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Be a Mate with Maté

Guayakí Sustainable Rainforest Products, Inc.

3. Good Health and Well-Being 8. Decent Work and Economic Growth 12. Responsible Consumption and Production 13. Climate Action 15. Life on Land

Overview

The regeneration of the planet is at the heart of Guayakí's business model. Every time a Guyakí Yerba Mate product is purchased, it creates a positive global impact. They call it Creating Sustainable, Inclusive Communities, which is the driving force behind everything Guayakí does.

Authors

Matthew Herin

Matthew Herin

Ryan Natividad

Ryan Natividad

Robert Sandbach

Robert Sandbach

Nicolas Tammen

Nicolas Tammen

School

Loyola Marymount University

Loyola Marymount University

Professor

Ingrid Greene

Ingrid Greene

Innovation

Guayakí's Market Driven Regeneration strategy stems from their four Regenerative Pillars, a framework to ensure planetary needs are met and their vision to regenerate ecosystems and create vibrant communities. The Pillars bring Guayakí's vision to life: Taking Responsibility for Our Footprint, Practicing Conscious Leadership, Partnering with Our Values, and Celebrating Communities & Cultures.

Guayakí believes that only through uncompromising change will we be able to live within our "planetary boundaries" and achieve a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity, like the UN's Sustainable Development Goals. Ambitious targets, changing the status quo, and reflective adjusting and evolving are the foundations to developing that world we imagined together.

Guayakí's Market Driven Regeneration starts with their yerba mate sourcing strategy, which is the foundation of the Guayakí Yerba Mate brand and its regenerative impact. They form long-term relationships with Indigenous communities and small farmers to harvest yerba mate at fair trade prices from the rainforest and forested farmland. Purchases of Guayakí Yerba Mate support their economic independence and land stewardship, preventing further deforestation of critical forests threatened by political and economic forces.

Guayakí's governing structures offer yet another way to ensure impact. To direct the business to create social and environmental value in addition to economic value, they chose a Social Purpose Corporation legal structure. Guayakí also selects investors who share their vision by emphasizing long-term impact over short-term profits.

A final fundamental element of their Market Driven Regeneration business model is direct relationships with the market. Through immersive experiences with the Guayakí Yerba Mate brand, customers connect with the brand vision and yerba mate tradition of service and friendship. Guayakí does not use traditional media such as television or billboards to advertise, instead relying on social media and a network of over 4,000 ambassadors who share Guayaki's values and vision.

The Yerba Mate Co, Guayakí's self-distribution arm, gives them direct control over product quality and service, furthering their regenerative efforts from seed to shelf. Product delivery via an electric vehicle fleet reduces emissions and pollution in the last critical mile of distribution. The Yerba Mate Co also aims to promote social regeneration by hiring and training former inmates and others who have been hindered by historical and systemic oppression. Given the barriers to an inclusive economy, intentional hiring is critical.

Be a Mate with Maté

Inspiration

Guayakí Yerba Mate started in 1996 on the Cal Poly University campus when Argentinian Alex Pryor introduced yerba mate to Californian David Karr during a parrilla, an Argentine barbecue. Pryor was passing around a yerba mate gourd and that's when Karr had his first sip. Upon feeling the effects of yerba mate, Karr inquired Pryor on what exactly yerba mate is, and Pryor began telling him all about the yerba mate plant that can be harvested sustainably for decades and provide sustainable annual income to the indigenous people harvesting the plant.

"I was like, 'I'm in.' And I went ALL in." - David Karr, Co-Founder

Pryor and Karr quickly realized there was a need for a nourishing source of energy, and with a healthy dose of optimism, set out to share yerba mate with the world. Before long, the duo was joined by three other pioneers: Don Miguel, Steven Karr, and Chris Mann. These five friends on a mission channeled their activist mentality to pioneer a revolutionary Market Driven Regeneration business model that empowers customers to drive tangible change.

With a true commitment to yerba mate culture, the friends established holistic living and business practices that aligned with their love for nature and adventure. The inspired friends took to the road, traveling in a mix of VW vans, pickups, and RVs, with the wheel in one hand and a gourd in the other to the four corners of the United States.

Overall impact

Among Guayakí's many social initiatives, their commitment and initiatives regarding the maintenance and protection of the environment remains to be an impressive undertaking. One of their major goals, per Guayakí's 2020 Global Impact Report, was to be a net zero company by 2030, twenty years ahead of the environmental goals enumerated in the Paris Agreement. The impact report outlines the various ways they plan on reaching this goal. One method to decarbonize their operations is through the new usage of electric vehicles (EVs). They are also planning on utilizing renewable and energy efficient lighting in their production facilities. These two initiatives combined along with their new utilization of forests as carbon sinks all aim to aid the regeneration of the world we live in and support climate justice. Furthermore, their impact expands much further than Guayakí's own specific supply chain changes, their influence is being spread throughout the eco-political sphere. Guayakí is known to partner with groups both big and small to inflict their sustainable change. They have formed partnerships with large organizations like CERES and The Climate Collaborative with the goal of advocacy for the environment. The purpose of the collaboration of these groups is to help to develop commitment and climate policies. In order to carry this goal of biodiversity preservation, Guayakí has provided technical assistance for sustainable economic and environmental development to keep forest remnants intact and restore land previously used for crops like soy. Their partnerships with the locals of their areas of operation also prove to be impactful as well. A partnership formed with a woman collaborative in Virgen del Rosario is aimed to preserve the remaining 1500 acres of the Atlantic rainforest and they have also opened processing facilities in Brazil where locals are employed and provided a livable wage. Within these processing facilities, they intend to include zero-waste program implementation and regenerative landscaping practices. The target benefiting entity is the Araucaria forest, as they aim to restore the forest as a safeguard for biological and cultural diversity to flourish.

