Behind every mission is a champion working tirelessly fighting the good fight on behalf of us all. A true champion unites us in a common goal. Healthy food, clean air and water are the pillars of a quality life. Natural brands work to amplify the message.

Today’s story’s is about someone who made a lasting change, someone that’s been working her entire life to make a difference, a real difference. Unfortunately, I think too many people take for granted the air we breathe, the water we drink, the planet that we live on. One of the things that makes natural natural are the committed brands, retailers and shoppers who go out of their way to support a community, to give back, to do more, and to be more.

Today’s story is about a champion who united us on so many important fronts, who gave us a strong united voice, who is instrumental in developing the platforms that we now stand behind. Like the Organic Trade Association, the Sustainable Food Trade Association, Climate Collaborative, and many other important initiatives.

Download the show notes below

Click here to learn more about Sustainable Food Trade Association

Twitter: @sustainablefoodtrade / Facebook:

Click here to learn more about Organic Trade Association

Twitter: @organictrade

Click here to learn more about Organic Sustainable Community (OSC2)

Twitter: @osc2network

Click here to learn more about Climate Collaborative

Twitter: @climatecollab / Facebook:

Click here to learn more about IFOAM-Organics International

Twitter: @IFOAMOrganic



Hello and thank you for joining us today. This is the Brand Secrets and Strategies Podcast #55

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. And thank you for joining me today.

Today's story's is about someone who made a lasting change, someone that's been working her entire life to make a difference, a real difference. Unfortunately, I think too many people take for granted the air we breathe, the water we drink, the planet that we live on. One of the things that makes natural natural are the committed brands, retailers and shoppers who go out of their way to support a community, to give back, to do more, and to be more.

Today's story is about a champion who united us on so many important fronts, who gave us a strong united voice, who is instrumental in developing the platforms that we now stand behind. Like the Organic Trade Association, the Sustainable Food Trade Association, Climate Collaborative, and many other important initiatives.

Here's Katherine.

Katherine, I really appreciate you making time for me today, can we start by telling us a little bit about yourself and what I'd really like to know is how did you get so involved in so many wonderful causes?

Katherine: Oh my goodness. I don't even know where to start. It sort of came about. There wasn't any planning to it. Like many people in the late 60s and early 70s, I was influenced by the times, the changing times, by Rachel Carson, be Adele Davis, by Hollard Catalog. I don't know if you or anybody else remembers that catalog?

Dan: No. Sorry. I don't.

Katherine: Well it was a very large catalog with all these tips and hints of how to make different choices in your life in terms of being maybe closer to nature, to spending less, to being more practical, to recycling, and pointing out all kinds of information about the environment, about health. It was a catalog that reflected the exploration of alternatives, that part of that generation was going through. And my being part of that generation, of course, that was, it was influential for me.

So coming from a blue collar family prior to college, and I didn't naturally think much about change or that society, or even politics then of course. As that changed, I went on my own discovery searches by speaking to other people, and being influenced by some reading, as I just said. And I got involved with food cooperatives, so food for people, not for profit. And first a buying club, then a retail food cooperative, and then a wholesale food cooperative where it was worker and retail store owned. And we, at the time, the workers, we did a little bit of everything. So we alternated jobs from bookkeeping to driving the truck, and driving the forklift. And so trying to have an equality in the workplace as well as this idea of bringing good, healthy, natural, and at that early time, organic foods to communities at prices they could afford, because there was shared work involved at the co-ops themselves, at the retail co-ops and the buying clubs.

So I think that's probably where my start was. And it just reflected my own personal life, the changes I made in my personal life. And moving to a rural area, although I don't farm. And I'm a very bad gardener. I just can't seem to get the knack of that. But anyway, moved to a rural area, and really made some choices in terms of building our house so we would be energy efficient, and be able to be, at that time, sustainable, and if the worst ever happened in terms of having to disconnect from the grid and things like that, we would be able to do it.

