash flow constantly in a really, really tight environment, but not compromising ever on their product integrity.

I remember so many times talking to the CEO of Alter Eco and I'm like, "Oh my God we're going full circle, we can't stop with just insetting, and working on organic, and our fair trade, and our supply train prepping credits. We’v got to address packaging too." And then he would came back to me and say, "This is so hard. What are we thinking? Why are we doing this? Why are we the only ones doing this?" He's like, "I just want to throw up my hands, this is so hard. Every time we try to pioneer something, we run down another rabbit hole and it gets harder and harder, or we find out the technology doesn't work, or we just can't make money because we're trying to do this all right but then UNFI just smacked us with a $100 thousand in deductions that we don't even know what to do with."

And so, I hear this a lot with other companies. And then both Alter Eco and Lotus Foods had a lot of these experiences, where they are building a whole system, their SRI program, System of Rice Intensification, which is a radical way to improve rice production with far less water and less methane emissions than traditionally.

So hard. So much more expensive early on to work small, older farmers to do that. They're really having their day in the sun, as well as Alter Eco now. They're whole ... I know Lotus just received a number of awards, like the SOFI Award, the NEXT Award. Both Alter Eco and Lotus were honored at the Climate Collaborative as outstanding companies, along with a number of others, and retailers are starting to really take notice.

Basically, the fact that they stuck with it decades, and decades, where it wasn't fun, they're having their day in the sun now. What we hope to do, with OSC, and we are definitely working on and doing, is not making it so hard to do what they've done. By giving them advantages, by bringing the retailers to the table, I mean, we're doing an impact talk with Sprouts with a lot of our brands. That's a great example, Sprouts is like, "Who do you like and who should we display?" Well, guess what, those brands are going to see 200% lift on Earth Day week, because they're on these end-cap and they're not needing to pay a $10,000 ad fee to do that because Sprouts is coming to us. So, that's just one example of where we’re looking constantly for ways to make it, not just cool, but actually financially savvy to be mission driven.

Dan: Love that. In fact, let's kind of dig back into our past. You worked for a big CPG brand before, as you mentioned. The point being that, we had somewhat seemingly unlimited resources back then to apply to a retailer, to work with a retailer, and we didn't pay slotting. We didn't have to do some of the many things that small brands are burdened with today. To go one step further, small brands, especially small brands in the natural channel, are at a significantly competitive disadvantage because the resources available to them just aren't there. They're not as robust, and they really don't support them, as you mentioned. So, to be able to give them a leg up, and be able to help them, tell and craft their story around how do they drive sales in the store. At the end of the day, savvy retailers would much rather have a customer in their store than get a few pennies from their brand for slotting or some of those other fees, and so that's really got to be the focus. So, I love the fact that you're doing that.

Lara: Yeah.

Dan: Can you talk a little bit more about that initiative and some of the other things you're doing, and by the way, I'm so thoroughly impressed that OSC is taking this challenge on because this is the same mission that I'm on, and again, all of us together we're trying to really impact to the world, and helping these small brands succeed, that is really the measure of our success at the end, helping, building a better future for our kids, et cetera.

Lara: Yeah, yeah, and I think part of it is ... I was talking to someone yesterday about this. I'm not here to be an activist for small brands. I truly believe and I think we all have seen new things that the innovation and the thinking goes from the ground up in the food industry. And so, while we're working hard with smaller brands, the bigger ones are coming to the table with us, and we have Happy Family which is run by Danone, a very active member, and then Jerry's just signed our packaging collaborative. Bronner's is not really a small brand and they're extremely engaged, as well as a number of other brands that have grown up with us that might have been 15 million a few years ago but now they're close to 50 million that are OSC companies. So, we're purposely, it's about small brands but we think that's where we need to start a lot of the work, and I'll also there are a couple of collaboratives that we've started.

