A message from John Occhipinti, CEO of NatureBox about the Black Lives Matter movement.
George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and so many others did not deserve to die at the hands of police. I am speaking up because silence is not an option.
As a company operating in 2020, it is necessary to build a culture of equity and anti-racism. How do we do that? Barabra J Love author of Developing a Liberatory Consciousness has a useful framework: Awareness → Analysis → Action → Accountability/Ally-ship
Here’s how NatureBox is using that framework to become a more equal, actively anti-racist company. When we know better, we do better.
Three weeks ago, I sent a Slack message to our executive staff to discuss NatureBox’s response to the Black Lives Matter movement. What ensued was a deep conversation about our role as individuals and a company in this movement. I want to share a snippet of some of the conversation starters:
“If we want to support racial justice (and we should), I think we have to look at real, tangible ways to do so and put a genuine effort into it. Otherwise, we should keep our mouths shut.”
“We have to ask ourselves what we do in our personal lives and with our employees that shows we’ve advocated for social injustice and/or create an inclusive environment.”
After a lot of discussion the following was our first internal message that went out to the entire NatureBox team.
Yesterday I started a conversation with the executive team on whether or not NatureBox should speak out on the current Black Lives Matter movement and social injustice. It is one thing for me to project my own personal support and another for me to use NatureBox as a platform. We put one of our values “Radical Candor” to the test. Most of our discussion was about authenticity. How do we act with authenticity if we have never brought up the subject before in the company? Would projecting our NatureBox values like “We Are All On The Same Team” actually be offensive as this is clearly the problem with social injustice — we are inherently not on the same team? I know that I come from White Privilege so I have never been racially profiled or confronted because of my skin color. It is also not about me.
As a company, do we remain silent? Is silence complicity?
Here’s a tweet from Odell Beckham Jr:
So, I believe the first step is for NatureBox to start a conversation internally. I believe my job is not to make a public stand without education. I will not act in fear or sit back in it either.
Our first action is to listen and learn. I do not have the answers for what NatureBox should do long term, but I want to start the conversation with everyone and learn from each other. I would like to start a #social-good Slack channel to share content and thoughts from everyone. Based on everyone’s feedback, the executives and I will build a plan. We may also enlist the culture team to help us in this effort as well.
Final note: This morning on my drive to work (empty office), I saw all the local Redwood City shop owners diligently boarding up their storefronts with plywood. Fear is in the air. I understand how some might want to strike fear in others. This is probably how others feel every day because of their race. I also believe that all emotions in life can be boiled down to two key forms of energy: fear and love. When faced with these options I always try to remain present and choose love. It is far more powerful and enduring.
We are responsible for further educating ourselves to identify how we as a company can help this movement. This opened up a dialogue with those at NatureBox to begin discussing what we should have been discussing all along. Here’s what has come from that team email and discussions:
- We opened a #social-good Slack channel with the entire company and started an internal reading list and a book club. We chose How to be an Anti-racist by Ibram X. Kendi.
- We brainstormed ideas for next steps. Ideas ranged from donating to BLM nonprofits, contributing a percentage of our profits to BLM organizations or local community organizing, tracking local policies/elections, helping with getting out to vote, internal diversity training, hiring for diversity, mentoring black entrepreneurs.
- We asked tough questions about our company. What are the greatest assets we have as a company that we can leverage? What are the tools we have that others don’t due to social injustice? What are the ways we can create a network effect that could have an exponential impact on Black Lives Matter? What do we care about? What are we passionate about?
All this discussion led us to dig deeper into the intersection of Social Injustice and Food.
That’s why we’ve spent the past few weeks learning about food deserts and food apartheid. A food desert is defined as living in a household that is more than 1 mile from a grocery store where you can buy fresh food. It impacts low-income families disproportionately, especially since many don’t have access to reliable transportation. There are 23 million people in the United States affected by food deserts and 13 million are part of low-income families.
While food deserts typically create an image of a desert barren of stores, it does not tell the entire story. As Karen Washington, a leader in the food justice movement said, “Food apartheid brings in hunger and poverty. It brings us to the more important question: What are some of the social inequalities that you see, and what are you doing to erase some of the injustices?”
We learned that less than 0.25% of our customers live in a food desert. It is clear that access to NatureBox healthy snacks is not in reach of those in a food desert.
Food apartheid is not just about access to food but economic disparity as well. So, how can NatureBox help?
Our first action as a company is to offer free Memberships and deeper discounts with free shipping to any family that lives in a Food Desert. We still may not be affordable to all families but we will continue to work on this to make a greater impact. NatureBox will also donate 2% of our profits to fund store credits to all those in this program.
If you believe that you live in a food desert and would like free membership, please fill out the form here and we will review your eligibility and get back to ASAP.
Second, we plan to offer our existing customers an opportunity to contribute to this community as well. Our existing customers will be able to donate directly. Buy a bag of snacks, donate a bag of snacks.
Additional Actions in process….
We are actively exploring working with other organizations to help educate and promote awareness and content on nutrition, food systems, food deserts and social justice. We have a head start here with Green Beetz, an amazing non-profit that has built a curriculum, content and online education about the modern food system. (more to come)
Because food itself is only one part of the equation, we also want to enable entrepreneurship by offering our e-commerce platform as distribution to other brands being built by Black-owned food entrepreneurs. NatureBox has historically only carried its own branded snack products. By teaming with other brands, we can offer new value to our consumers and black entrepreneurs. We plan to use any profits generated from these partner brands to fund our efforts to give greater access to our food for all. If you are a Black-owned food business and would like to be part of this initiative, please get in touch with us at foodj[email protected]!
We know that shelf-stable better-for-you premium snacks are not a replacement for fresh fruits and vegetables. We do believe that we are a definite step in the right direction and much better than Oreo. We are also exploring how we can foster gardening and home gardens. We would like to partner with home gardening kit companies to provide easy access to our members on our website. If you are a home garden kit provider, please contact us.
The above isn’t the end of our involvement in the movement. I, as well as the entire NatureBox team, will continue to educate, reflect, and take action to be an active anti-racist company. It is not enough to be silent anymore.
Today, we’re putting ourselves out there and taking a stand. We don’t have all the answers, but maybe just maybe we can make a difference.