Diversifying the Natural Products Industry

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This article from Creative Alignments discusses the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts in the natural products industry. It provides resources for supporting existing DEI organizations and encourages employers to examine their hiring practices, job postings, and company culture to create a more inclusive environment and ultimately help diversify the industry’s pipeline of future leaders.

We All Play a Role in Diversifying the Natural Products Industry

The natural products industry is continually on the leading edge of making positive shifts. From organic to regenerative, and renewable energy to responsible packaging, we are an industry of innovators who care and are committed to doing better. Yet, only 16% of leadership roles at natural products companies are held by people of color (vs. POC making up 40% of the US population). 

We all play a role in diversifying the industry, whether part of a brand, funder, retailer, manufacturer or service provider. Not only is it the right thing to do, it is the smart thing to do.

Diverse companies are more successful.

Research and experience show that when a company commits to diversity, it is more successful and more profitable. In fact, diverse teams are 35% more productive and earn 2.5 times higher cash flow per employee than homogenous teams.

Creating an inclusive, equitable culture helps employers carve out a competitive advantage through increased innovation, resilience, profitability and the ability to attract top talent. Many leaders even say that having an inclusive culture is more impactful for recruiting and retention than offering expensive perks.

Because the demographics of consumers and the labor pool are becoming far more diverse, brands that reflect diverse values and identities will be better positioned for success. Millennials, for instance, will make up 75% of the workforce by 2025. Diversity and inclusion is important to this generation, which generally views hierarchy and power structures differently than previous generations. In an inclusive culture, Millennials are more engaged and collaborative. 

Support the good work already being done.

In addition to the many brands that have made bold DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) commitments and progress, several industry organizations are working hard to help effect systemic changes and invite in more entrepreneurs and career professionals of color and other underrepresented identities. Learn about their programs and how you can get involved.

  • Project Potluck is a professional community of people of color in CPG that provides access to networks, mentorship, and events to elevate both company founders and career professionals.
  • J.E.D.I. Collaborative, a project of One Step Closer, helps natural products companies and leaders increase their ability to actualize Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion through educational programming and resources designed to increase awareness, knowledge and skill.  
  • Naturally Network’s M/O Fellowship is a 12-week program full of resources, tools and community to build support and advocate for racially and ethnically underrepresented early-stage founders.
  • Included is a membership collective for BIPOC top executives in CPG who are dedicated to one another’s success, who advocate for diverse representation, and who commit to amplifying BIPOC voices and brands in our industry.

Employers have an opportunity to make a HUGE impact on diversifying the industry.

Many brands in the natural products space are growing quickly, moving fast and overloaded. Oten, when it comes to hiring, the number one goal is to fill seats fast. However, commitment to DEI in recruiting is not mutually exclusive to hiring quickly. There are several important steps companies can proactively take that will build a culture of equity and inclusion, and improve the chances they will attract a diverse pool of candidates to select from. These same actions are important to improve longer-term employee retention and engagement too. This is of course a journey and, over time, employers’ commitment to DEI will bring more people of color into the industry, building a pipeline for tomorrow’s diverse leaders and founders.

While we do not have room to dive into each aspect in this specific article, we’re sharing just a couple questions as food for thought:

  • When a candidate considers applying for a job at your company, they will likely do their research online (website, social, media coverage, partnerships, etc.). Have you gone through this same exercise to get the picture they’re seeing? Is it reflective of your company values and is it generally inviting to people of color and other identities?
  • Have you and your team considered how the structure, culture, etc. of your organization can be more welcoming of people from different backgrounds and identities? There are many resources to help companies through this work, including:
    • The J.E.D.I collective has several tiers of educational programs available. 
    • The Harvard Implicit Association Test invites people to take a deeper look into themselves, systemic biases that broadly affect daily life, and hiring and professional development.
    • The Culture Design Lab, co-founded by the food industry’s James D. White, offers CEO coaching and executive team training to build inclusive culture at all levels.
  • Given that the natural products industry is relatively racially homogenous, sourcing candidates just from our industry will likely net a homogenous talent pool.  When you are looking for candidates, do you broaden your search to look at tangential industries (e.g beauty, apparel), diverse professional organizations (e.g regional Black or Latino Chamber of Commerce),  or functional groups (e.g. marketing professionals groups)?
  • Research shows that women and people of color are less likely to apply to a job unless they meet 100% of the requirements. When writing your job description, and reviewing resumes, do you consider how specific requirements may exclude talented candidates who have not had certain privileges (e.g the financial situation to take unpaid internships or pursue a college degree, etc.)?
  • Have you reviewed your job description language for things like unintentional bias? There are several language decoder tools, like this gender decoder.
  • The term “cultural fit” is often used in selecting the top candidate. This idea can sometimes lead to hiring more of what you already have. Instead, consider what “cultural contributions” a candidate could bring to your team.

Remember that a commitment to real change is not about a training or a program, but rather a cultural shift – something the natural products industry is rooted and well equipped to embrace. What’s your role in this?

This article is courtesy of Creative Alignments