As a beverage company, the production of our raw materials and ingredients has the biggest impact on land, biodiversity, and soil health. Our long-time sourcing standards and ingredient certifications such as organic and fair trade, and newer ones such as Regenerative Organic Certified®, help protect these critical aspects of the environment through agricultural production practices that exist in harmony with nature. Organic and shade-grown yerba mate systems not only support more sustainable and regenerative ways of life for local families, but support healthy ecosystems, serve as ecological corridors, and contribute to regional water and air quality. Beyond our ingredient sourcing standards, we also support additional conservation and regeneration projects with the communities in the places we operate.
Tree Species Observed
Rare & Endangered Tree Species
In 2022, Guayakí developed an internal standard for shade-grown yerba mate systems to codify the practices our producers have employed for many years. The ultimate goals are to achieve third-party verification of the standard and sharing it with the broader mate industry to help transition producers from sun-grown to shade-grown mate. In the standard, we describe several shade-grown mate production systems – including wild harvest, managed forest, and cultivated systems, as well as sub-categories within each one – and evaluate the ecological and social indicators within each system that support more regenerative yerba mate production. These shade-grown systems enhance soil health and fertility, mitigate soil erosion, increase soil organic matter and carbon sequestration, conserve water and local biodiversity, and overall improve resiliency of the environment for production.
Guayakí’s South America team regularly engages in conversations and forums with international and local government agencies and producers, supporting the case for shade-grown yerba mate as a pathway for the protection and regeneration of Atlantic Forest remnants and strengthening local communities in the region. For example, Guayakí Brazil is a partner institution behind a proposal in support of worldwide recognition of shade-grown yerba mate systems within the Atlantic Forest submitted to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) under its Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS) Programme, a critical step toward ensuring ecological biodiversity and land preservation in the region.
After a successful pilot program in 2019, the yerba mate harvest in Argentina – from the harvested green leaf to the milled ingredient – was Regenerative Organic Certified® and in 2022 we received that first ever Regenerative Organic Certified® yerba mate for use in Guayakí products. We are proud to announce that Guayakí Latin America, S.A. in Argentina recently achieved Regenerative Organic Certified® Gold, the highest level of Regenerative Organic Certified® certification, being the first South American company to attain this highest qualification.
Expanding our commitment to regenerative practices in our yerba mate supply chain, Guayakí operations in Brazil are working alongside producers towards attaining Regenerative Organic Certified® certification in 2023. This builds on the almost 2,000 tons of green leaf yerba mate harvested from organic and shade-grown systems in Brazil, supporting producers and communities to protect these productive ecosystems which hold an average of 10 different native tree species, including rare and endangered species in the region.
As part of our Market Driven Regeneration business model, we aim to work with supply chain partners and others to adopt more regenerative business practices, particularly when it comes to agriculture and raw material production. In 2021, our sugar supplier became the first company in the world to produce cane sugar certified by the Regenerative Organic Alliance. Guayakí began receiving and using Regenerative Organic Certified® cane sugar in our products in 2022. This builds on the success of The Green Cane Project we first wrote about in 2019, an innovative model for sustainable cane sugar production and processing that has been in place for over 35 years. We are proud to work with suppliers who share our values and to help create supply and demand for regenerative certified ingredients.
In Brazil, Guayakí is providing live laboratories and models for transitioning from degraded or monocrop lands into productive agroforestry ecosystems. Based on local agrobiodiversity, we are piloting 400 yerba mate and 50 native trees in Turvo as well as 2,400 yerba mate, 450 native trees, and 200 fruit trees within Marrecas Indigenous Territory. Native tree species were selected by their ecological function (e.g. fast-growing, nitrogen-fixers) and to provide shade and forest structure to yerba mate seedlings. These pilot agroforestry systems have been visited by university students, local researchers, environmental officials, and the general community, and have the potential to scale through such partnerships.
In partnership with local yerba mate producers and communities, our team has led the implementation of over 1,000 meters of biodiversity curtains (vegetation buffer zones) within yerba mate plots. In total, we planted 920 native trees from over 30 different species and tall grasses – many of which were supplied by the Indigenous Marrecas native tree nurseries. These vegetation buffer zones help create suitable environments for organic yerba mate, increase biodiversity, and connect local ecological corridors within producer lands.
Most of the native tree seedlings planted in mate producer areas and/or in the agroforestry pilots and biodiversity curtains in 2022 mentioned above came from a strong partnership with Sociedade Chauá (a winner of the Whitley Awards Fellows), who carry the most biodiverse plant nursery of southern Atlantic Forest, including rare and endangered species. Working directly with community nurseries, our local regenerative production team and Marrecas Indigenous leaders received technical training in the areas of biological conservation and ecological restoration, seed collection and identification, seed processing, and seedling production for local nurseries.
For the first time in 10 years, a new yerba mate producer has been incorporated to Guayakí’s supply chain in Argentina. This producer is aligned to Guayakí’s values and strategy and has been certified under both organic and Fair for Life fair trade standards. In addition, a new group of regenerative producers has been created to be incorporated into next year’s harvest, allowing the company to have a greater impact in both the environment and communities that form part of the Atlantic Forest.
We continued to work with the Fundación Moises Bertoni for a second year, implementing regenerative projects in the Mbaracayú Reserve in Paraguay. These projects are implemented with the Centro Educativo Mbaracayú located within the Reserve which hosts 120 girls each year and provides them with an education in agriculture and hospitality. After the students complete their four-year education, they return to their communities with knowledge and experience around the importance of protecting the Reserve and lead preservation and regeneration efforts in their communities. In 2022 we continued to implement a mandala garden that provides food for the school and a tree nursery that produces 35,000 yerba mate plants per year. Through these projects, we are helping to protect 64,000 hectares of the Reserve, one of the largest remnants of the Atlantic Forest in Paraguay.