Seth Goldman, co-founder and TeaEO of Honest Tea and Henry Crown Fellow, will join the Aspen Institute on Monday, September 30, to discuss sustainability, business, and the brand’s success. Goldman’s new book Mission in a Bottle, co-written with Yale School of Management Milton Steinbach Professor Barry Nalebuff, shares the story of creating Honest Tea in the form of a clever graphic novel.
We spoke with Goldman to get a sneak peek of his chat with Peter Reiling, Institute Executive Vice President of Leadership and Seminar Programs and Henry Crown Fellowship Executive Director. The conversation will be streamed live, Monday at 12 pm ET.
Q: Explain your connection with the Aspen Institute and the Henry Crown Fellowship. How did the Henry Crown Fellowship influence your ideas of leadership, business, sustainability, and success?
I am a Henry Crown Fellow of the 9th Symphony Class. The fellowship helped provide me with a framework of ideas and a network of friends that challenged me to think more aggressively about the impact and scale of my work and career.
Q: How do you define success at Honest Tea? Since the brand has been purchased by Coca-Cola, do you expect to influence any changes at the global brand’s corporate level?
At Honest Tea we like to say that our mission is in the bottle, so every time we sell a lower-sugar, organic, Fair Trade certified drink, we are making an impact on health, the environment and access to economic opportunity. As a result, we define our success by our sales growth. Since Coca-Cola invested in Honest Tea in 2008, we have expanded our store count from 15,000 outlets to over 100,000. Our purchases of organic ingredients has grown from 800,000 pounds in 2008 to over 5 million.
Q: How can people live a greener life?
I’d like to think that every individual and every organization is on a journey toward living a more sustainable life. I call it a journey because there is no end point. We need to continually challenge ourselves to reduce our environmental footprint. So the first steps on that journey involve 1) understanding your impact, 2) being honest with yourself about where you are falling short, and then 3) taking gradual steps in the right direction. When you think about how far we have to move as a society, it can feel overwhelming, but there is not one big step that will get us there. Instead, it will happen through billions of small steps. Some of the easiest everyday steps that can be made include biking to work a few times a week, increasing purchases of organic foods, and eating less meat.
Q: What’s your favorite flavor of tea?
It’s hard to have a favorite among our dozens of varieties, but these days I continually find myself drinking our Heavenly Lemon Tulsi Tea. Tulsi is also known as “holy basil” in India, and it has a wonderfully refreshing yet soothing taste. Just as important to me, we have an amazing community partnership with the supplier community that is helping to transform their economic trajectory, so there’s wonderful karma in the beverage as well.