Organic vs regenerative: A classic case of ‘frenemies’ pushing each other to do better?

While the organic industry wants to protect consumers and its market share against greenwashing, some stakeholders wonder if a “yes, and” approach, rather than an all-or-nothing approach, would more effectively counter-climate change by encouraging farmers and consumers to take smaller, but potentially more accessible, steps towards sustainability.

At the Organic Trade Association’s annual conference in Washington last week, members debated the value and impact of eco-claims beyond organic to promote holistic change to agriculture systems and if or how organic should respond to simultaneously reinforce shared values without compromising its competitive edge.  

“Eco labels … are everywhere. There are the old ones, like Organic and Fairtrade and Rainforest Alliance, all the way around to regenerative, net zero, carbon neutral, and [claims about] plastics, fish and wildlife. Every week, every month there is a new label or new claim coming out,” Paul Schiefer, president of Amy’s Kitchen, told attendees at OTA’s conference.

He joked that when these claims and certifications are grouped together on packages they cause some foods to look like cars racing in NASCAR.

He added that while many claims and environmental certifications may be redundant or make packaging appear cluttered, “they are here for a reason. They are speaking to consumer demands. They are speaking to environmental and social impacts that brands wish to make, and they are the kind of choices that people make when selecting brands and products.”