How Regenerative Agriculture Can Change the World: Guayakí’s Search for a Director of Impact and Regeneration

22 March 2023 by Jenny Han Simon
blog author

Studies estimate regenerative agriculture could sequester several gigatons of carbon annually. This could be a vital piece of the puzzle in the journey toward carbon neutrality.

Despite its long history, the potential of regenerative agriculture has recently been touted by researchers, large corporations, and those in government and non-profits as the key to sustainable food production. By producing healthier soil and sequestering atmospheric carbon, Regenerative Agriculture has the potential to both reverse the damage of climate change and replenish the earth, in addition to the economic and social benefits that arise for farmers and farming communities.

Guayakí Yerba Mate (Guayakí) is considered a leader in regenerative agricultural practices within the Food and Beverage industry. 26 years strong and a founder member of the B Corporation (a B-Corp business is purpose-driven and meets social, sustainability and environmental performance), Guayakí’s reputation speaks for itself. When Acre partnered with Guayakí to search for its next Director of Impact and Regeneration, we were determined to find somebody to continue the incredible impact this company has created.

What Does a Director of Impact & Regeneration Do?

Guayakí began working with Acre in the summer of 2022, looking for its next Director of Impact and Regeneration. Yerba Mate is a caffeinated herbal beverage consumed traditionally in South America, where mate is still sourced. In operations like this, there are many issues that can jeopardize sustainability: environmental degradation, human rights violation and exploitation, labor inequality, and issues over indigenous land rights and usage.

While the term “regenerative agriculture” is seemingly a buzzword conveying society’s growing interest in sustainable agricultural systems, many of the agricultural practices and methodologies such as intercropping, permaculture and agroforestry were first used by Native Americans and indigenous peoples. Guayakí strives to promote reverence and awareness of this for its customers.

One of Guayakí’s main ambitions is to continue its Market Driven Regeneration—a model developed at the company’s inception. By working with small farmers and indigenous communities to source mate, they continue to empower economic prosperity and a strong farming and mate culture for future generations. This includes providing a living wage for farmers and educational opportunities for their families, as well as providing tools and training on topics such as crop rotation and soil nutrition. In 2021, Guayakí was able to donate $146,500 to the foundations supporting these communities.

Impact to Guayakí is not merely mitigating problems but driving innovation and ensuring continuous improvement whilst tackling issues head-on. Guayakí required a driven and conscientious professional with a working knowledge of both environmental and social problems, as well as solutions, to help devise a long-term strategy. Reporting into Navine Karim—Guayakí's Head of Impact and General Counsel—and working cross-functionally with manufacturing, supply chain, and communications, the Director would focus on increasing operations efficiency to reduce emissions while growing Guayakí’s partnerships and social impact capabilities.

Acre’s Expertise in Finding Sustainability Professionals

With almost 20 years of experience in finding top-notch sustainability professionals across industries, Acre boasts both the knowledge and the network to advise on and find the right fit for any role. Similar roles we have worked on in the past year include Director of Responsible Sourcing for the Children’s Place, Head of Sustainability for Chewy, and VP of Sustainability for Fresh.

Tasked with filling the role were US Director of Sustainable Business, Catherine Harris, and Research Consultant, Jenny Han Simon from Acre’s New York office. The initial components of the search for Guayakí’s Director of Impact and Regeneration included extensive research into Guayakí’s operations and industry, the emerging importance of regenerative agriculture, and mapping out qualified candidates suitable for the role. This yielded more than 70 candidates, whom Catherine and Jenny carefully vetted and shared Guayakí’s story and ambition with. Weekly calls between Navine, Catherine, and Jenny were conducted to update on progress and recalibrate strategy and search, enabling a handful of candidates to move through Guayakí’s internal interview process with support from Acre’s New York office. The initial components of the search for Guayakí’s Director of Impact and Regeneration included extensive research into Guayakí’s operations and industry, the emerging importance of regenerative agriculture, and mapping out qualified, suitable candidates.

“I had the pleasure of working with Catherine on a very important placement for the Impact & Regeneration team at Guayakí Yerba Mate, S.P.C. in California. Catherine was strongly recommended from one of our board of directors and I immediately knew that she would be the right person to help me find the perfect candidate to help lead our impact and sustainability team. Catherine exhibited all of the critical attributes of a great partner- she was professional, empathetic and knowledgeable; however, the most valuable skill she possessed, which I leaned on heavily during the recruitment process, was her amazing judgment and savvy to both understand our organization’s needs and connect our needs with the right individuals. She always put my organization’s interests first and I very much appreciated her singular focus to ensure that I was able to find the right candidate to help me to continue building upon Guayakí's long history as a leader in sustainability and regenerative business practices.” - Navine Karim

Acre’s involvement does not stop at the interview stage. We realize each search is unique and often requires some special touches. For Guayakí, specifically, both parties decided to monitor Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) metrics within the applicant pool and among shortlisted candidates. The data from our findings are used for added perspective into the Sustainability industry as it continues to grow. It raises questions such as:

“Who is most likely drawn to apply for this and similar roles?”
“What sort of experience do most candidates have and what are their backgrounds like?”
“What challenges do we see in increasing EDI and how can we overcome them?”

Acre and Guayakí are wholly committed to EDI within their own organizations and throughout the Sustainability industry. We know a resume, cover letter, and even interviews do not always reveal a complete portrait of a candidate’s soft-skills to influence stakeholders and successfully deliver a comprehensive sustainability strategy.

Acre’s Advisory service utilizes in-house behavioral assessment methods and metrics to create a more holistic view of a candidate's leadership ability, preferred working styles, and areas of strength and development. Our finalists had the opportunity to take the Acre behavioral assessment and have a 1-1 session with an Advisory team member to go over the results and add their own perspective, painting a wonderfully nuanced picture of their background and how it has shaped their skills and ambitions. The results also gave Navine objective insight into the strengths of each candidate and the ability to better accommodate their transition into Guayakí.

Meet Guayakí’s New Director of Impact and Regeneration—Jessica Rosen

From the first interaction with Jessica, Catherine and Jenny knew she was a standout candidate and a strong contender for the role. We are ecstatic that Jessica will be joining Guayakí, and we are so excited to see all that she, Navine, and the rest of the team will accomplish.

“I don't take this responsibility lightly and am so honored to be entrusted with it by my peers, Navine Karim and the leadership team, board, and founders of this special company. Massive thanks to Catherine Harris and Jenny Han Simon for the most thorough and positive recruitment process I've ever experienced, and to all my mentors and past teams for their support.” - Jessica Rosen

Looking Forward

Food production currently accounts for about a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions, while agriculture is associated with almost a third of global land use. Imagine the possibilities if more companies invested in regenerative agriculture practices and the right talent to drive it forward.

We look forward to working with more companies devoted to sustainability like Guayakí, as well as candidates like Jessica, who inspire us all to create a more sustainable future. Please reach out to Catherine, Jenny, or email to partner with Acre. ​