The OSC packaging collaborative and the OSC Climate Collaborative. I'd love to share a little bit about both of those with you, but I'll just note, within the Climate Collaborative, which we had launched a year ago, General Mills just came to the table and have committed all nine of their natural, organic brands and they're one of our biggest underwriters and they're making a really big deal about engaging and climate collaboration with us. Our first brands were Guayaki and Alter Eco at the table, but now we're very much working along side General Mills on this. So, for us, it's a really fascinating industry where these innovative, smaller brands have a true voice and insolence.

Dan: That's so important. When you talk about innovation, I talk about this a lot. True innovation comes from the small disruptive brands and why that's important is that the big brands spend a lot of time talking at us. They sprinkle a new flavor on an old package, an old product and call it something new or put it in a new package or new labeling or whatever. Where these small, disruptive brands are creating the products that are really changing the marketplace, the way that consumers eat. The fact that they're able to get healthier products, more nutritious products at a better price that are meat-based, plant-based, all those different things. That is fantastic.

The fact that you've got General Mills and some other big players at the table, to me that's a huge sign of your success. You mentioned your other projects. Let’s talk first about the package collaborative. Again, that's how we're connected. Kelly was showing me a package that he said that you can actually plant in the ground and the thing would completely dissolve and there wouldn't be anything, for the landfill or anything ... it wouldn't be, can I say, negative impact? How do you work with those companies and how do you support that first of all?

Lara: That's a big part of the spirit of who we are at OSC Squared. Six years ago when I co-founded OSC with Ahmed Rahim, who is the CEO of Numi Tea, we kind of got together. I was working with him actually, running marketing and sales at Numi. We recognized that there was a much bigger opportunity if we started to work together versus in our own silos on really hard stuff in the industry around sustainability. One of the things that we cited was packaging. Then, when I got these eight or nine initial OSC CO's together in my dining room six years ago in the Bay Area, that was the first question I asked.

What is really hard? What bugs you guys that you want to address? They all said packaging, packaging, packaging. It is the achilles heel of our industry because we are mission driven. We work so hard to bring amazing food that is so high integrity to people, yet our packages go straight to landfill and we don't know what to do. We don't have a solution that is out there right now. That is basically the mission of the OSC packaging collaborative which is one of our projects, to identify a way to reduce petroleum based plastics from landfills, oceans and our planet through obtaining compostable and more biodegradable solutions for the food industry.

How we did this was by inviting a bunch of packaging companies into the room with a bunch of CEO's and the packaging companies ... frankly, we invited 15-20 people the first year, CEO's and a couple of packaging companies that we knew were open to being more mission driven. The word got out. It wasn't 15 or 20 people in the room, we had like close to 100 people show up in this little suite at the Marriott in Expo West.

Dan: Congratulations.

Lara: And it was sort of like, "Oh my God. I have like one little plate of donuts here and almost a hundred people in the room. Where did all these people come from?" But it was a good number of whole foods and some larger companies and a lot of smaller companies and these packaging companies from Elk Associated Labels, BioBag, NovaMont, which is a resin maker, were in the room with us. They looked around the room and said, "Holy cow. This is not just Alter Eco with a thousand dollars worth of orders for us and asking us if we'll change our whole entire technology for them. This is like 2 billion dollars worth of revenue."

So, on that day, the packaging companies committed to making technology for us and the great thing, looking back to Futamura is Chris Mitchell, who is a really a key part of Futamura and works hard with Kelly and hired Kelly who connected, heard about the meeting and walked up to me at Expo West later and said, "Lara," and I'll never forget this. It was right outside the Alter Eco booth at Expo West. He said, "Lara, I heard about the meeting you had. I think it's incredible. How can I help? I just want to be at the table and I want to do everything I can to help." He has been so true to his word and his team has ever since, in terms of working hard on new technologies for us.

So, it's been a long road, two or three years ago Alter Eco launching a compostable pouch and this past Expo West, which you were, Numi launched a compostable teabag pouch. So, we would have loved to have said, "We have 50 rounds that have launched," and we only have two. A big part of that is price and just technology.

But, we know that as we continue to work on solutions and continue to scale with more brands and we have a lot of great larger brands at the table with us now, price and technology will continue to improve and that's the whole idea of this.

Dan: Absolutely. In fact, I actually interviewed Rayna with Elk Packaging a while back on my podcast and we talked about this..

