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Dispatches from Vitafoods Europe 2014

Sustainability is first and foremost about people, The Medicine Hunter says

By Hank Schultz , 19-May-2014
Last updated on 19-May-2014 at 17:26 GMT

"If we are going to make millions of dollars or tens of millions, we can't do it on the backs of the poor," Chris Kilham says.

There is much talk about sustainability in the dietary supplement ingredients marketplace, but what does it mean exactly? Consultant Chris Kilham, known as The Medicine Hunter, makes a strong case for using the term to mean a marketplace in which all prosper, including the indigenous cultures where many ingredients are sourced.

“Business is people all the time engaged in transactional relationships. Whether it’s goods or services, it’s always for people,” Kilham said.

“In a sustainable system all parts of the system have to prosper. We have to work with people in such a way that allows them to advance in whatever way they want to,” he told NutraIngredients-USA at the Vitafoods trade show in Geneva, Switzerland recently.  

Sustainability ambassador

Kilham puts his actions into words in his role as the Sustainability Ambassador for Naturex.  He works to help forge and maintain relationships with indigenous peoples, whether they are farmers or wildcrafters.  Part of maintaining robust relationships with suppliers is making sure those people’s needs are met, both in terms of pay and other support.

“This to me is the most meaningful part of the equation. Most people in agriculture, with a few notable exceptions, live in poverty. If we are going to make millions of dollars or tens of millions, we can’t do it on the backs fo the poor,” Kilham said.

So, with all the work he and others have done on this idea, is it gaining traction?  In Kilham’s view, there is still lots of work to be done.

“With the expanding world population, I think there is as much exploitation as there ever has been. (Sustainability) hasn’t gained as much momentum as I’d like it to, but it is definitely a converstaion out there in the marketplace,” he said.

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