At Organic & Natural Health, we entered 2021 like most of you, making adjustments, eschewing expectations, adapting to a new normal (though one would hope is temporary). Per our tradition, our year began with our annual conference, albeit virtual and not on the beaches of southwest Florida. The theme was “Co-Opting Convention,” an apt title for an organization committed to changing the health care paradigm, regardless of entrenched politics and policies.
The events of the past year created a full tableau of opportunities for Organic & Natural Health to pursue, all of which were reflected in our conference schedule. COVID-19 shined a bright light on health disparity among Black and Hispanic Americans, and the correlation of health outcomes to vitamin D levels. In response, we created the “Get On My Level” campaign, and to date have garnered more than 60 million media impressions. The Black Lives Matter movement put a focus on the lack of diversity in our own industry, to which we have we responded.
On January 27, we announced a new partnership with the Williams-Franklin Foundation with the goal to open up more opportunities in the natural products industry for students and graduates of historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs). As part of the partnership, Organic & Natural Health will help raise $50,000 for the Williams-Franklin Foundation during the next five years to support education expenses for HBCU students, to be held in a designated fund for the entire industry to contribute to called, “Organic & Natural Health Scholarship Fund.” In addition to raising scholarship monies, we are committed to supporting networking opportunities for HBCU students, graduates, and natural health executives with the purpose of igniting internships and career opportunities, while helping create a more diverse and inclusive industry.
The Williams-Franklin Foundation is a 501(c) 3 incorporated nonprofit that provides academic scholarships, business/career networking, and mentoring opportunities to HBCU students with extreme financial need. Led by an inspirational husband and wife team, Dwight and LaShelle (Williams) Franklin, both HBCU graduates, they used their own seed money to launch the foundation in 2014. In a short time, their organization has raised thousands of dollars that have impacted the lives of many HBCU students.
While this is an Organic & Natural Health initiative, it is not ours to own. This initiative for diversity and inclusion must be adopted industry-wide. We want this effort to be as big and as noteworthy as what Vitamin Angles has achieved for the distribution of dietary supplement to those in need around the world. It is very clear to me that the biggest barrier to lack of diversification in our community is exposure. I’m proud to support the Williams-Franklin Foundation by offering this industry-wide opportunity to effect dynamic change. We encourage participation by retailers, brands, ingredient suppliers, manufacturers, and distributors in the food, beverage, supplement, and personal care sectors of the natural and organic, human, and pet, industries. Leaders and companies within the natural products industry who want to donate a tax-deductible gift directly to the Williams-Franklin Foundation’s Organic & Natural Health Scholarship Fund can select “Organic & Natural Health Fund” in the drop box when donating at www.wmsfranklinfoundation.org/donate/.
The mission of the Organic & Natural Health Association is to “unite consumers and corporations and transform business practices in alignment with regenerative systems to support the health of people and planet.” We do not take our mission lightly. We know that health is made up of many things, including:
- A healthy workplace is an inclusive workplace. Our conference attendees heard from Brian Terry of Nordic Naturals and Kantha Shelke of Corvus Blue on strategies to implement that and foster a diverse and inclusive environment.
- To be healthy requires adequate nutrition. Whether pre-COVID-19 or recovering, immune health is of critical concern to Organic & Natural Health and for all Americans as our scientific advisers, Dr. Michael Murray, James DiNicolantonio, Pharm.D., and Dr. Ken Redcross documented in their “Beyond the Vaccine” conference presentations. Expect to see more action from Organic & Natural Health on how the power of supplementation can improve health status at any life stage.
- A healthy planet is required for healthy people. Organic, regenerative and biodynamic, standards that protect the health of soil are essential for the creation of products our consumers have come to trust.
- A healthy supply chain is not optional. We are fiercely committed to ensuring the quality of dietary supplement supply chain and work diligently to keep pesticides out of our foods, and genetically modified, or SynBio, ingredients out of all organic and natural products.
There is no separation between people and planet, only artificial assumptions that our actions do not affect the Earth, and its illnesses do not cause ours. It is not skin color that divides us, it is an unknowing and ignorance that wounds the humanity in each of us. We are an industry committed to the innate power of the body’s ability to heal, offering solutions that empower the individual in that process. Organic & Natural Health is always positioned to take a holistic approach to creating healthier solutions. We go into 2021 full of hope and embracing change.