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  • Writer's pictureKira Day

Why BEAR values progress over perfection

Born out of Byron Bay, BEAR is an Australian lifestyle brand set out to redefine the vitamin and supplement industry. With a focus on high-quality, natural ingredients and therapeutic benefits, their range offers a holistic approach to wellness 'inside and out.'

The BEAR team also take pride in their conscious business practices, from building traceable supply chains to supporting conservation through their product sales. To celebrate BEAR appearing on this year's Best for the World list in Community, we spoke with Co-Founder Sam Leetham about developing a health and wellbeing brand that is built to last.

Watch the conversation here or read the interview below.

It's not about short-term quick wins. It's about long-term, strategic rituals that have a lasting impact not only on your own health and wellbeing, but on the health and wellbeing of the planet.

Sam: Together with my wife, Saasha, we founded the modern Australian lifestyle brand BEAR. At that time, we offered a range of vitamins and supplements, but we've progressed to super powders and topical skincare as part of a holistic wellness approach, and the philosophies that are kind of anchored to that.

We're really excited to be recognised in the top 5% for Community, which has been a big part of both the brand, but also our audience. I think they've really bought into the concept of how supportive we are to the community, and we've got some really exciting achievements that have been delivered in that space. More importantly, more exciting for us is the investments and commitments that we're going and continuing to make.

B Lab: I want to first talk about your supply chain. Tell us a little bit about how you choose your suppliers, and how you make sure that you have the lasting relationship of many years that you do. Has changed over COVID?

Sam: There are some amazing but very small-scale producers all around the world that are producing ingredients at incredible therapeutic levels. They are incredibly clean, and with local production methods. It was those principles and people that we really wanted to build the brand around to begin with.

One example of that is we source our prickly pear seed oil from a small farm in Northern Africa. Through our relationship with the farm and the supplier, we've become one of their key partners around the world. We've been able to continually invest in both the way they're producing their ingredients, but also the production methods, the technology that they're able to invest in. To see that partnership grow over the last three years is something that we're incredibly proud of.

We're having a direct impact on the people that are working at that farm, the standards that are upheld at that farm, and the family that owns and runs the farm.

Another example is we source a couple of our botanical-based ingredients from basically the top of a mountain in Nepal. The air quality is so pure, the groundwater is so clean on this particular property, that the therapeutic testing that we did on these ingredients was basically two and three times what you could source anywhere else in the world. It was an important piece for us because we're supporting developing countries and developing markets, and building really authentic supply chains and supply stories with them. We're also bringing the absolute best quality ingredients. We really see it as a win-win for both us and them. I think that philosophy in terms of how we are sourcing at all elements of our supply chain has been really pleasing for us.

B Lab: I love the relationships that you've spoken about, because sometimes I wonder why supply chain goes into the Community section but it's really about seeing the supply chain as part of your community. I'd also love to hear a little bit about your other community investments. You're investing in your supply chain right up to the product, but then you're also taking fixed dollar amounts from your product sales and donating them back to the community. Tell us a little bit about what that looks like for you in practice.

Sam: This was actually our most proud achievement because we launched and secured the partnership with WildArk, an Australian conservation organisation, even before we'd launched. Their whole promise and premise is around securing land, and placing that land into a greenbelt architecture, which basically prevents people from developing and degrading it. Basically the plan is to connect as many of these greenbelts around the world as possible so that we can, in the idealised view of this model, have half of the world's green spaces committed to becoming and being held as green spaces.

A green forest of trees in Mongo Valley Wildlife Sanctuary in NSW.
One of WildArk's conservation projects is in Mongo Valley, NSW in Australia. Photo by WildArk

From every product sold, we've donated a fixed dollar amount right from the beginning, which was really important to us. It wasn't about becoming successful, and then thinking about how do we give back and communicate and make donations. It's always been from the very first product that's been sold. We've been able to broaden that partner giving program to include two other organisations which we're also really proud of.

B Lab: As part of the B Impact Assessment, there are quite a few questions about justice, diversity, equity and inclusion. What are some of the things that maybe your customers don't see, but have been happening internally with your team to advance some of those initiatives?

Sam: We actually have complete gender neutrality, which has been really important for us. Within our team internally, we also have no gender pay gap.

B Lab: What would you like to see from all Australian businesses or even just businesses in general as the new norm?

Sam: It really comes back to redefining the term sustainability. If you look up the term sustainability, it's about the ability to do something infinitely at its current rate. Basically nothing on the planet in this day and age is sustainable, by definition and nature. For us, it's about redefining it to: how do we have positive and lasting impact? Which is really aligned and why we share such a deep respect for B Corp and what it means to go through both the process of becoming a Certified B Corporation, but then living those values throughout in operational and business as usual activity. That's what it's about for us.

If every brand could do that and honestly sit back and reflect: are we having the most positive and meaningful impact that we can? And if not, how can we improve and deliver on that in the future?

We're not perfect and no brand will be, but I think we need progress towards perfection.

We need to be always looking to how we evolve and get towards that perfect level. That perfect level should hopefully keep getting higher, and we should all be striving towards that.

Congratulations to BEAR for being recognised as Best for the World in Community. See the rest of the Best for the World 2021 lists here.

Interviews have been edited for clarity and length.



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