Protecting the supply
Uncontrolled wild harvesting is threatening the medicinal plants on which the herbal medicines industry depends’.
Alan Hamilton, World Wildlife Fund
It is remarkable to think that most herb species are harvested from the wild – between 75%–95%. By weight, it’s around 25% of global annual herbal harvests. Have you ever thought where your last cup of elderflower, licorice or limeflowers came from? These herbs are rarely cultivated, as they are so readily available for ‘free’ in the local environment. Wild herb collectors, among the poorest of the poor, are marginalised geographically, socially and economically. They often do not own land and are dependent financially on annual wild herb harvests. However, such unregulated harvesting, coupled with the modern pressure on ecosystems, is putting the sustainability of herbal medicines at risk.
A 2017 report by Kew Gardens, State of the World’s Plants (Willis, 2017), showed that, of the 400,000 or so flowering plants, 28,187 have some documented medicinal use. Very worryingly, one in five plants face some threat to their future survival, some of them vital contributors to the pharmacopoeia. Licorice, echinacea, goldenseal, devil’s claw, guggul-myrrh, sandalwood and slippery elm are all threatened in their natural habitats.
In order to address this crisis WWF, with Traffic and the IUCN, came together to create a third-party certified standard for ensuring that wild harvested species have a sustainable supply and are fairly traded.This is known as the FairWild standard. Protecting nature protects us individually as well as promoting global health. Pukka has been a pioneer in adopting this standard with the herbs we harvest from the wild – around 18% of our volume – ensuring that above a certain volume they are certified FairWild.
People: expect wonderful things
The essence of all beings is Earth. The essence of the Earth is water. The essence of water is plants. The essence of plants is people…’ Chandogya Upanishad
When we started Pukka Herbs, we knew – well we hoped – that we were going to create something special; Tim and I were both utterly passionate about bringing plants and people together and we set off with the inspiring tailwind of Ayurveda behind us. We really wanted to be a part of the positive change that was at the heart of the organic health community and so we dived in, head first. And, wow, what a welcome we have received!
Today we are serving millions of teas and supplements every day, growing herbs on tens of thousands of acres of organic land, supporting thousands of farmers with Fair for Life wages, and introducing millions of people to the wonders of traditional herbal wisdom. There are now 120 of us working together at Pukka. We are a pretty eclectic, often hectic, but always energetic and inspired bunch of people. We’re making the best of British and do 99% of our finished manufacturing in the UK from organic ingredients sourced from many friends around the world. In our own small way, we hope we’re helping people to live healthier, happier lives and to fulfil their potential on this beautiful planet that we all share.
So, what next?
We recently joined with Unilever to help us expand and grow. Their commitment to finding a sustainable way for business to bring positive impact throughout their network is sorely needed in leading the way for big business to take the responsibility for their actions and impacts. With 300 to 500 businesses controlling 70% of global trade – feeding and clothing the 7 billion of us – influencing the behaviour of these giants offers us the greatest opportunity for the positive change we urgently need to promote more regenerative business practices. As most of the world gets behind the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, it’s a once in history chance to coordinate social change through responsible government and business.
We are even more excited about Pukka Herbs now than when we started 16 years ago. It feels like our healing journey has only just begun.
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