Dan: Interesting.

Katherine: So that was how it all got started, and then one thing led to another. From my relationships within the co-op, I went on to work in a peace and social justice organization. And then, in Northeast Sustainable Energy Organization, we were working on solar energy, and even electric cars at the time. They were models built by students at universities, and we would have solar car races.

Dan: Whoa.

Katherine: Yeah. So there's the beginning of all of those kinds of trying to commercialize and scale up, or even get people to understand that. You know, the future could hold different ways of doing things than we were, than we had come to by depending so much on fossil fuels for all of our, at that time, energy use. But it was one of my colleagues in the co-op world that introduced me to the Organic Foods Production Association of North America, who was looking for the first staff person. I applied, got hired, and got them totally immersed in the politics, and practices, and philosophy of organic agriculture. And then the Organic Food Production Association of North America became the Organic Trade Association.

Dan: Oh it did. Okay. I didn't know that.

Katherine: Yes it did. It started it off as, like I said, that very long name for an association, but it's acronym was OFPANA. Not very attractive. And from 1985 to 1990, they were volunteer run. And then in 1990, I was hired. I was the Executive Director until 2016, and went on from there to a consulting business, Wolf DiMatteo and Associates. We do consulting on organic certification, regulation, trade, international business. And I took on the role as the President of the International Federation of Organic Agriculture movement, and served in that position for a number of years, and on the board. And as one of my consulting projects now, I'm the Executive Director of the Sustainable Food Trade Association. So like you said, one thing just flowed into the other, trying to incorporate my own interests and values into the things that I chose to do that were either volunteer or paid positions.

Dan: Love that. Thank you for all that you do. This is so important. And I'm so glad that you're on the show today, because I don't think a lot of people understand how important this is. Can we back up a little bit and unpack some of this?

Katherine: Okay.

Dan: What is the OTA? How does it compare to IFOAM?

Katherine: Well, the Organic Trade Association, as I said, evolved from this. The name changed from OFPANA, or the Organic Foods Production Association of North America. The Organic Trade Association (OTA) is a member-based organization in North America, Canada, and the United States. Members can be farmers, and processors, distributors, brokers, anybody that is engaged in organic agriculture or farming and trade, and production of any kind. So all the people who make, bake, move, and sell organic products can be members of the trade association. Its mission is to protect and promote organic agriculture. During the years that I was there, the Organic Food Production Act of 1990 was passed, and the Trade Association was involved with many, many other organizations in getting the passage of that legislation. And then for the years working again still with many organizations within the community of stakeholders to make sure that the Nationalized Standards Board was getting input from the community, and working towards the regulations with the USDA and the National Organic Standards Board. That would reflect how we all saw the implementation of that legislation. So that went into place.

So the OTA continues to protect and promote organic agriculture and the business of organic products, and so they are still very much involved in legislation or regulatory work. They're headquartered now in Washington, DC. They also are the organization that will often defend organic in terms of press or misinformation that's publicized about organic. They do surveys and have reports every year about the growth of the industry. They have a great international program for both, for export of U.S. organic products around the world. So that's what the Organic Trade Association does.

Now IFOAM, which is the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements precedes OTA. It was started in the 1970s. It's an international organization, as its name says. And it was a federation of these movements. So OFPANA, the precursor to OTA, and many, many organizations like that around the world are members of the federation. And IFOAM now calls itself IFOAM Organics International. They're moving away from the original name. And eventually, they'll be just Organics International. And they really are the global voice and community, creating community and networks of all the practitioners and organizations that support the philosophy and the practices of organic agriculture. IFOAM is very prominent in the United Nations organizations and meetings, as an international organization. And they've influenced a lot of the standards, regulations, and accreditation and certification work in the organic sector, because they were the first organization that brought together what was happening globally, and also then shaped what were the standards that best reflected the philosophy of organic agriculture. And then many companies adopted those as the model for whatever voluntary or mandatory standards that they might have.

