Sustainable Sourcing: Honoring the Earth in a Changing Landscape
As an Ayurveda-inspired health and wellness company, we believe in supporting the well-being of both humans and the planet. This applies to all aspects of how we do business, including how we source our herbs and ingredients.
To us, sustainable sourcing means taking an active role in relationship to our supply chain, each ingredient we work with, and the many important choices that go into creating a product.
As the landscape of sustainability evolves, we are committed to the following practices, which we will explore further in this article:
- Tending to the earth
- Environmental and social responsibility
- Increasing our sourcing diversification
- Incorporating bioregional Ayurveda
When looking at indigenous cultures worldwide, they all have a history of "tending the wild." Many, if not all traditional healing systems, are rooted in wild spaces, and much of the herbal pharmacopeia we use today was built out of those intimate relationships that our indigenous ancestors held and continue to hold with nature and the bioregions they call home.
It is our humble desire to follow in the footsteps of these traditions by being good stewards of wild places and tending to the earth with a spirit of intention, reciprocity, and care.
Protecting and Building Plant Biodiversity
According to The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), more than 41,000 plant and animal species are threatened with extinction.1
We are committed to protecting and contributing to the diversity of plants, animals, and microorganisms that directly or indirectly support food, herbal medicines, and agriculture.
CITES Endangered Species List
CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) is an international agreement between governments. Its aim is to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten the survival of the species. 2
Whether a plant is listed on the endangered list depends on species and geography. If something is CITES listed, we either buy CITES approved and permitted material or we do not source it. We are not currently sourcing any CITES herbs.
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species
The IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species brings together the world’s most comprehensive information on the global conservation status of animal, fungal, and plant species.3
This list measures the pressures on species based on a set of quantitative criteria that estimate the risk of extinction. It is an important indicator of the health of the world’s biodiversity and a powerful tool to educate and catalyze action for biodiversity conservation.
Unfortunately, many medicinal and aromatic plants have not yet been assessed—and of the assessments that have been conducted, one in five of the world’s medicinal and aromatic plant species is considered threatened.4
We are committed to monitoring these plants and identifying ways we can support the health and integrity of the precious herbs that are a part of the Ayurvedic and other pharmacopeias.
Choosing Not to Sell Threatened Herbs
In line with this commitment to protecting and building plant biodiversity, we do not sell any threatened herbs unless we can secure reliably sustainable sources.
For instance, in 2005, we discontinued the use of jatamansi and in 2007, we discontinued selling sandalwood and red sandalwood due to sustainability issues. In 2021, we stopped selling kutki for the same reason.
We have since forged new relationships with suppliers of these herbs in Nepal whose responsible collection practices are in alignment with our values. Our hope is that we can support their sustainable harvesting projects and eventually reintroduce kutki and jatamansi to our customers.
Sustainable Farming and Wild Collection
Together with our farming and wild collector partners, we harvest with respect for the life of the plant. Our partners work within the scope of the American Herbal Product Association (AHPA's) "Good Agriculture and Collection Practices" standard. This protects the botanical species we cultivate and source for present and future generations.5
Our Farm Partners
Our farm partners are primarily located in India and the United States. We work closely with them to ensure they are using sustainable, organic, and, when possible, regenerative farming techniques, including low till or no tillage, root dividing, pruning, seed planting, and seed saving. These practices help to build soil health, ensure the health of perennial plants, protect and build biodiversity, and offer on-farm habitats.
Our wild collectors are primarily located in India. Together, we work to harvest with respect for the life of the plant as well as the people who harvest them.
To do so, we use harvesting practices that are sustainable for the plant in its environment. These include:
- propagation from root crowns and stems.
- spreading seed.
- assessing plant populations of a given stand.
- harvesting no more than 5–10 percent of the plant.
We are also signatories of the FairWild Pledge, a voluntary, self-led initiative that increases awareness and provides a pathway to achieving responsible sourcing of wild-harvested plant ingredients.6
Together with our farming and wild collector partners, we work to achieve organic, regenerative organic, Fair Wild, and Fair for Life certifications whenever possible.