Lara: She's amazing. She was actually my intern. That's how she got into this.

Dan: Oh really?

Lara: She wanted to do it so much, this whole thing, she came to an OSC meeting at Expo West and I actually was on maternity leave so I didn't meet her. Then, she emailed and said, "I want to work with you." She just kept emailing. I'm like, "I don't know who this person is and I don't know what to do with her." Then, finally I said, "Sure. Do you want to be my intern?" And she said, "Sure." Then I realized, my God, this woman is a brilliant packaging engineer and has a great packaging mind. Through that connection she started working with me at Elk and now works full-time at Elk on packaging.

Dan: That is so great. I love her passion. It's so much fun talking to her. I urge anyone listening to this to go back and listen my previous podcasts. I'm also going to be interviewing Jake at some point with Futamura. The point is, it's such a complex, deep into the weeds, hard to understand area in terms of how packaging's made. There's so many things it has to be able to do, not let mold in, not to get too deep into the weeds, but the point is it's extremely complex and to have people like Reyna, Kelly and Jake that are so passionate about the industry, that are really trying to change things. I love the fact that you are connected with them. What a great initiative to be able to change that.

You mentioned that lowering the cost, these brands that are true to their mission, that are focused on that, they're going to continue to make a difference and an impact not only on a retailer’s shelf, but as consumers start demanding these products that meet their needs and part of their needs are the giveback, the mission based, the sustainability. We're only just barely scratching the surface, so I'm glad we're having this conversation.

Can you now talk about the Climate Collaborative, because that's something that I'd like to learn more about too. Again, all of this is so neatly tied together.

Lara: I'm glad you're asking about this because these are definitely my passion areas. In my mind, it is neatly tied together. Sometimes people get confused. "Wait a minute, you have a CEO now that works in a packaging collaborative or a climate collaborative." So, sometimes I have to tie the bow a little better. The climate collaborative actually also came out of our CEO network and so as I said, we get our CEO's together about 10 times a year, the core group of larger company CEO's. In one of these meetings, back in September 2015, we had a team of scientists from SCS come in and talk to us about climate change. The meeting and the focus was on how do we socialize this or talk about climate change better in the industry?

We came away from the meeting feeling heavier than we ever had before with absolutely no hope and no solutions. Every other meeting we walk out jazzed like, "Yeah, we're gonna fix this. We're gonna get a whole new package," or, "We're going to collaborate on cooperative buying." This meeting it was like, "What on earth do we actually do?" There were all kinds of complex terms and we were like, "How do we actually translate this into anything that we can use?"

So we walked away and I said, "I have no idea what to do." Jessica Roth, who is the founding partner at Happy Family Foods, the baby food company, is a member of OSC Squared and also a long-time friend. We both went to graduate school at Cornell together. We both has small children at that time so we had a lot in common. We have babies hanging out while we were at this meeting. So, I think we were just connecting and few days later she called and said, "Lara, are you freaking out about the climate?" I tried to not think about it after the meeting and she said, "Well, there are wildfires burning outside my house right now and I am really worried. Aren't you worried?" I said, "Well, that's like a really big questions, but yeah I'm worried."

By this time it was October and I was in the Bay Area and Treasure Island and I'm thinking, "Oh my gosh. I am wearing a tank top and the sun is beating on me and it's kind of eerie." I realized that I had to put a fan on my 6-month-old at night to keep him from sweating at midnight. It's like, "This isn't the way that things are supposed to be."

Dan: Sure.

Lara: So, it's hitting home for both of us, which I think is what needs to happen. She said, "Well, we're collaborating on packaging, can we do it for climate?" It was sort of like a light went on. Like, "Why isn't the industry coming together to address climate change? Why don't we have a plan?"

So, we started working really hard on that. I had a relationship with New Hope and Carlotta Mast to bring her into the conversation early on. I had a panel that I invited Nancy Hirshberg, Gary Hirshberg’s sister, to participate on, on packaging with Jessica and I. It just was coincidence the next week. So, we started talking to Nancy as well about climate strategy and realized she had a really great background in terms of strategic planning to address climate change.