Dan: Thank you so much for sharing that. I know that's a mouthful and then some. And yet it's so important. I've had the privilege, Katherine, of going to or attending some of their events at the different Expos. And every time, I've learned so much from them, and it's so important. And actually, I was the keynote speaker at the Mexican Healthy Natural Products Summit, where Monique Martinez from the OTA was announcing that Mexico had just adopted the certification. And so the whole idea is that now everyone around the globe, or at least that's what they're aspiring to, has common standards to work toward. And I think that's so important, because instead of this misunderstanding, I think with so many other certifications, people really need to do a better job. I believe brands need to do a better job of helping to communicate why organic is important, why it's unique, and cut through some of the noise and the rhetoric. So thank you for sharing that.

Can you talk about some of the differences between organic and why organic is better? And where I'm going with this is I've had several really great conversations with Gary Hirshberg, Lara Dickinson, Neal Blomquist, and actually just talked with Ahmed Rahim about this on the show. I will be releasing my podcast with Ahmed today about why this matters. And so can you share your thoughts around it, and help consumers and our listeners understand why this matters so much?

Katherine: Well, it matters because we have one globe. We have one earth. We live on one planet. And everything that happens on our planet is really connected, despite the fact that we may think fashion, entertainment, or even politics are what connect us to the world, it's really not. They certainly influence us. But what connects us is the fact that we have to share the same air, water, soil. And we can't exist without those things, because they give us the nourishment that we need as humans to live. And not only humans, not only us humans, but all the creatures out there that create a balanced environment in which we can survive, and survive as a planet. And I know that sounds somewhat dramatic. But I've always felt that way. At other times, I'll tone down the rhetoric of surviving as a planet. But it truly is what's motivated me. And I think this is also what motivates many of the people who support organic agriculture and practice organic farming. Because they know that you have to take care of the resources upon which you depend.

So it's important because organic uses that philosophy to create the practices. And then, from the practices, the standards that are marketable for all those who aren't actually farming themselves. So we are trying to build soil health through crop rotations, cover crops, using compost, minimizing the number of outside inputs that are brought in. All those things create healthy soil, and that supports living organisms that give nutrients to the plants. And we avoid the use of anything that would be toxic and persistent. Because we know that there is a history of toxic and persistent chemicals that are used in agriculture. And we've seen the effects of those, not only on soil, but on biodiversity, on the plants themselves, and we can, with good organic practices, minimize the use of outside inputs and really have a healthier environment for the people on the farm and the people that then purchase the products later as well as soil, water, air, other creatures.

So that's why organic and the types of practices that we support and encourage are so important. And when people make choices in the marketplace, it is confusing. But we do have labels now for organic. It's standardized and regulated to a certain degree, within our national organic program, which by the way allows for flexibility, because there's no two farms that are identical to each other. And farmers need to be good managers, and they have to make choices depending on their own circumstances. So within all the organic standards, there's some flexibility. But at least in the marketplace now, there's an identifier for organic so people can support those farmers and the processors and brands that are using those ingredients to support practices that are designed to preserve and protect the environment.

Dan: It's so important. I appreciate your sharing that. When I speak to a lot of different groups, I start out by saying, people are confused. And I ask the question, which is better? Natural, non-GMO, organic, clean label, and sometimes a few other things. And what's interesting is that most people choose non-GMO or natural, because they don't really understand what organic is. And when I explain a little bit about what that is and what's different, and why it's important, people are really surprised. And so what's interesting, you'll love to hear this. I just spoke at the Category Management Association national conference last week. I'm starting to work with FMI on this, and trying to help them understand what makes natural natural. And a big part of this is, like you said, the ecosystem, connecting all the dots between the food we eat and the way we farm, the air we breathe and everything else.

