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This year, the event was expanded to highlight broader diversity in the industry, including race, gender, ethnicity and sexual orientation. As show director Lacey Gaultier affirms: “We believe when we all understand the intersectionality of diversity, we create an opportunity to empower our industry members to make systemic change.”
As part of this shift, the Natural Products Expo team connected with Ken Seguine, head of Algatech US and one of the leads of the new Naturally Proud Network. This LinkedIn-based group is under two years old, and was founded in 2017 to create a safe space for networking and professional support.
According to Ken, the group came into being with a few friends discussing the lack of LGBTQI+ visibility in the industry after the NBJ Summit (another event within our Health & Nutrition portfolio). He says: “Most people would just assume that the industry was open and friendly but in fact, many LGBTQI+ people have been in the closet. We firmly believe that as individuals and a society, we all are at our best and will make our most valuable contributions when we are our true selves.”
According to Ken, the online group has grown to 65 members after small, informal gatherings at Natural Products Expo East 2018 and SupplySide West 2018. At Expo West 2019, the Informa Markets provided complimentary space at the host hotel and featured the LGBTQI+ Networking Event in all marketing pieces including the website and mobile app. The outreach was successful, with more than 100 supporters, friends and allies attending.
More recently, the Naturally Proud Network was part of the Diversity in Naturals Networking Event at Natural Products Expo East in Baltimore. Ken says: “Everyone was great to work with in getting the event set up and publicised. We are honoured and grateful to have such strong support from the Informa team.”
The focus on LGBTQI+ issues is also part of the dialogue at SupplySide West, which has expanded its focus from women in leadership into the broader issues of diversity & inclusion of all types, and how these initiatives benefit companies and the industry at large. A three-hour workshop, ‘Diversity & Inclusion: Good Business for All’, is designed to showcase case studies of companies making commitments to diversity initiatives and offering ways other businesses can do the same.
One of the speakers, Zoe Feldman, director of the Chobani Incubator, recently recorded a podcast with INSIDER on the importance of LGBTQ+ inclusion efforts and the benefits to business. The Naturally Proud Network will be a sponsor of the workshop, and is also hosting a reception during the event that will benefit the Trevor Project, a non-profit that provides crisis intervention and suicide prevention services for LGBTQ youth.
Ken says: “At our industry’s premier event, we think the Naturally Proud Network gathering has every chance of developing into the must-attend fun event. We hope to see more of our brothers and sisters come out and feel that they are welcome as they are and have a place as well as welcoming our supporters, friends and allies. The Trevor Project does such good work, we are hoping to show them some social justice love and make a nice donation.”
In addition, Carlotta Mast, senior vice president of content & insights and market leader of New Hope Network, is one of the leaders of the industry’s JEDI Project. Focusing on issues of Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (JEDI), the initiative is designed to empower individuals starting from a company level and provide industry-specific case study learnings that will help companies with their diversity and inclusion initiatives. Carlotta led a two-hour workshop at Expo East on how and why to bring more diversity and leadership to natural products industry boards, and kicked off the JEDI Project DEI benchmarking study; she will also be discussing the JEDI Project during the SupplySide West workshop, accelerating the dialogue and furthering connections among the full US Health & Nutrition portfolio.
Carlotta says, “The goal of the JEDI Project is to provide an opportunity for learning as well as open facilitated discussion among industry leaders. Ultimately, we want everyone—no matter their gender, orientation, race or background—to know they have a space and opportunities in this industry.” > Chobani’s commitment to inclusion drives innovation – podcast > Natural Products Insider