EcoEdition Vol 13: Diversity, Value and Inclusion in the Hemp Industry
I didn’t realize when I accepted my position at EcoGen BioSciences almost two years ago, just what I was getting into. However, today I am part of a unique company that is growing at a tremendous rate. One that is on track to be the Proctor & Gamble of hemp and cannabinoid-derived products. With this incredible growth, though, we have a responsibility that most companies tend to push to the side – and this is to put an emphasis on diversity in hemp.
It is our responsibility to ensure culture and diversity are always a factor in our decisions, first as humans, but also as leaders in this space. Fortunately, the success EcoGen holds provides us with the unique opportunity to discuss the topics of inclusion and diversity – something I am passionate about.
So passionate that I was invited to speak on the Diversity in Hemp panel at the 2021 Black CannaConference. Here is what I shared.
Passion Becoming a Reality
I know diversity is a generic term. It’s overused. But I’ve talked about diversity my whole life. However, I don’t think it relates necessarily only to race, heritage, religion, or sexual orientation.
I believe in the diversity of thought and the diversity of a mindset. When you’re working in a company or space that is overwhelmingly not people of color, changing perspective and changing how people think about us is what we do every day.
Being diverse is more about your perspective, more about how you think in a situation. It is of course, about the color of your skin, and we Black people have been through our challenges, but, that’s going to continue. We can fight to change it as much as we can, but sometimes it is the little actions that matter the most.
Why Is the CBD Industry not as Diverse as THC?
I believe in diversity of thought and diversity of mindset. Unfortunately, in its current state, the CBD and hemp industry is not as progressively oriented as the marijuana community is. That’s not the focus. But why is this?
First and foremost, it has to do with the audience and the retail distribution. The customers of CBD are different than that of THC products. Another important factor to consider is that in the marijuana space, many states mandate there be a social equity aspect. This means diversity is almost forced into the equation while it doesn’t have to legally be a thought on the mind in CBD.
When I speak about diversity, I tend to say it soft. Every big company is talking about diversity right now and what they’re doing to build a more diverse workspace. However, while diversity is being invited to the party, inclusion is being asked to dance.
You can be diverse. You can have Black people in the room or Asian people, Hispanic people, or whomever, but not truly include them in the heart of what you’re doing. However, inclusion is different.
Companies need to ask themselves whether or not they can truly create a community of diversity and inclusion.
The truth is, I don’t think so. We’re in business, so we need to think of it as creating value.
It is essential to create value for yourself because the most important thing starts with you. Create value and be valuable. Then people will have to take notice. But, how is value created? My favorite quote by Gandhi explains, “you must be the change you wish to see in the world.”
Making a Difference
It is important to lead by action. I’m Native American and with EcoGen I am doing a program among Native cultures to donate hemp seeds. Currently, we are working with the Chippewa Tribe of North Dakota. We’re helping them to create a sustainable CBD and agriculture program within their tribe. Along with these seeds, we’re also helping them build a brand called Chippewa By Design CBD.
In the end, if you take anything from this blog, it should be to act on change every day. This means working harder, being better, being smarter, staying longer. Unfortunately, sometimes that means doing it with a smile on your face when you don’t want to smile. However, it is vital.
If you ever have any questions about diversity and inclusion in the hemp industry or know of an organization that would benefit from the help of EcoGen, please reach out to me.