One of the things that I really wanted to talk with you about is how you've taken that to the next level. And again, we're talking about how organic is confusing to so many consumers. But now that you're taking this to the point where you're involved in OSC2 and the Climate Collaborative, I think helps it resonate more with consumers. And where I'm going with this is, customers want to feel good about the products they purchase. The consumers that we're talking about go beyond the four corners of the package to do the research. And if they can buy a product that supports how they feel or what's important to them, their missions, that is something I'm trying to champion. Can you talk a little bit about OSC2, Climate Collaborative, and talk a little bit about the brands that are working within these programs to help bring that messaging to the greater community?

Katherine: Sure. First of all, the Climate Collaborative is a project of OSC squared and the Sustainable Food Trade Association or SFTA. And I'm the Executive Director of the Sustainable Food Trade Association. And the Climate Collaborative is a partnership of the two organizations that came about because both Lara Dickinson and Jessica at the OSC squared were working with Nancy Hirshberg. Nancy Hirshberg and I have a long working relationship, and Nancy was aware of the Sustainable Food Trade Association, and said, "Wait a minute. We can't do a project around climate change and companies taking action to reverse climate change if we don't also include the Sustainable Food Trade Association”. So she partnered us up, and we, for the last two years, have had this project, which is building awareness in the natural and organic products companies, that the companies can make a difference, if they look at their operations, and they deliberately decide to work in a different way, choose different packaging, work on how efficiently they use the energy within their operations, what kind of transportation is used to move ingredients and final products in and out of their companies.

We have nine areas of the Climate Collaborative. We ask the companies to make a commitment to one, several, or all nine areas, and then begin to build those into their operation and strategic plans. The Climate Collaborative project provides information to help the companies make the decisions they need to make, and it also creates a network so that companies can come together and explore solutions together that, for their businesses, and that would align with reversing climate change. We're food and beverage focused, and we know that agriculture and the food sector are large contributors to climate change, and the companies can make a difference within their own operations, and then collectively. And thus the Climate Collaborative, collectively as a group, can have a greater impact.

Dan: I love the fact that we as a community are coming together, not waiting for someone else to fix this problem. That is so important, especially nowadays in the current political climate. And the point being is that brands have the opportunity to make a substantial difference in the way that they go to market. When you're talking about the packaging, one of the things that I've learned is that packaging has come a long ways. Packaging is now sustainable. Not completely, but it's working toward that end goal. I spoke at the FPK Technology conference, a packaging group, as their keynote a while back. Kelly Williams gave me a package that is actually completely compostable. So I can bury it in my backyard and it disappears. The cool thing about it like Ahmed was saying, is that we're not putting more plastics into the ocean or into the ground that the earth can't absorb. Can you talk a little bit about how packaging plays such an important role in this?

And where I'm going with this is that Lara Dickinson was also talking a lot about how that was one of the initial things that helped them form OSC squared.

Katherine: Well packaging is one of the big mountains that we have to climb. And I use that word mountain for a number of reasons. And it is a barrier to the progress and sustainability because there are so many needs, both for the companies and the food, and beverages inside the package that requires certain characteristics. And also that convenience and what we've grown to have as our choices in the marketplace. To change those, to change behavior both on the company and then on the consumer end, it's a big obstacle. And then the other mountain that we have is the waste that comes from all that packaging. For instance, even single serve. Everything that's in single serve should just be eliminated. I mean, nobody should have a single serve anything, because it's more packaging per product, per whatever's inside of it. And that could be the cups for coffee, or it could be a single serve snack bar or something like that, or a straw, a plastic straw. All those kinds of things really accumulate very, very quickly, and it would be different. It's very difficult to change behavior, change what we've become used to in our daily lives. And for the companies, it's a challenge because each food product or beverage product needs to be kept fresh and safe for the consumer.

It has to be, some of them have to have barriers so that that freshness is kept on the shelf, so that it can last for a long enough time that it will remain safe for the customer when they get it. And so we've moved so far away in terms of research and development, from reusable or environmentally safe products, that we have to reverse that in terms of the people who make the films, make the paper, make the packages.

