For the Founders of Guayaki the Future isn't Just in the Tea Leaves


Image credit: tracyshaun/Flickr

We've talked about Guayaki, a company focused on bringing premium Yerba Mate to the North American market, several times before. Their business, which encourages local communities to reforest threatened rainforest areas to produce shade-grown Mate tea, is as unique as its beverages are on store shelves.

Early advocates of the "triple bottom line" business model, founders Alex Pryor and David Karr have proven that slow growth with a conscience is a sustainable business strategy. Their next move, however, might be more revolutionary.Currently, their business embraces the triple bottom line. They strive for "market driven restoration," a process that uses business to rebuild communities and repair environmental damage. Doing so has allowed them to address issues of carbon offsetting, fair trade, organic production, and environmental impact as part of the day-to-day operations, rather than as afterthoughts.

This internalizes elements of the business (carbon emissions, environmental impact, etc.) that are traditionally ignored. It is, of course, not a new idea and, especially under a cap-and-trade scenario, may soon be an essential consideration for all businesses.

Taking the Next Step

With the negatives accounted for on the expenditures side of the balance sheet, it's time, some argue, to add the less-tangible positives to the assets side. Doing so would, in near-literal terms, increase the value of a company for doing something like increasing biodiversity or building a local economic infrastructure.

Guayaki estimates that using such "ecosystem economics" would increase their company's valuation by a factor of 10. Given such obvious motivation, they have been working with the Katoomba Group, to help develop a new economic market that accounts for such contributions.

Mr. Pryor eloquently explained, "when people ask me why it costs so much, I ask them why other things cost so little." A market based on ecosystem economics, as distant and utopian a vision as that may be, would be able to provide an answer to this question.

The idea of a triple bottom line may still be fighting to enter the mainstream, but one thing is clear: For the founders of Guayaki, the future isn't just in the tea leaves; it's in an innovative new approach to business.

Read more about Guayaki:
The Ache Guayaki Project, or How Cultivation under Native Woods can Help Indigenous Communities
Guayaki's Maté - "Carbon Subtracting" Beverage in Biodegradable Packaging
Guayaki Yerba Maté Empowers Women In Central America With Direct Purchasing Agreement
Guayaki Announces First Carbon-Subtracting Beverages

Tags: Corporate Responsibility | Economics | Fair Trade

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