Lindsay Dahl: Chief Impact Officer, Ritual

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Victoria Malloy

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I'm a writer, photographer and environmental advocate with an earth-first perspective on life. This is a place to be inspired to live more consciously, and put the planet at the heart of all that you do.

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In this Earth-First Conversations series, I sit down with changemakers who are blazing trails, empowering lasting change, and building brands with an earth-first vision. Today, I am joined by Lindsay Dahl, Chief Impact Officer of Ritual, a brand that is disrupting the dietary supplement industry by committing to making it more transparent. She and I talk traceable ingredient sourcing, sustainability goals, and the hard questions consumers should be asking of the brands they buy from.

Q

Tell me about Ritual’s vision. As a brand, what were you observing in the wellness industry that made you want to do things differently/better? 

A

The ultimate vision for Ritual is to become the most trusted brand for everyday health, and we’re doing that through traceability. Seven years ago, when Ritual was getting started, the industry was in clear need for disruption. Products on the market lacked scientific rigor, overstated claims, had poor sourcing practices and used questionable ingredients. Our vision has been to use the most credible science to build our formulas, honest marketing and publicly share our suppliers with consumers. 

Fast forward to today, now we’re a newly Certified B Corporation and one of the leaders in the industry known for our commitment to transparency. We have hundreds of thousands of monthly subscribers that trust us to support their foundational health, and our prenatal is one of the leading online prenatal multivitamins. As our business grows, we are leveraging our power to set an example for the rest of the industry: we have launched an authentic advocacy program and set three impact goals around ingredients, packaging and climate change. 


“I’ve been a longtime advocate of consumers asking hard questions of the brands they purchase from.”

-Lindsay Dahl, Chief Impact Officer, Ritual


Q

What are you observing about the new breed of conscious consumer in how they engage with brands and demand more from them? Why do you think it’s important for consumers to be asking themselves questions like Who made this? Where is it made? Do their values align with my own? What happens to this product after I’m done with it?

A

I’ve been a longtime advocate of consumers asking hard questions of the brands they purchase from. Some of the questions I like to ask my favorite brands are things like: how do you screen your ingredients for safety and human rights risks? What sort of science are you using to make your formulas? How do you think about sustainable packaging and transitioning to a more circular economy? Do you have a public commitment to address climate change? Have you invested in senior leadership positions with deep expertise? 

Never underestimate the power of sending a note to customer service teams (always be respectful of course, it’s important to know this work is complicated and takes time!). 


“Transparency is no longer a “nice to have” for brands, it’s the foundation of all consumer trust in the wellness category.”


Q

How essential is transparency for brands right now, as they attempt to engage with this new breed of conscious consumer and gain market share?

A

Transparency is no longer a “nice to have” for brands, it’s the foundation of all consumer trust in the wellness category. We take that seriously and have taken large steps to show consumers proof of our transparency, which we call our Made Traceable™ promise. Through traceable science and traceable sourcing, we are working to let consumers see for themselves who our suppliers are, where the ingredients are made, and the science behind our products. We take things a step farther by seeking the most prestigious certifications to let consumers know that someone else is validating our testing, quality, sourcing and purity. Market research shows that our target audience values transparency, quality and clean above all else. 

Q

How does Ritual ensure the quality and purity of their products? What type of testing is done to check for trace contaminants like heavy metals, microbes and other banned substances?

A

We take three important steps to address quality and purity issues common in our category: we test, we screen, and we certify. 

On the testing front, Ritual partners with a number of world-class third-party testing organizations, such as Eurofins and IEH Laboratories, to ensure every lot of our products meets our high standards. This means every lot is rigorously tested for identity, purity, and composition, so we can be sure what’s on the label is what’s in the final product. We also conduct third-party testing for heavy metals, elemental impurities, major allergens, microbes and other key parameters. 

Our team of scientists screens the ingredients, and they are even being mindful about cleaner versions of processing aids used in the manufacturing process. We invest heavily in leading third-party certifications like USP (a leading third-party certification for product transparency that is held by less than 1% of companies), Non-GMO Project Verified, Informed Protein and Informed Sport (screens for over 250 banned substances), and have even published peer-reviewed clinical studies. 


