For Ahmed Rahim, co-founder of Numi Organic Teas people always come first; for 20 years, the Oakland, California based company has placed social responsibility at the forefront of its business. “Caring for people and the environment has always been central to our identity,” Rahim tells Food Tank, noting he strives to embody that through all of his work at Numi—and beyond.
Rahim grew up in Baghdad, Iraq during intense political strife. He and Reem Rahim, his sister and Numi co-founder, attribute their world view to this upbringing. Even after leaving their home due to conflict, the siblings continued to watch their parents taking friends, family, and refugees into their home. “We were always taught to just take care of one another,” says Rahim, who notes that social responsibility is one of the values on which Numi is predicated. One way Rahim lives his values is through Numi’s commitment to practicing organic farming and environmental stewardship.
According to Rahim, when he founded Numi Organic Teas in 1999, many tea drinkers had not yet latched onto the organic farming and environmental stewardship that has guided the tea company for the past 20 years. “When Numi started out, many of our ideas about real ingredients, sustainable packaging, organic certification, Fair Trade, and Fair Labor were quite radical,” Rahim tells Food Tank. Today, Numi’s global network of over 14,000 farmers practices chemical-free farming and plastic-free packaging.
According to Rahim, Numi Organic Teas is also a leading purchaser of Fair Trade Certified tea. Rahim’s commitment to Fair Trade even led him to develop a Fair Labor Verification standard for countries where Fair Trade is prohibited. To Rahim, the impact of fair trade on communities makes participation in Fair Trade non-negotiable. “Fair trade funds have been used for a range of programs including new roads, cooking stoves, mosquito nets, new schools, and enhanced maternity benefits,” impacting 14,370 in Numi’s farming communities, Rahim tells Food Tank.
Numi also strives to directly benefit its communities through the Numi Foundation, the nonprofit heart of Rahim’s social impact projects. Numi’s community of 4,000 turmeric farmers in Madagascar, for example, “experienced clean, safe drinking water for the first time in their lives,” says Rahim, thanks to Numi Foundation’s Together for H2OPE initiative which helps Numi’s farming communities with clean water access. The Numi Foundation focuses on “nourishing people and communities” primarily through improving water access and educational opportunities.
Numi Organic Teas celebrates 20 years in 2019. The company is expanding its business into two new product lines: Daily Super Shots and Latte Concentrates. As Rahim looks to the future, he notes that no matter what new endeavors Numi pursues, it will remain “focused on overall health and wellness and our purpose will celebrate the voice and power to activate positive change,” Rahim tells Food Tank.
Rahim is also working to ensure others can engender the type of impact he strives for in his own work by advising mission-driven leaders. Through the organization One Step Closer to an Organic Sustainable Community (OSC2), which Rahim co-founded, Rahim “harnesses the power of collaboration” to help shape the natural products industry. “By working together, the natural products industry has greater potential to combat climate change,” says Rahim, who also serves on the advisory boards of several younger mission-driven companies and nonprofit organizations. “[My] core mission is to be in service to those focused on caring for their community and creating positive change for our planet,” Rahim tells Food Tank.
OSC2 capitalizes on the power of collective action. For example, OSC2’s packaging coalition “brings dozens of brands together to co-create the first non-GMO, plant-based packaging material.” There is also the Rising Stars initiative, “which helps young, sustainably-driven entrepreneurs to grow their emerging businesses.”
Ultimately, Rahim hopes that through OSC2, “our groups work together to learn from each other, share resources, and create a larger thriving community.” Creating a larger, thriving community, in Rahim’s view, is the cornerstone of all of his endeavors.