And it's a demand driven change. So all the Collaborative and OSC2's packaging coalitions, and SFTA, the Sustainable Food and Trade Association's packaging working group, all companies, and even the much larger companies that have bigger clout, all together if they keep asking for new films, new compostable packages that are appropriate for the types of products that they have, or packaging that can be recycled or reused, then you'll see the changes in the companies that actually make the packaging, because most of the companies in the food and beverage industries don't make their own packages.

Dan: True.

Katherine: They purchase them from someplace else. So pressure on those packaging companies is what we're all working towards, to say, "No. We don't want this anymore. And we'll work with you as much as we can to figure out what's the best alternative available now that you could offer to us. And it's going to take time, and I think when you talked to Lara and Ahmed, you heard how long it takes to develop a new package that works for a product.

Dan: Oh yeah. And then actually, at that conference that I told you I spoke at. PepsiCo got up there and they said that it takes six months for them to get the package. They have to order that far in advance. And talking about change is slow, let me back up a little bit. I am a product of the 60s, and my point being is I remember when we became what I would call a throw away nation. And what I'm getting at is that I remember when we had TV repairmen and appliance repairmen, and repair people. And the point being is that we didn't just throw everything away. And nowadays, you go buy something, it doesn't work. You wear it out, you just throw it away and go get a new one. And I think that's tragic, and not only in the clothes we buy, but in the appliances and food as well. And I remember, one of the big initiatives way back when, I was so pleased to see this. Remember those little pop tops that you used to have on pop cans?

Katherine: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Dan: And people used to get so upset about it, especially around national parks because there was so much litter being generated. And they got rid of that because, like you said, public pressure. And so I do see a lot of people really wanting to buy products that help them feel good about their purchase, and more importantly, products that can address specific needs like reducing the amount of waste. And to your point, I routinely hear brands talking about, "God, we've gone out of our way to create a product that is organic and sustainable. But then we put it in a piece of packaging, in a package that is horrible for the environment. So thank you for sharing that. Katherine, can you talk about, some of the other initiatives that Climate Collaborative sponsors?

Katherine: We have a Rooted Community that's like a monthly meeting of the companies that have signed up to take action in agriculture. So the companies that are trying to find ways to support farming that is regenerative, or that sequesters carbons, so it depends on which term people are most comfortable with, carbon farming or regeneration, or organic. These companies are working to work with their supply chains, to encourage and support, and to hopefully support financially too, education, training, encouragement of practices, and commitments to purchase, if the farming is done in ways that actually pulls carbon from the atmosphere, and retains it in the soil, to a great extent than releasing it into the atmosphere. So that Rooted Community, like I said, meets once a month. And experts come in, and talk to the group. The group exchanges ideas with each other or challenges that they're facing. So that Rooted Community group is one of our first networking groups that have been created.

Another one that's just going to be launched is a retailer group. And that will be for retailer companies that are part of the collaborative, come together also for the same reason, probably in a monthly virtual meeting to talk about what they're learning, what initiatives or successes that they've had in maybe changing refrigeration and energy efficiency and maybe working with their energy companies to have renewable energy sources for their stores. I would imagine they're also going to talk about transportation as well because that's another piece of retail that certainly impacts the environment. So these networking groups are a part of what the collaborative is establishing to help the companies take action.

And then we have webinars monthly as well, and case studies that are done to show the pathways that some of the companies have taken to get to a successful action plan.

Dan: I'd love to get more involved in that. And actually, that's one of the reasons why I wanted to have you on this show. And I feel like I'm interviewing everyone with the Climate Collaborative, and I'm doing that on purpose. Part of it is to build awareness, and to really help you develop your message and get your message out there. Because I think what you guys are doing is so extremely important. And there are just so many people that are truly passionate about this. And I know at Expo West, you guys more than doubled your attendance from the Climate Collaborative launch the year prior. Can you talk a little bit about that? That was really exciting.