So, we hired her and we developed a plan of action for the industry and got New Hope engaged and presented it early on and socialized it and worked really hard on it for a year and then we launched officially a climate collaborative project at Expo 2017 since that time. We just finished climate day 2018 on March 7th and our original goal was to get 100 companies to make climate commitments and engage with us in climate action in the food industry. We felt really good about this because we had Paul Hawken keynote our first climate day and one of the big quotes that we took away and used is his in terms of the Project Drawdown research that it's not just energy. Food and agriculture are the biggest sources of our climate change problem and they are the hopeful solution.

That is from pure data and science that he has put together his Project Drawdown. So it's like, "Guys, we have a huge opportunity here in the natural products industry yet again it's where things start and then they work their way up and out." So we thought, "Let's get 100 companies on board and we'll start to make a dent."

As of this last year, I think I shared with you we've actually really blown that goal out of the water. We have over 220 companies in a year who have made climate commitments.

Dan: Great.

Lara: Some big ones like General Mills are in the room with us and so we feel like we've got a lot more work to do, but the right kinds of learning and action and progress steps are definitely happening with the groups that we're working with.

Dan: I'm so thrilled to hear that. I'm a native from Colorado. I love it here, obviously. I'm one of the few natives here, so proud. Anyhow, the point is this ... I have been trying to figure out why people don't understand this whole climate thing, understand that it is real, that we do have a problem. It really boils down to this, I think. People move around so much that they don't really stay in one place. I remember climate being very different here in Colorado than it was when I was a kid. The point being that now it's hotter. We don't have as much snow. We have less moisture and how that effects the reservoirs and everything else. So, I'm so glad you guys are doing that because I don't think people really realize that as they transplant from one community to another community.

Then of course all those other things that are added on to that, so thank you for all that you're doing.

Lara: The way you put that is really great, Dan, because I hadn't thought about why aren't we more conscious of this and I think we are such a go, do, active society that we're not noticing our environment the way we used, at least our immediate environment, unless something really hits us hard.

Dan: Absolutely.

Lara: I've seen it where I recently toured a Nebraska farm, looking at corn for packaging opportunities, and I asked the farmer, who had been doing this with his family for three generations in Nebraska, "What do you think of climate change?" He actually looked at me and said, "I've never seen weather like I've seen in the last five years. It's scary." That is the kind of person who is seeing what's really happening.

Dan: But the sad thing is that we're at a place now where the ocean's rising. The east coast is just getting beat horribly and then you guys are getting all the drought and the wildfires in California so now we're starting to see the impact of this. I hope that we're smart enough as a country, as a nation, as a world to make this change because again, in Colorado we have four seasons. To be honest with you, it's less apparent today than it's ever been. I remember when we'd get three or four feet of snow a couple times a year. No big deal. Now, that's considered a major blizzard. I know we've got more homes to block the snow, act as a snow fence, et cetera, but it's all these other things that we do. More cars, more everything, are really impacting the way we live so I'm so thrilled you guys are doing this, so thank you.

In fact, actually could you go into more of this because this is something I'm really passionate about. By the way, all the brands that I've talked to and all the brands that I've interviewed have some stake in this in terms of trying to improve the world by reducing carbon gases, greenhouse gases.

Dan: Small brands starting out, trying to figure out how to navigate through the next week, how do you inspire or help that brand understand that what they're doing first of all matters and then secondly applying that mission that they can then leverage at shelf with the retailer and with the consumer that supports an initiative like this?

Lara: Yeah. I think that that's the crux of what we're trying to do and it's not a simple short line. That's why we're working on so many different system level areas at once, everything from working with the different departments of companies to socializing the work of packaging and climate, et cetera, with retailers and the brands that are helping with that. To be able to address what we need to do with our food system and the larger need for regenerative world in economy if the systems level changed. But, there are, I think ... then I like Paul Hawkens statement when someone said, "How do we even justify that we do this as businesses?" His comment back was, "How do you justify that you won't? You won't have a business, Mr. Chocolate Guy, because you won't have a business in 20 years if we continue the way we are right now."

