the farm

Gaia Herbs 2023 Sustainability Report: How We’re Implementing A Sustainable, Transparent, & Regenerative Business Model

Published on June 07, 2023

By Kristen Boye BS, Natural Health

Kristen Boye

Kristen Boye is a natural health expert, writer, copywriter, and editor. Kristen was raised on an organic farm in British Columbia which inspired her life’s work. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Natural Health, is a Certified Natural Foods Chef, co-owner of a medicinal herb farm, and is a natural foods and children’s health advocate. Kristen lives with her husband and two children on their medicinal herb farm in Western North Carolina.

2023 marks Gaia Herbs’ 35th year in business! 

Although much has changed since our humble beginnings in 1987, we remain more committed than ever to connecting people, plants, and planet to create healing and a better future.

We know many businesses (including supplement companies) talk a big game regarding their social, economic, and environmental impact.

We also know words like “transparency” and “sustainability” have been so overused and misrepresented they don’t mean what they used to.

Instead of telling you how we’re leading the way in social, economic, and environmental practices while prioritizing transparency and sustainability, we’d like to show you instead.

Our 2023 Sustainability Report has now been released to the public.

This report highlights our accomplishments, reflects on our challenges, and shares our vision and goals for 2025 as we strive to enhance and expand our positive social and environmental impact. 

In this article, we share ten highlights and takeaways from our 2023 report and what we’re working on for 2025.

1: Gaia Herbs Became A Public Benefit Corporation

As you may know, Gaia Herbs became a Certified B Corporation in 2018 (one of our proudest feats to date). 

A B Corporation is a certified company that meets the highest levels of transparency and social and environmental accountability through the non-profit B Lab. 

However, in 2022 we decided to become Public Benefit Corporation, or PBC. 

A PBC is a legal entity that bakes into its certificate of incorporation its specific “Public Benefit” and requires companies to report on progress and metrics to shareholders every two years. 

Converting our legal structure to a Public Benefit Corporation ensures our mission is locked and goes one step further to show accountability to all stakeholders.

Gaia Herbs' specific public benefit is improving human health and well-being through natural products produced using sustainable and ethical methods.

The goals and measurements within this report center on: 

  • Health & Wellbeing
  • Employees & Community 
  • Environmental Regeneration 

It will be used to assess and measure progress in the coming years.

2: Gaia Herbs Farm Achieved Silver Level of Regenerative Organic Certified™ (Roc™) Standard

At Gaia, we have been committed to organic and sustainable growing practices since our inception.

In 2021, we began examining how we could go beyond our Certified Organic standards and set our sights on achieving the Regenerative Organic Certified (ROC)™ Standard – a certification that considers not only soil health but farmworker fairness and animal welfare.

Regenerative farming practices have been credited with creating immense positive changes for the climate, communities, and farmers.

Its core principles include:

  • Nurturing relationships within and across ecosystems
  • Prioritizing soil health
  • Reducing dependence on synthetic inputs
  • Nurturing communities and reimagining economies

In 2022, the Gaia Herbs Farm achieved the Regenerative Organic Certified (ROC)™ standard at the silver level by the Regenerative Organic Alliance. 

By using these practices, we are able to trap carbon from the air and store it in the soil, where it benefits plant and soil health.

Regenerative agriculture practices on the Gaia Herbs farm enable us to sequester the CO2 equivalent from our Gaia Herbs Brevard operations! This is the power of regenerative agriculture.

We will continue our efforts to use our growing practices to enhance the health of people, soil, ecosystems, climate, and communities in the coming years.

3: Gaia Herbs Formed A New Scientific Advisory Board

In 2022 Gaia Herbs formed a new Scientific Advisory Board.

This diverse group of doctors and healthcare practitioners will help us to:

  • Stay abreast of current issues and developments in the medical community
  • Conduct clinical trials and research studies on Gaia Herbs products
  • Provide consultation and advice on product development
  • And assist in our educational efforts by writing research articles and serving as speakers at webinars and lectures.

Our board members come from various disciplines and areas of expertise, including

women’s health, environmental medicine, cardiovascular health, dermatology, and oncology.

4: We Raised The Bar On Product Integrity Through ISO Certification

For the past 35 + years, Gaia Herbs has been an industry leader in creating efficacious, authentic, and safe herbal supplements free from harmful pesticides, toxic residue, microbials, and contaminated material. 

Several years ago, we sought to enhance transparency in sourcing by introducing the industry’s first-ever Transparency program,

This program allowed customers to go beyond the product label and see for themselves where their herbs came from and how we’re is surpassing industry standards.

In our continuing efforts to ensure consumers are receiving a science-backed final product, we received ISO (International Organization for Standardization) certification on 22 validated methods that Gaia Herbs uses to produce products.

This certification confirms we have proper testing methods and management systems in place to validate products for purity, integrity, and potency.

5: We Now Have 35 Certified Ethically Traded Ingredients (With More to Come)

As the wellness revolution grows, so does the demand for raw materials.

This has created opportunities for farmers to succeed like never before…

…and (unfortunately) has created deception, exploitation, and negative environmental consequences within the herbal raw materials industry.

Sadly, some herbs are produced on farms where workers do not receive a fair wage or ethical treatment in exchange for their labor. 

Certain herbs may also be contaiminated or grown and/or harvested in an unsustainable manner that puts species or habitats at risk.

Much like sourcing coffee and cacao, it is becoming increasingly important for supplement companies to source ethically-traded raw materials.