Katherine: Yeah. Much thanks goes to New Hope who got very excited about this idea of having a climate day, and has been incredibly supportive in helping us make all the arrangements and support some of the speakers that we've brought in and the promotion that's needed to attract the attendees at Expo West to come to Climate Day. So after Climate Day, the first one was in 2017, and this was our second Climate Day. And we went in there with reaching about, just short of our 200 companies. And now we're up to 250 companies that have pledged commitments to the Climate Collaborative.

So we're just short of 1,000 commitments being made by those 250 companies. So we're really excited by the response to the event and to the Climate Collaborative itself. And the response is because I think the companies get inspired by each other. They get inspired by the experts that are brought to the Climate Day and to our webinars. And they see the results of some of the actions that companies have taken. And it just puts in front of mind when they're making decisions about, "Well how are we going to purchase products? What types of products are we going to purchase? How are we going to run our facilities and our offices?” They're all things in just those decisions that you can make in a different way that will have positive impact on climate and the environment.

Dan: Thank you for sharing that. Yeah. So important. In fact, I actually had the privilege of meeting you in person at a Naturally Boulder event, where you guys were talking about some of these pillars. I actually got some more people to sign up, which I thought was interesting. I thought it was fantastic. And it was right after I interviewed Lara Dickinson for the podcast. I love the fact that you guys are doing so much to help nurture companies.

And I think one of the things that needs to be celebrated are the mastermind groups, the networking groups that you put out there. Because I think, to your point, a lot of companies don't necessarily know what they can do or what's possible, or you know, they're struggling to figure out a solution or find a way forward. But yet, there are other people in the same boat. And by bringing all those people together makes this a lot more solvable.

So going back to packaging, the fact that we've gone from where we were a year ago to where we are today in terms of the industry, the world being able to provide or produce sustainable packaging, biodegradable packaging is a testament to what you guys are doing. And I know that that's a huge push, and looking for more great things to come out of that group. How do you recommend a brand or a retailer get involved in any of these important groups? What would you say to them, and how would you recommend that they get started?

Katherine: Well, the Climate Collaborative is free. So if a company wants, gets started in their value system and the structure of their company, where it started, or even where they've come to over time, they understand their role in protecting the environment through their business operations and their products, they can just sign up. It's free. There's no fee. It's not membership based, and you have access to all the networking opportunities and education that we provide in the Climate Collaborative. Even if you don't sign up, you can attend the webinars or watch them online, and read the case studies. That's all just available in the website.

And if you make a commitment, it gives you one more incentive to actually take the next step, which is take action. And that's where OSC squared and the Sustainable Food Trade Association come in, because both organizations are membership based organizations. And Sustainable Food Trade Organization's been around since 2008. This is our 10th year. We're very happy and proud to be serving our membership for ten years.

Dan: Congratulations.

Katherine: Both of our organizations provide more direct information to our members. How do you make choices within your operations? What is the most important or significant change that you could make that would have a positive impact? How do you build an action plan? What metrics are useful to look at? What benchmarking is there to see where you stand in relation to other companies? And then as that becomes a mark for you to say, "Well here's where I was." And maybe next year, "Oh, look what we've accomplished by making this one change, or two or three changes."

In the Sustainable Food Trade Association, we meet once a year with our members, and really have this consultation with them, look at their plans with them. We have a set of metrics that they can use to develop the action plans that they take, and then report, well back to us, but back to themselves through this consultation that we do with them. And then we can help them with framing out the next steps of what they may be able to do, taking it to the next level. So we do that as well as we have a very extensive library of resources, tools, and guidance documents, white papers, and lists of other organizations that they can and service providers, that they can go to to help them accomplish the goals that they'd like to as a business in terms of being sustainable and reversing climate change.

So the Sustainable Food Trade Association works in that way with our members. And we do have some public information on our website, which is So, and I know you've talked to Lara and OSC2, and Lara and her members work in similar ways with their groups to really dive deeply into the how we can do this.