That's sort of the esoteric view, but I think that there are real opportunities to communicate and inspire change and it is not simple though, because at the end of the day the current consumer does not want to pay a heck of a lot more. Some do, but very few and so we work really hard to scale solutions like packaging and supply chain and buying power, all kinds of things and also to help companies articulate how do they talk about this more.

I just got off the phone with Numi Tea who's launching this compostable tea bag, and it's a more expensive package. They were able to justify compostable and I think it's a good case study because you have to take a longer view. You can't just make it a quick thing, but they were able to justify compostable after working on it for three years because they were able to move all of their production over to one particular packaging partner and negotiate the whole agreement and they were just able to get an overall price change that made it work.

Often times you have to be creative and resourceful. This isn't handed to you. But, then what Brian, the CEO at Numi said was, "You know what? I'm having conversations I've never had with retailers before. They are so excited about what we're doing. I'm at the table with Microsoft and Google, the head of these key corporations who do huge amounts of volume and the reason they're talking to us is because we're the only ones with a compostable package." So, there are definitely opportunities, but it is for companies who have vision and have the fortitude to keep going and that's what we're about, working with those companies and making their path a little bit easier.

Dan: Great. In fact, you reminded me of something I talk about a lot. A new parent is going to go out of their way to make sure that their infant child gets the best of everything. The organic milk, the organic diapers, et cetera. They will spare no expense to make sure that their baby gets the best start, et cetera. Then we become complacent and so where I'm going with this is that we hear many experts talk price as being the only driver that motivates a consumer on the shelf. I hate that argument. So, to be empowering these brands and educating these brands on how their consumer votes with their dollars and their consumer will spend more at the shelf. So for example, Numi Tea, and I'm just making this up, but I can definitely prove it in other categories, I would be willing to bet that their consumer is going to spend a premium amount at other products, other categories within the store.

Long story short, that consumer is worth far more to that retailer than any other retailer and the retailer that skips over that or misses that opportunity to, court that Numi consumer is simply risking having that consumer go somewhere else where they can fill their needs to get what they want. So, that is so important you guys are doing that. Can you talk a little more about OS2 and the climate collaborative and how can people that are listening can get involved? What can they do, even in their small world or their small way if they're not a big brand, what can they do to make an impact and how can they join you, or us and our community, to try to improve the way that things are?

Lara: There are three ways to engage with us and they're all actually lovely and entirely pain-free and not expensive either. There's the CEO group for mission driven leaders, so we have those rising star chapters and they are primarily Bay Area based, but we have a community level for CEO's that are outside of the Bay Area. There is some sponsorship as well, so to be able to be a member we try to make that very much worthwhile and frankly take very few companies. It's about companies who are really, truly committed to helping create a better food system through their products. So, that is one way to engage with us.

The other is through the packaging collaborative, if you have flexible films. We meet quarterly and we definitely look at what is emerging, what is best in class and what are the opportunities for us in terms of more sustainable packaging and flexible, which is definitely the biggest package area in the food industry. So that's an area where we would welcome engagement.

The third, which I think is really for any company at all is the climate collaborative, which is completely free to make climate commitments. We've secured donations from some bigger brands and retailers to help us make it an offering for the broader industry. Any company can make a climate commitment in one of nine areas. We track and report those commitments year over year, but really what we're committed to is the human behavior. Once you commit publicly as a business, you're much more inclined towards action and then we provide tools, resources, best practices and all the different commitment areas for companies and we recognize them.

I think you saw we have seven outstanding companies addressing climate change at Expo West and they've received a ton of accolades and they'll be getting a lot of support from NCG, which is a grocery store that did the rewards with us as well.

Dan: Great.

Lara: It's very worthwhile to become a private climate collaborate. We had over 800 people come through on climate day at Expo, so we feel like it is the time. The time to address climate change as an industry and it's just a super inspiring way to engage and come together and do something much bigger while still really, truly improving your own brand at the same time.

