Steeped in Sustainability: Kogod Launches Speaker Series
Honest Tea cofounder Seth Goldman put the tea in Kogod’s Gamechangers in Sustainability speaker series, kicking off the yearlong program on February 22.
Cosponsored by the Sine Institute for Policy and Politics—funded by a gift to the Change Can’t Wait campaign—the initiative builds on the reputation of Kogod’s master’s in sustainability management, the school’s fastest growing graduate program. The series features eight innovative Fortune 500 CEOs, small-business founders, and investors who are making an outsized impact on sustainability.
Dean David Marchick, who moderated the session, called Goldman “the most successful sustainable entrepreneur in the country” and the perfect gamechanger to kick off the program.
Goldman cofounded Honest Tea in 1998; Coca-Cola bought 40 percent of the Bethesda, Maryland-based company in 2008, before purchasing the rest in 2011. Today he serves as chair of the Beyond Meat board of directors and chief change agent of snack company Eat the Change, one of two ventures he cofounded with Top Chef alumnus Spike Mendelsohn. Last September, shortly after Coca-Cola announced plans to discontinue Honest Tea, Goldman got back in the beverage business with Eat the Change’s new Just Ice Tea line.
Gamechangers In Sustainability: Seth Goldman
Seth Goldman is cofounder of Eat the Change, a planet-friendly snack brand, which recently launched Just Ice Tea, a line of organic bottled tea to go along with the company’s mushroom jerky and carrot snacks.
“Tea is an environmentally-friendly crop,” free of harmful chemicals and tractor pollutants, Goldman said. “There’s no irrigation, no planting, and no soil tillage.” Tea is harvested by hand—the top leaves are plucked from a bush, which regenerates for the next season.
Eat the Change sources its tea from Chá de Magoma, situated two-thirds of a mile above sea level in northern Mozambique, where the gardens are less susceptible to the impacts of climate change than in lower-lying areas. The tea leaves are picked, dried, and bagged in the south African nation before being transported via cargo ship to manufacturing plants in California and Pennsylvania, where it’s then brewed.
“That’s the lightest carbon footprint you can make with this product,” said Goldman, who was inducted into the Washington Business Hall of Fame in 2015. “We can ship enough tea leaves in one container to take care of us for an entire quarter. It’s super-efficient.”
Just Ice Tea, which recently became Whole Food’s best-selling brand of tea, marks the second time Goldman has captured lightning in a bottle. By the end of its first year in production, Honest Tea was also the bestseller in 17 Whole Foods. At the time, the brand wasn’t sweet enough to garner a spot in more mainstream markets—but as organic foods started appearing on their shelves, Honest Tea slowly began slurping up market share.
“We were the best-selling tea in the natural foods industry, but we wanted to move beyond that. The mission had always been to democratize organics, not to just sell healthy food to healthy people,” he said.
Coca-Cola continued that mission, partnering with McDonalds to offer an organic, 35-calorie Honest Kids juice box with its Happy Meals, more than 220 million of which are sold each year in the United States. Honest Kids replaced an 80-calorie juice.
“That’s over a billion empty calories that we removed from the American diet,” Goldman said, proudly. “We need two-and-a-half Earths to feed the planet the way the United States feeds itself. We have to find ways to deliver nutrient-dense foods that are delicious and environmentally friendly.”
Gamechangers in Sustainability continues on Friday with Marriott International CEO Anthony Capuano.