Dan: And so when you're saying working with companies, are you talking primarily about farmers, or are we talking about brands, or are we talking about retailers? What are the resources available that you have, and how do they work with each individual group? Tough question.

Katherine: Well yeah. I would say, if I talk about the Climate Collaborative or the Sustainable Food Trade Association, I would say we largely have brands and distributors and retailers that are engaged. Farms, not so much, although the farms that have value-added products are more likely to be involved in either the Sustainable Food Trade Association, OSC squared, or the Climate Collaborative. But the companies, the brands, of course, can work with their suppliers, which elsewhere in the food and beverage sector means that they'll be working with the farms and farmers. And we do work with the distributors and retailers too, which is another part of that supply or value chain.

Dan: Gotcha. One of the reasons I do what I do is I'm trying to help more brands get their products on to more retailer shelves and into the hands of more shoppers. One of the things that I find lacking is the available resources to really help brands compete on shelf, compete head to head, toe to toe with the big guys. And so I'd love to be able to help support you in that endeavor. And what I'm getting at is that the larger brands have seemingly endless resources. And the small brands are struggling to find the strategies and understand the data and how to use, leverage their consumer to really drive sales at the shelf. The point being is that it's that consumer which fuels their growth, which allows them to participate in more of these programs, which allows them to give back more. And so that's why I'm trying to make such a big difference there, and that's why I wanted to champion what you're doing. Can you talk a little bit about some of the brand recommendations, some of the strategies that you might have around how do you help these brands succeed? How do you help these brands connect with retailers? And then, what success stories have you seen around that?

Katherine: Hmm. Well, I think the success that we would have as an organization, and have had with our members is that by helping them frame their sustainability action plans and incorporating that into their short and long term plans and implementation, they then have a story that they can tell. They know the success. They're measuring their success or the changes in their operation that they can tell a story on their website. They can tell a story on their package. They can talk to the retailers. And like I said, a number of our members are retailers, so even retailers in terms of positioning themselves can tell stories to their communities, the community of shoppers that would then make choices about where they purchase their products. The retailers can tell stories about, you know, "Well, we've cut our energy use by X amount. We're a zero waste business now, because we've instituted this, this, and this." Or they can have community activities. These are the retailers. Even the brands and offices can work within the community to build awareness of what they are doing as brands, and then engage the community as well in understanding why that's important and how they'll support community efforts to reduce water use or clean up streams or reduce food waste or reduce packaging waste and disposal.

So by having, at the Sustainable Food Trade Association, a way to create a plan, get feedback on that plan, have peer input and staff input from us, you can measure from year to year and have quantitative information as well as qualitative information that you can build a story around. And that people can't say, "Oh, you're only green washing." You're just telling us that. You can't prove to us that you did that." Well, yes we can, because here's what our plan looks like, and here's what's been accomplished because we instituted this plan. And that's how we at the Sustainable Food Trade Association feel we can contribute to helping small and midsize companies, and some of the larger companies in the organic sector be able to position themselves with their customers and prove that they have taken action and their actions have resulted in positive change.

Dan: I love the fact that you package this around storytelling. That is so important. I interviewed Ben Freidland, VP of marketing at Lucky's Market, and we were talking about just this and how they work closely with their brands to communicate. And where I'm going with this, Katherine, is that shopping has changed. The way that consumers buy products today is very different than the way they used to do it. Instead of just going to the store and picking up a product on the shelf, consumers are doing research at shelf to learn more about the products. And to your point, being able to have a story, a compelling story on your website, that communicates your values, is critically important today. And brands that don't do that are missing out.