Goals remain nothing but goals if not for visible progress, and Guayakí's impact on the environment and society is immeasurable. As a result of their ecosystem conservation and regeneration, associated areas benefit. A partnership was formed between Guayakí and locals to protect the species of a new jaguar species, yet to be seen at this point. Guayakí makes great strains to constantly monitor the rainforests in order to ensure the growth of biodiversity. Their efforts have led to growing presences of keystone animal species such as tapirs, ocelots, pumas, and peccaries, which represent a major force in the rainforest ecosystem. In contexts of Guayakí's impact on the human world, the locals of the areas of Guayakí's operations are seeing flourishing in their societies. Producer areas of Guayakí products were able to produce a surplus of food during the COVID pandemic, an impressive feat despite the sickness that threatened to stop life as we knew it. The surplus of food was also able to be distributed to less-fortunate neighborhoods in the area. In numbers, 4,400 pounds of manioc and 1,100 pounds of beans, corn, pumpkins, and grapefruit were able to be distributed.

Business benefit

Innovators often have to struggle before they get the opportunity to see their growth and determination pay off in profit. For Guayakí Yerba Mate, 2021 has been the company’s twenty fifth year of operating, and they posted 14% growth over last year (2020 Global Impact Report). Moving beyond their success in numbers, it is paramount to highlight their dedication to inclusivity and diversity. Guayakí added three women to their board in 2021, working to better bridge the gap between men and women in the workplace. Due to Guayakí's increased representation consumers and employees alike have tangible proof the company upholds its claimed values.

Additionally, Guayakí has a commitment towards hiring the incarcerated and boasts 47% of their employees as people of color (2020 Global Impact Report). In today’s society every company should look like Guayakí. A diverse workforce is a creative powerhouse and Guayakí's various campaigns involving replanting rainforests, or inventing new different calorie dense drinks demonstrate the increased productivity their employees experience while at work. It is also no surprise that Guayakí is so in touch with the sensitivities in the political atmosphere the world has endured in 2021 given their diverse teams.

Guayakí has enormous shoes to fill when accounting for their company goals. It is a pleasure to report nothing but achievement when viewing the company progress towards its many goals. They even go so far as to hire local workers in South America to protect the region and safeguard indigenous communities. Because of Guayakí's visionary leadership and commitment to bettering the world, their employees and consumers all work to improve the world when engaging with Yerba Mate products.

Social and environmental benefit

Guayakí's Market Driven Regeneration business strategy directly improves the South Atlantic Rainforest's environmental conservation initiatives. The strategy allows income from Yerba Mate teas sold in the United States to be used to develop and protect areas that have been damaged due to years of mismanagement and irresponsible destruction. Guayakí is committed to the long-term cultivation, production, and consumption of yerba mate tea, safeguarding its benefits and enjoyment for future generations. As stated in their 2020 Global Impact Report, Guayaki has regenerated 360,670 acres of the rainforest, has sustainably harvested 305,400 pounds of yerba mate, and has regeneratively grown 3.5 million pounds of sugar. Additionally, 100% of all purchased ingredients are certified organic and 90% fair trade.

In addition to the obvious environmental benefits, Guayakí's innovative business strategy has a number of societal benefits. It aims to improve the quality of life on land for many animals, including humans, by paying living wages to indigenous peoples in the South Atlantic Rainforest. This enhances the quality of life for Guayakí's suppliers and helps to put a stop to the ongoing abuse of cheap labor in South America. As mentioned previously, Guayakí also hires individuals formerly incarcerated, making it easier for them to reintegrate into society through a program they call G3: Guidance, Growth, Greatness. Per their 2020 Global Impact Report, Guayakí currently has 83 formerly incarcerated employed with 78% employed for 18 months or more. Los Angeles resident Cuahutemoc Romero began working for Guayakí Yerba Mate in 2016 after serving 20 years of a life sentence in prison.

“At Guayakí I am accepted for who I am and not what others believe I should be. The opportunity to work here has been life changing. Guayakí not only offered me a future but also gave me, and others who are system affected, love and support through the G3 program. My entire family is so proud that I have this chance to prove that I can achieve anything." - Cuahutemoc Romero, Warehouse Area Manager

Furthermore, Guayakí does not own, but instead sources from, rainforest areas. This allows native populations and local labor to use land that would otherwise be cleared and used primarily for yerba mate growth for a variety of applications that benefit the South Atlantic Rainforest's society and ecology. Moreover, unlike other brands, Guayakí yerba mate plants are grown in their natural shaded settings, allowing them to have a higher natural, organic nutritional content and overall better quality product.

Interview

Kyla Cantillo, Social Media Manager + Community Cebadora

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Guayakí Sustainable Rainforest Products, Inc.

Guayakí Sustainable Rainforest Products, Inc.

Sebastopol, US

Business Website: https://guayaki.com/

Year Founded: 1996

Number of Employees: 201 to 500

Guayakí Sustainable Rainforest Products, Inc., better known as simply Guayakí, is an organic beverage company specializing in yerba mate products. Yerba mate comes from the naturally caffeinated leaves of a native species of holly tree, Ilex paraguariensis, found deep in the South American Atlantic rainforest. Guayakí has pioneered a revolutionary Market Driven Regeneration business model that empowers customers to drive tangible change.