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My Sustainability Story, Part 3

​The Rub with Organics

In the late 1990s, I attended a number of LOHAS Conferences. LOHAS is an acronym for Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability—the market for Organic and Fair Trade products. Historically, such products had been mostly limited to natural food stores, but now they were beginning to creep into mainstream markets.

My goal was to bring China Mist branded organic iced teas into restaurants and hotels. In 2003, we launched a USDA Organic and FairTrade® iced black tea for foodservice we called Estate Black. It was, and still is, expensive. Organic certification (grown without chemical pesticides) is a lot more expensive than conventionally grown teas and the cost of Fair Trade alone is double, making the teas essentially D.O.A. for most foodservice operators. The product fell into a niche of primarily natural food delis and juice bars.

The mainstream foodservice industry was simply not going to be low on the diffusion of innovations curve. The sense from the operators I spoke with was that the cost was too high and that their customers did not really care about such things. Disappointed, I spent the next six years getting to know more about LOHAS consumers to determine when and how I could bring truly sustainable iced teas to a broader foodservice market.

Back to School

In the Fall Semester of 2009, I took a leave of absence from China Mist to complete my undergraduate degree at Arizona State University where I was introduced to Sustainability as a course of study. ASU’s School of Sustainability, just 3 years old, was educating students in the broad concepts around sustainability and offering graduate study as well.

Intrigued, I received permission to integrate the core sustainability program into my Bachelor of General Studies, graduating Summa Cum Laude in December of 2012. Then, in the spring of 2015, I joined the second cohort of the ASU School of Sustainability’s Executive Master of Sustainability Leadership (EMSL), an outstanding in-depth
thirteen month program for working professionals taught by four of the most respected experts in their respective fields. EMSL provides a much deeper exploration of sustainability.

The curriculum is comprised of four threads—the Global Context of Sustainability taught by Bruno Sarda, Director of Social Responsibility at Dell Computer; Strategic Sustainability from Senior Sustainability Scientist George Basile; Communications and Sustainability from Park Howell, a brand strategy consultant, expert in working with purpose-driven people, products and causes through the power of storytelling; and Sustainability Leadership with Kevin Gazzara, senior partner at Magna Leadership Solutions, regarding program management and leading organizational change. EMSL transforms students into “highly effective leaders who use their skills to advance sustainability within their own area of expertise.” In January of 2016, along with a diverse cohort of 21 other professionals from around the world, I earned my EMSL, providing me with the knowledge, tools and network I need to take China Mist to the next level of Sustainability.

Now I am 3 months into my postgraduate period, working on an exciting initiative for our future. More on this when we get ready to launch.

*A note about my unique head garb in the above photos: I forgot my tassel on graduation day, so a nearby tree branch became my “sustainable solution”.

Stay tuned in this space for more about China Mist’s Sustainability Initiative