: And to your other point, transparency. Consumers don't want to just hear the word transparency. They want proof of it. The consumers that we're talking about are the core consumers that want to know how it's produced, where it was produced, how the ground was nurtured, what kind of ground it was produced in. They want to understand the carbon footprint of the product, how it got to market, everything about it. And so for brands to effectively be telling that story, that makes so much sense. We've covered a lot today. What other things would you like to share, and what are the things we have missed? Because I certainly want to make this an opportunity for you to sing the praises. I mean you've done this beautifully, but about the Sustainable Food Trade Association and OTA, and IFOAM, and OSC Squared, and Climate Collaborative. So anything else that you want to share, about all these important groups?

Katherine: I think that it's important for everyone to remember that these groups exist because there's a community.

Dan: Love it.

Katherine: We're a community. We're a family. Really, if the members and the participants, they're all businesses, but those businesses are driven not only to succeed as their individual business, but because they want to have the entire sector succeed. They want to be part of a, like I said, a community, a family of businesses that are changing the paths for business, and doing so because they want to be positive contributors to society, to the environment. And it's just, it's not one single business. It's not one single organization. It's just wonderful, personally, for me to be involved over these many years with these outstanding companies and individuals, and the vision that they have of working together to make change.

Dan: I appreciate you saying that. And I want to go one step further. These people live, work, eat, breathe, everything within these communities. So it's not just a business. It's the individual people. And that's so inspiring, and that's I think what makes natural natural. That's what makes us stand out from other communities, other groups. That's why I believe that the future of CPG is within these small natural disruptive brands that are working towards positive change. Katherine, I really appreciate your time, and thanks for coming on today. Please send me links to all the websites that you want me to include in the show notes, and anything else that you think I should be sharing with your community, and anything else I can do to help support you and your various groups, let me know.

Katherine: Well thank you so much, Dan, for this opportunity. And I so appreciate what you're doing to help our community.

Dan: Thank you. That means a lot. I'm trying so hard. You know, I say about this podcast, it's about you. It's for you. Meaning this isn't about me. I'm not doing this for my own self gratification. I'm doing this to help educate other brands, other retailers, and consumers about the value that you place on what we are doing, the products. I love talking to inspiring thought leaders like you, that have a mission, that even though you kind of fell into this, it is your life, it is your lifeblood. And to be able to share with people what's possible, and to get them to think out of the box.

And one of the pillars that I'm really focused on is trying to help brands with is that instead of brands effectively being an ATM machine when they go to retail, being able to communicate this message, this exact message that we talked about today, while you're talking about what you're doing, to help the consumers that buy your products feel good about what you're purchasing.

And the point being, if you buy Numi Tea, if you buy Goodspread, or some of these other products for a few extra pennies, you're giving back. You're doing something that is positive in a way. Maybe you can't take time to go work at a food kitchen or something like that, like, for example, The Soulfull Project, or a food bank. But to be able to give back and to really make a difference. So thank you for what you do, and thank you for what you've done in our industry and all the different people that you've helped inspire. And by the way, again, I want to sing the praises of everything you guys are doing. So thank you for making time for me today.

Katherine: Oh, you're very welcome. Thank you, Dan.

Dan: I want to thank Katherine for coming on today, and for making time for us. I also want to thank her for all that she does for our healthy way of life, for our planet, and especially for our industry. There's no way to properly thank her for her contribution. In honor of Katherine, the freebie today are all the tremendous resources she offered. I'll include on the podcast webpage and in the show notes links to the Sustainable Food Trade Organization, the Organic Trade Association, OSC squared, the Climate Collaborative, and IFOAM. I encourage you to get involved, to sign up, to join the Climate Collaborative, and to pledge your support for all these important initiatives.

You can download the show notes by going to If you want to learn more about me, or my free course, just go to my website. As always, thank you for listening, and I look forward to seeing you in the next episode.

Sustainable Food Trade Association: 

Twitter: @sustainablefoodtrade / Facebook:

Organic Trade Association

Twitter: @organictrade

Organic Sustainable Community

Twitter: @osc2network

Climate Collaborative:

Twitter: @climatecollab / Facebook:

IFOAM-Organics International:

Twitter: @IFOAMOrganic

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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.

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