The Virtuous Promise of The Mighty Leaf

by | Sep 30, 2020 | Organizational Health, Personal Sustainability

Guayaki’s Regenerative Movement™ is one we can all practice to lead fulfilling lives

A Legend Begins

It’s a legend over a thousand years old. Deep in the South American Atlantic rainforest in East Paraguay, lives a small, dedicated, tribal community known as Ache Guayaki. For generations, they have planted, then harvested, the leaves of a native species of the holly tree, Ilex Paraguariensis. The naturally caffeinated leaves of these trees are known as Yerba Mate, whose power lies as much in its symbolism as it does in its nourishing nutritional value. The overarching idea is a clear definition of vitality: the interconnectedness of restoring and renewing our bodies and the world in which we inhabit.

As many great entrepreneurial stories begin, the people inspired to share this concept with the world met in college. Alex Pryor and David Karr co-founded a company they called Guayaki, paying homage to the namesake tribe. The drink they now offer comes from certified organic and fair-trade Yerba Mate that takes 5 years to cultivate. From the outset, they instinctively understood the product they were developing was transcended by the culture in which it was born, a culture of vitality, community, and global stewardship.

Long before phrases like ‘Conscious Capitalism’ and ‘Social Cause Marketing’ became relatively mainstream, these two friends who described themselves as ‘soul brothers’ discovered the essence of a unifying and enduring life force that would always be in demand.

As noted on their website, “before long, the friends were joined by three other pioneering partners: Don Miguel, Steven Karr, and Chris Mann. From two with a vision to five with a mission, these ‘Semillas’ (seeds) channeled their activist mentality to pioneer a revolutionary Market Driven Regeneration™ business model that empowers customers to drive tangible change.” As a result, Yerba Mate is both a great product to nurture your best self while also being an authentic vessel for positive change.

The promise of Market Driven Regeneration™ 

When I sampled Guayaki’s Yerba Mate, I was immediately struck not only by the pleasantly uplifting taste but also the feeling it gave me. This was the impetus for exploring this company further. What I discovered is the rarest of companies, one of the few that curates its core product as part of a mission, one that has benefits to the consumer drinking Yerba Mate, while simultaneously allowing that consumer to make a positive contribution to a greater good.

They call it Market Driven Regeneration™ and it’s at the heart of everything they do. The leadership from Guayaki in its brand promise suggests that renewal and regeneration are part of a Virtuous Cycle.  The notion: If you can give, you must give back, and that it is possible to care for and enrich all the financial, social, and environmental impacts that businesses must attend to all the time.

A mission worth fighting for

For 2020, Guayaki’s mission is to restore 200,000 acres of rainforest (88% to goal) and create 1,000 living wage jobs, still true to its founding from over 20 years ago; to nourish, unite, and energize. A guiding regenerative principle: The vitality of Yerba Mate and global health are interdependent.

With this mindset, consider just a fraction of what Guayaki has achieved through the power of regenerative practices to build, restore, and renew, thereby creating exponential value across its many stakeholders.

  • Self-sufficiency: Their commitment to indigenous communities and small-hold producers provides them with a renewable income stream and the ability to steward and restore their land.
  • Training and Development: In addition to land and water conservation, the company trains and provides environmental education for indigenous and smallholder communities benefitting schools, farmers, and university students to perpetuate the cycle over generations.
  • Conservation: Reducing carbon emissions by 700,000 pounds through their purchasing of harvested cane sugar and key recycling efforts for zero waste.
  • Growth and Abundance: In the give more than you take philosophy, Guayaki has cultivated 43,000 saplings and planted 48,000 native trees.
  • Recognition for enriching others: Guayaki maintains a Fair-Trade certification rooted in fair sourcing practices throughout its supply chain, paying wages that exceed the market rate, and ensuring a fair-trade premium with each purchase. The practices are part of what has awarded the company certified B corporation status and winning Best for Community in 2012 as a Best for the World honoree.

Regeneration is an age-old process and those who practice it believe it to be a non-negotiable tenet. Without it, a company somewhere along the line will break down, and the subsequent drain of resources will lead to complications at a minimum and even destruction at worst.

How about human-driven Regeneration?

The same principle applies to how we all can approach our personal sustainability to not just cope or survive, but to thrive, and in the process, build our functional capacity and legacy.

In a global society that asks more from us at every turn, scores of workers feeling overwhelmed and depleted, the answer lies in ancient wisdom, as old as the Ilex Paraguariensis itself. If you are spending energy and resources to build, expand, and create, you must understand that energy needs to be renewed and is the primary resource to sustain the effort. As Emerson noted long ago, “(personal) energy is our most precious and undervalued resource.” When we stress ourselves or the planet to create, it’s the recovery that makes that sustainability possible. Stress isn’t our overall enemy, it’s the absence of regenerative practices that present our greatest challenge.

Consider what we do when we are busy, overwhelmed, and trying to meet the myriad demands of our lives. What do we give up in the name of getting more done or just keeping up? We sleep less, settle for convenient food, sit motionless typing away for long stretches, work longer hours into the night, and defer exercise until the ever tomorrow or next Monday. We start our days reactively and impulsively, multi-task, half-listen, and check emails intermittently to stay on top of the daily deluge. In short, we decide deep down, somewhat unconsciously, to give up on the very behaviors that restore and renew our energy.

As a result, we maintain less capacity to notice and appreciate what others do for us, we minimize our value, and we are more likely to blame others for our circumstances when we are depleted. All these behaviors are negative and damaging to individuals, just as they are to businesses.

Making it all work

With that, the Regenerative Movement is not the only province to business endeavors. It also applies to each one of us. The partners of Guayaki are practicing it and succeeding, and so can we. Despite living through these trying times of social distancing and feelings of isolation, we must all strive to stay connected. I believe the mighty leaf known as Yerba Mate serves as a reminder of this. For thousands of years, and even to this day, the Ache Guayaki villages in Eastern Paraguay would share a Yerba Mate drink communally. And while this type of practice in our current COVID world may not be an option, its aspiration and promise endure. While we also deal with significantly high levels of social unrest, deep down we know that when people are united and energized the whole world benefits.

Finding our virtuous cycle in a world that naturally defaults to vicious cycles made up of short-term gratification and an ever more mentality may present our greatest challenge and within it lies our greatest opportunity.

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