We have taken this issue seriously by recently adding 27 certified ethically traded ingredients, bringing our grand total to 35, including ingredients that are certified ROC™ (Regenerative Organic Certified), FairWild Foundation, and Fair for Life

We also became a certified partner and brand holder for FairWild™ Foundation, a non-profit leading the charge in ethical wild plant trade worldwide.

We are in the process of being audited to be Fair for Life certified

Fair for Life certification enables the valorization and protection of exemplary supply chains, where stakeholders have chosen to act responsibly by implementing good economic, social, and environmental practices.

6: We Enhanced Our Commitment To Our Dedicated Migrant Farm Workers

How do we manage to grow and harvest thousands of pounds of organic herbs per year on the Gaia Herbs farm?

It’s largely thanks to our dedicated farm crew, many of which are loyal migrant workers.

Each year, through the H2A visa program, we employ approximately 30 farm workers who make the journey from San Luis Potosi, Mexico to spend the growing and harvesting season on our farm. 

Most of our farm crew has been returning for years, including a few who have been with us for over 20 years.

Collectively, our farm team brings 250 years of medicinal herb farming experience to the Gaia herbs farm.

In 2021, we enhanced our commitment to farmworker fairness on the Gaia Farm by focusing on four key impact areas: 

  • Travel and lodging to and from Mexico
  • Wages & benefits
  • On-site housing
  • Health & wellness advocacy

Our partnerships with outside organizations, and continued communication with our farmworkers, are helping to inform decisions and direction. 

We have made progress in all three areas but are behind the timeline and over budget for developing a new housing model. 

However, we remain committed to this goal and continue moving forward.

7: We Focused On Strengthening Our Employees’ Experience

For many businessesthe pandemic created a shake-up in terms of employee turnover, company culture, and overall morale.

Despite all of this, we’re happy to report Gaia Herbs received the award for 2021 Best Employer in North Carolina by Business North Carolina and Best Companies Group.

During this process, we received valuable employee feedback, and we are incorporating ways

to strengthen our employee experience, including re-inventing our Total Rewards Program.

Here’s a look at our progress:

  • Increased minimum salary/wage with new skills program: As employees demonstrate proficiency in new skill areas, their wages increase.
  • Bonus/annual incentive program: We implemented a new performance and values-based incentive program that is a combination of revenue growth, operating profit, and personal objectives. A total of $1.8m in total compensation was distributed to non-executives on a performance basis.
  • Employee Stock Option: This unique program creates the potential for cash reward tied to long-term company value creation. This program aligns the interest of employees, investors, and board members as one entity – all with a form of company ownership.
  • Benefits: In addition to health insurance, 401K, and paid parental leave, we increased our wellness offerings by offering free on-site nurse practitioners for biometric screening and consultation.

    8: We Continued Giving Back To Our Local Communities

    Gaia Herbs' community giving program goes beyond monetary donations. 

    In an effort to increase herbal access in communities in our home state of North Carolina and across the country, each year we donate approximately $300,000 worth of products and raw materials to various non-profits, schools, organizations, and events that are working to improve community health and wellbeing. 

    In 2021, we also began donating raw materials to herbal clinics and herbalists to utilize in making herbal products that serve their communities.

    We also believe in empowering our team to give back to the community.

    Each Gaia Herbs employee receives 16 hours of paid volunteer time off (VTO) annually. 

    In 2022 we increased VTO usage by over 60%, with 1,667 hours dedicated to various mission-aligned initiatives that resonate with our team members. 

    This increase brought us 90% of the way toward achieving our annual corporate goal of using half of all available VTO hours company-wide.

    9: We Initiated Our First Packaging Refresh Project

    Over two years, we have evaluated several potential packaging options to reduce our carbon footprint (we love glass, but it has its benefits and drawbacks).

    Materials considered included compostable, biodegradable, PCR plastic, and aluminum.

    We will continue to work with industry groups while also evaluating opportunities for overall material reduction. 

    Until then, we are proud to keep using glass, which is a non-toxic, recyclable option that does the least amount of harm to both the environment and human health.

    10. We Got Serious About Reducing Waste Through Composting

    In 2023, we will implement an onsite composting technology that will account for 70-80% of our waste stream, turning herbal “waste” into high-quality, organic compost that can be utilized on the Gaia Herbs Farm.

    This took two years of research, permitting, and consultations!.

    What We’re Working Towards For 2025

    We’ve accomplished a lot in the past two years, but we have plenty more to learn and achieve in all areas of sustainability and impact.

    Here’s a preview of what we’re working towards for 2025.

    Product Quality and Transparency:

    • Maintain ISO certification on 22 validated methods

    Regenerative Agriculture:

    • Achieve ROC™ Gold Standard on the Gaia Herbs Farm

    Seasonal Farm Worker Program:

    • Gaia Herbs Farm will serve as a model farm for migrant farmworker treatment

    Waste Reduction:

    • Zero Waste Certified Operations

    Sustainable Packaging:

    • Improve the environmental footprint of packaging

    Ethical Sourcing:

    • 50 ingredients certified ethically traded (ROC™, Fair Trade, FairWild, Fair for Life)

    Community Support:

    • 8,000 hours of Volunteer Time Off donated to local communities
    • $2 million donated to communities

    Employee Engagement:

    • Make the Top 25% of Best Employers in North Carolina Survey

    Learn More in Our Sustainability & Impact Report