Since the birth of Banyan Botanicals, we saw the importance of sourcing organic herbs and ingredients. Organic farming practices improve the health of the soil, the plants, and the people who consume our products.
For example, we source ingredients from our partners at Banyan Farm, which is located on land that has been certified organic since 1998. This was before organic certification was a common trend and speaks to the health of the soil.
We are also beginning to investigate and support our network of farm partners in transitioning to regenerative farming practices. Regenerative farming focuses on growing herbs and ingredients in harmony with nature, factoring in soil health, animal welfare, and farmworker fairness, in addition to the health and vitality of the crops.
We see this as a natural evolution and next step forward for the broader organic industry and as we move forward we’re committed to ingredients from farms that practice regenerative farming when available.
Fair Trade Certification
We are also committed to buying Fair for Life Fair Trade or FairWild certified herbs and ingredients. These certifications ensure that we manage our supply chain within the Fair Trade framework that is audited and verified by a third-party certifier.
While Fair for Life focuses on farms and farm workers, FairWild extends fair trade certification beyond cultivated herbs, working to protect wild plant species and their habitats to ensure their continued survival.
Offering fairly traded products means our farmers and wild collectors are treated and paid fairly for their work. These certifications also include entire “Respect of the Environment” chapters in their standards that include protecting biodiversity and proving a commitment to environmental stewardship.
Another key priority in our approach to sustainable sourcing is diversification. We are making the effort to diversify our supply chain not only within India, but across the globe. Doing so helps us to:
- Avoid sourcing solely from large-scale farm operations that may add heightened pressure to an ingredient or environment.
- Lower our carbon footprint by sourcing ingredients closer to home.
- Ensure a more secure supply chain by expanding our sourcing network.
Diversification in action means that we investigate the growing conditions of each ingredient and strive to find the different environments they can thrive in. This allows us to source an ingredient like turmeric from several states within India along with other tropical regions like Costa Rica or Hawaii.
Naturally, this helps Banyan forge relationships with smaller farms and collector groups. In return, we learn about different environments and ultimately engage in mutually supportive relationships that help build a growing community of farmers and wild collectors across the globe.
For us, the concept of bioregional Ayurveda is dynamically evolving as it becomes an ever greater priority in the face of our changing world.
With it, we see a future that spans generations and allows us to embody our values as a company by supporting the sustainability of plants, reducing our carbon footprint, supporting organic growers both locally and abroad, and embodying the spirit of Ayurvedic principles of consuming foods that are local and fresh.
Honoring Ayurveda’s Roots
India is the birthplace of Ayurveda and the landscape in which the most well-known botanical staples of the traditional Ayurvedic pharmacopeia have grown and evolved.
For this reason, it is and will continue to be the backbone of Banyan's supply chain. Banyan is dedicated to supporting and working with farmers and wild collectors in India.
Expanding Beyond the Traditional Ayurvedic Pharmacopeia
As we work with the traditional pharmacopeia of Ayurveda, we identify what regions each plant can grow and flourish in. When we learn that a traditional herb is becoming threatened or endangered, we find a similar analogue plant that can be used in its place.
Sometimes these herbs are cultivated in the United States and overlap with herbs used in Western herbalism or other traditional pharmacopeias. We’ve been using some of these herbs in our products for quite some time—such as skullcap, valerian, and chamomile—and intend to introduce more in coming years.
Reducing our Carbon Footprint by Sourcing More Locally
Banyan Botanicals’ primary operations are in the United States, and when we inquire about sustainability and our company's future, we see that we must grow our supply chain and pharmacopeia to be more locally sourced and diversified.
This means we are forging new relationships with growers in new regions closer to home, and in doing so, we are reducing transportation emissions from shipping herbs across the globe. This helps us to lower our overall carbon footprint.