Dan: Absolutely. In fact, that's why I love this industry. Our community is very altruistic. It's about helping others to rise. It's about making a difference. It's about leaving a lasting legacy, impact, however you want to word it, so thank you for that. Can you please share with our audience how people can connect with you, the climate collaborative and I will include that in the show notes and on this podcast webpage.

Lara: You bet. Oh my gosh, that would be great. I loved talking to you. You've got some great questions. I think I could learn a lot from you and how you think.

Dan: Thanks. Well, you know, I'd love to be able to help. In fact, I've got that free course for our community that I mentioned. We'll talk about that offline, but I would absolutely love to figure out a way to partner with you and collaborate. By the way, as a side note, a little bit of a commercial.

Lara: Yeah.

Dan: I will be happy to give you a podcast player that you can embed on your website, if you choose, that you can share this with your broader audience.

Lara: That would be cool.

Dan: Bottom line is, I'm trying to make an impact and raise the bar in our industry. You're trying to make an impact. If we can help each other and anyone listening, join us! We would love to have you. We welcome you because at the end of the day, making our healthy way of life more accessible and more affordable, and I don't usually say that but the affordable piece goes right to what you're talking about. Supply and demand. If Numi can sell more stuff, more tea, then they can lower the price and make this more affordable, more accessible for everyone, so thank you for that.

Is there anything that I've missed that you want to share?

Lara: No, I think that's great. The one last thing that might be relevant is separately we do have what we call OSC Squared University and it's strictly about how to read financials. I do think that there could be some opportunities to learn a little bit more about what you do and if there's a course we could offer for our OSC members?

Dan: I would absolutely love that. So, we'll continue this conversation offline. I will place links to everything for OSC and the Climate Collaborative in the show notes. Some of the people that I've lined up that I know are going to be thrilled about our conversation and how all this intersects, again I look forward to continuing our conversation.

Lara, thank you so much for your time today. I really appreciate it and I look forward to our next conversation. In fact, you're going to be in my backyard. Kelly invited me to something in May. I don't have it in front of me, but I'm looking forward to seeing you there.

Lara: We’ve got that and we've got an event with Naturally Boulder. They're speaking there at the climate collaborate event on April 10th.

Dan: Oh, and I saw that too.

Lara: Yeah. So, I might see you once or twice, so that would be great!

Dan: I will definitely comment to the fact and it's actually a privilege to say that I'm an Entrepreneur In Residence for the CU Lead School of Business in Boulder, so I definitely want to get reconnected with them again. I love working with inspirational young brands.

Again, thank you for your time and I look forward to our next call.

Lara: Thank you. Likewise. Take care. Bye-bye.

Dan: Thanks.

I want to thank Lara for coming on the podcast today, for sharing her thoughts, her inspiration and more importantly, her passion for making this world a better place. It all starts with all of us coming together, focusing on alternative packaging, healthy, natural, organic products and making a commitment beyond ourselves and the future generations. You can learn more about Lara, OSC2 and the climate collaborate on the show notes and on this podcast webpage. You can get there by going to To learn more about OSC2 go to To learn more about the climate collaborative by going to In this podcast, we talked about some of my free resources. I have created a free course for our community about getting your brand on the shelf and learning what retailers really want. You can learn about it by going to

This week's freebie is my merchandising checklist. I'm including the merchandising checklist because this week we spent a lot of time talking about merchandising your product, how to get it on the shelf, where it needs to go on the shelf and how to help customers find it. You can get it instantly by texting merchandisingchecklist to “44222” or by getting it on the show notes. Thank you again for listening and I look forward to seeing you in the next show.

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Thanks again for joining us today. Make sure to stop over at for the show notes along with more great brand building articles and resources. Check out my free course Turnkey Sales Story Strategies, your roadmap to success. You can find that on my website or at Please subscribe to the podcast, leave a review, and recommend it to your friends and colleagues. Sign up today on my website so you don’t miss out on actionable insights and strategic solutions to grow your brand and save you valuable time and money.

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Until next time, this is Dan Lohman with Brand Secrets and Strategies where the focus is on empowering brands and raising the bar.

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