The Purpose Pivot: Talking Sustainability and Business with Taylor Clayton from Traditional Medicinals
Situated at SOMO Village, you’ll find the headquarters of botanical wellness company Traditional Medicinals.
In a world where consumers and organizations alike are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of sustainability and social responsibility, Traditional Medicinals has been leading the charge, making an impact both locally in Sonoma County and abroad.
But these values aren’t simply a box the company strives to check. They are inherently engrained in its culture, its operations, and its ability to remain in business.
To learn more, we spoke with Taylor Clayton, Sustainability Impact Manager at Traditional Medicinals, to learn more about the company and his role, the company’s sustainability and social responsibility initiatives, and why SOMO Village was the right place for its head office.
SOMO Village: Can you tell us a bit about Traditional Medicinals and your role there?
Taylor Clayton: Traditional Medicinals was founded in 1974, so we’ll be celebrating our 50th birthday next year.
The company was founded by Drake Sadler, who’s still active in the company on our Board of Directors, and Rosemary Gladstar, who pioneered Western herbalism in the United States and still influences the company.
We’re a botanical wellness company that focuses primarily on teas. We’ve expanded to other product lines, too, such as lozenges and capsules. Our 60+ teas are made from over 80 herbs from 40 different countries around the world and we currently sell our products in the US, Canadian, and Mexican markets.
Our 75,000-square-foot production facility is located in Sebastopol, and our office headquarters are in SOMO Village.
Traditional Medicinals has been a long-time leader in the sustainability space and we also have a strong emphasis on social impact.
We’ve been involved in a project in India, for example, that helps drill water wells for women so they can go to school instead of walking for water. Our Social Impact Manager handles a variety of other community-based social investment projects in the countries we source from.
As for me, I’m focused more on the sustainability side of things. I’m looking at our overall climate strategy—things like carbon, biodiversity, and water impacts both here and internationally.
What are some of the key sustainability projects Traditional Medicinals is working on right now?
A big project to date was launching Traditional Medicinals’ compostable tea wraps, which will help us divert roughly 350,000 pounds of plastic from landfills per year, once fully transitioned.
On the carbon side, we measure carbon emissions everywhere along the supply chain from herb source communities at the farm level to our production facilities. We also measure the downstream carbon emissions associated with our products, like when customers boil water for our teas.
We calculate this and set ambitious goals and targets so we can work to bring down carbon emissions.
In addition to this work, we’re also focused on biodiversity.
About 40% of our ingredients, by weight, come from wild environments. These are not farms—we collect from wild environments. We rely on certifications like the FairWild Certification to ensure the sustainable harvesting of those herbs is not negatively impacting these wild environments.
Beyond that, we’re hoping to support existing and create new livelihoods in wild environments.
Many young people are leaving rural communities for the city because there are not as many opportunities to make income. But by supporting standards and purchasing from wild environments, we’re seeing that younger generations decide to stay in these rural communities and preserve traditional knowledge.
Another area of focus is water use, both in our production facility and how farmers are managing the watering of the herbs, whether it’s rain-fed water, groundwater, or river water.
Finally, here at home, we’re focused on operational sustainability. We’re concerned with big questions like where our energy is coming from and how much energy our solar panels are producing.
We’re a Certified California Green Business in our production facility, so we follow stringent standards for things like production materials, compostable options, LED light fixtures, low-flow faucets, and so much more.
How does a focus on sustainability impact your business and company culture?
I believe sustainability is very compelling at the business operation level. Our herbal ingredients are not large-scale production ingredients like corn or soy. Instead, these are niche herbs, oftentimes grown on a much smaller scale.
Take the Schisandra berry, for example. It grows in sensitive environments where pandas are present, so from 2007-2011, we helped pioneer the panda-friendly certification to ensure sustainable harvesting in that region. This not only protects an endangered species, but also supports our continued access to this ingredient.
Many of our other products are directly threatened by climate change. Traditional Medicinals’ source communities will be on the frontline of the impacts of climate change. As such, we’re well positioned to be part of the solution and mitigate climate change to protect the botanical supply chain.
But the impact of sustainability isn’t just for far-away places—it’s also important at home in our company. We’ve seen how a focus on sustainability positively impacts our company culture and attracts like-minded people to this work.
Sustainability is not just part of our broad company goals but is also embedded into each employee’s goals. We also produce an annual impact report where we track and externally share a variety of metrics.
This helps employees know what we’re all about when they check our company out. We’ve even heard many of them quote from the report or refer to it in their interviews. They feel reassured that our company is aligned with their own vision and goals and that we really walk the talk.
We’ve had new hires come from other purpose-driven companies and others who are looking to make a shift out of an entirely different industry, like the tech sector.
A lot of the time, they want to make a pivot—I like to call it a purpose pivot. Employees want to work for a company that matches their own values.
So, our sustainability focus is so important for building a cohesive company culture and maintaining operational needs.
What drew Traditional Medicinals to SOMO Village?
Traditional Medicinals decided to move our headquarters to SOMO Village because we’re aligned on the sustainability front.
SOMO Village has the One Planet Communities certification which was initially what attracted us here.
One of the first things we looked at was energy because, in order to stay compliant with our emissions goal, we needed to draw only renewable energy. SOMO Village procures only Sonoma Clean Power, along with one of the largest roof-top solar arrays North of San Francisco.
Something else that was really appealing was their EV charging stations. Traditional Medicinals covers vehicle charging costs for our employees, and we’ve seen that this has encouraged employees to switch to electric vehicles.
SOMO Village also has sustainable building features like low-flow faucets, LED lights, and many design choices that align with our sustainable goals.
They also have beautiful landscaping, like the redwood trees and walking paths that are appealing to our team.
Finally, the future goals of SOMO Village, like the on-site Headwaters Farm are also something we can get behind. So, there were a lot of things that aligned with our own sustainability goals and initiatives.
Some of our team members work remotely, but the majority are on a hybrid schedule and regularly come into the office at SOMO Village from other parts of Sonoma County.
If you want to learn more about Traditional Medicinals—their products and impact—visit them online. If you want to connect with Taylor personally to learn more about Traditional Medicinals’ sustainability initiatives, reach him by phone at 562-665-0848 or email at email@example.com.
About Taylor Clayton
Taylor Clayton is the Sustainability Impact Manager at botanical wellness company, Traditional Medicinals. During his two and a half years at Traditional Medicinals, he led a compostable packaging transition and the company’s Science-based Target setting, driving towards impact goals and implementing new sustainability practices. He’s passionate about regenerative models of production and consumption, project-based and data-driven measurement methods, and is dedicated to building transparency, collaboration, and trust across the industry.
Taylor is a certified Project Management Professional (PMP) and holds a Masters of Environment (MENV) degree in Sustainable Food Systems from the University of Colorado, Boulder.
Learn More About SOMO Village
If you’re interested in living in a sustainable community that fuses the best of city living with the country lifestyle and all the amazing things that Sonoma County has to offer, we invited you to visit SOMO Village. To learn more, download our residential project brief or get in touch with us today.