How Guayaki’s Yerba Mate is Ushering In A Sustainable Economy

The significance of yerba mate

I grew up in the land of yerba mate. In Argentina, the herbal drink yerba mate was served everywhere you went. The indigenous people of Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay enjoyed yerba mate long before the Spanish arrived. Over the years, mate became the drink of choice for many in South America.

Mate is the first thing people offer you when you visit. “Un matecito?” Family mornings start with mate. University students depend on it for long nights of study. Artists and musicians love their yerba mate muse. Conversation and insight are born around mate.

Mate brings the outdoors, the sierras and the forest, inside. And a circle around a fire, a Spanish guitar, or a philosophical discussion, can bring out yerba’s best flavors.

The caffeine-like substance in mate, or mateina, is a pleasure at any hour, especially when it is served traditional style: in a single gourd and with a “bombilla”, or metal straw. The gourd is passed around and shared with good company. Mate is a cultural drink, a form of giving and a receiving.

I have friends in Argentina that keep a hot water thermos in the car, always ready to brew. On my last visit, my childhood friend and I prepared to hike on a gorgeous autumn day. She packed a gourd, a bombilla, yerba, and hot water. This is truly a drink to enjoy at any time of day or night.

The benefits of yerba mate

YERBA, or Iles paraguarensis, is the name of the green, aromatic herb used to make mate. The drink evolved from jungle plant, to indigenous medicine, to South American tradition, and finally to the fashionable drink we know today.

Yerba is also a veritable powerhouse of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. This is an herb that leaves green tea in the dust. Yerba has higher polyphenol and antioxidant content. And it possesses multitude of health benefits. ?

Can this simple beverage help save our planet?

One company is out to prove just that. Guayaki has built a model that places sustainability at the core of their business practices.

Harvard graduate Chris Mann and four of his pals stepped out of the traditional corporate path and created a new, ecologically sound company. They brought yerba harvesting back to the forest. Their mate is grown organically, like it was at the beginning, in the shade and under the canopy, for potency, clarity, vitality and well being. Guayaki Yerba is also a provider of local jobs that do not disturb the forest. Native people, yerba?s original tenders and consumers, are paid a living wage to plant and harvest the herb.

What drove their unique business model? Chris Mann said,

“It was while at Harvard that I realized, everything I was interested in is outside the system. …When asking professors what about environmental degradation, what about native people?s compensation, the answer always was: that’s outside the economical model, those are externalities.”

Guayaki was started in 1996 by two university buddies, Alex Pryor from Buenos Aires and David Karr from California. They were soon joined by Chris Mann, Steven Karr and Michael Newton. United by their love of mate and holistic living, they imagined a company that valued sustainable practices and respect for indigenous workers. Twenty-one years later, they?ve secured 60% of the Yerba mate market in the US. ?

This company, started with seventeen credit cards and a small loan, is now flourishing. They new goal: to protect and restore 200,000 acres of Atlantic rain forest and create 1,000 living wage jobs by 2020.

Guayaki is succeeding not despite their sustainable practices, but because of them.

Guayaki and other companies like them will continue to thrive because of our support. They are one of the many enterprises opening the doors to the economy of the future. They are sustainable, democratic, inclusive, and profitable. They represent the new economy.

Chris and his team recognize that business can be used as a force for good in the world. We can make changes by voting with our dollars and supporting companies Guayaki that care about all of their stakeholders (employees, suppliers, the planet and shareholders).

Your money makes a difference. The companies you decide to support will be the companies that flourish.

We need to create the motive and define the goals we want to see in the world. This isn?t a matter of benevolence or generosity. It is a as a matter of survival. Let?s live the change we want to see, so that we can protect our beautiful planet to future generations.

Check out more great interviews and videos from leaders in conscious capitalism, in the new feature film?Prosperity

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