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Entrepreneur Discusses Corporate Commitment to Justice and Good Health

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Name a product that saves Americans billions of unhealthful calories each year, yet has also provided its original investors a 26-fold return in less than two decades. Stumped? 

It’s Honest Tea, currently sold in more than 100,000 stories across the nation. Founded in 1998 by Bethesda, Maryland, resident Seth Goldman (with Barry Nalebuff of the Yale School of Management), Honest Tea is the nation's top selling organic bottled tea.
 
The company’s history, focus and mission was described in detail by Goldman at Columbus School of Law on April 10, when he accepted an invitation to address the faculty at its monthly luncheon.
 
“Every time we sell the product we’re doing something positive for the county,” said Goldman, noting that Honest Tea contains just 40 calories per bottle, far less than any other flavored beverage on the national scene.
 
Goldman said America’s #40 rank in life expectancy worldwide means “that we’re headed in the wrong direction” in our dietary habits, making products like his more critical than ever.
 
The company’s unbroken trajectory of success (a bottle of Honest Tea has been photographed within reach of President Obama as he worked at his desk) is partly a testament to ethical business practices, said Goldman.
 
For instance, the company takes its supplier relationships very seriously, committing long-term not only to buy from individual sugarcane and tea leaf growers, but also to invest in the communities they live in.
 
Honest Tea employs 120 people, and also provides 42 well paid and highly sought-after summer internships to young people. The company is expanding its product line and will soon offer lemonades. It also manufactures lower-sugar drinks, including Honest Kids and Honest Fizz (zero-calorie naturally sweetened soda). All of its beverages are Fair Trade certified products. 

Honest Tea’s way of conducting business made it stand out in 1998 when it began. Today, said Goldman, an increasing number of American consumers expect companies to be run with more than only profit in mind.
 
“We know we have to change the direction of society,” he told faculty members. “The majority of young people—your students—get it.”
 
The father of three, Goldman serves on a number of area advisory boards, including the Maryland Economic Development Commission.