“Traceability has been a core part of our DNA since day one and is intimately linked to sustainability.”


Q

Tell me about Ritual’s ‘Made Traceable’ standards. How important is ingredient traceability when it comes to sustainability? 

A

Traceability has been a core part of our DNA since day one and is intimately linked to sustainability. Made Traceable is our commitment to openly sharing the science and sourcing behind our products, including the impact they have on the planet. 

This means we publicly share the source, supplier, and final location of manufacturing for our labeled ingredients with our customers (and competitors). It also means we’ve raised the bar on what it means to have a “science-backed” product through our development, testing, claims and clinical studies.

We have established an industry-leading sustainability program built on credible science and the UN Sustainable Development Goals. The brand’s early commitment to traceability allows us to thoughtfully select ingredient and packaging suppliers that produce high-quality and sustainably sourced ingredients. For example, we use a high-quality, plant-based pea protein that is derived from organic, non-GMO peas grown in the USA using regenerative farming practices. We hand selected our supplier PURIS because they started their journey to develop safer, more sustainable food from plants in 1985 and emphasizes the importance of supporting family farms. 


“We spend years scouring the world to find leading ingredient suppliers that meet our incredibly high standards for quality, manufacturing and environmental impact.”


Q

Tell me more about Ritual’s approach to sourcing ingredient suppliers? For example, how did you determine that your supplier in Saskatoon was the best place to source your Omega-3 DHA? 

A

We like to think of our method of sourcing ingredients similarly to how a Michelin star chef thoughtfully curates each dish on their menu. We spend years scouring the world to find leading ingredient suppliers that meet our incredibly high standards for quality, manufacturing and environmental impact. 

Take our vegan Omega-3 supplier, Algarithm. With overfishing on the rise it was important to source a vegan, sustainable Omega-3. This is why we selected a carefully cultivated Omega-3 DHA that is grown sustainably from a wild-caught strain of algae from the Bay of Fundy and manufactured in Saskatoon. Essentially, we cut out the “middleman” aka the fish and use the original source of Omega-3, the algae. Last year alone, we saved over 1.4 billion fish from being harvested by using a high-quality vegan form. In addition, our supplier runs an employee-owned plant, which was their way of helping to redistribute and build wealth in their community. 


“We have personal relationships with the suppliers we work with, we know their history of honesty, integrity and fulfillment and visit many in-person throughout the year to ensure they are being manufactured in accordance with the FDA’s Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs).”


 

Q

How do you ensure that your ingredient suppliers do in fact have the credentials they say they do? Is it through certifications and documentation? Visiting them first-hand?

A

This is an ongoing and complicated task given the complexities of supply chains, but we’re here to do the work while never claiming to be perfect. Many supplement companies actually do not know their ingredient supplier names or final place of manufacturing, which makes ensuring the quality that much more difficult. For us, it’s an important starting point.

We have personal relationships with the suppliers we work with, we know their history of honesty, integrity and fulfillment and visit many in-person throughout the year to ensure they are being manufactured in accordance with the FDA’s Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs). We also use third party labs to help us ensure the quality and safety of our products. We conduct audits including manufacture visits, diligence screening for human rights issues for high-risk ingredients, and our team of experts interview suppliers to validate their sustainability claims. 

Q

We know that true sustainability is about more than climate change, it’s about people. Tell me about some of Ritual’s social mission initiatives and commitments to the development and wellbeing of people and communities. 

A

Our community is at the heart of everything we do and why we were so excited to be one of the few brands in the supplement industry to officially become a Certified B Corporation. It’s an external proof point validating our commitment to not only think about our company’s financial health, but also the health of people and our planet. 

We see sustainability as intimately linked to people including our work to provide science backed health products to the market, clean vegan formulas, and pushing for transparency in hard to navigate supply chains. While it’s incredibly complex, Ritual is pushing for more visibility into our supply chain, beyond the final place of manufacturing to help us understand how people are treated along the value chain.


“We put a bold stake in the ground to have Net Zero emissions by 2030.”


Q

No brand is perfect on this sustainability journey, and it’s about progress over perfection. What are some of Ritual’s future goals from a sustainability perspective?

A

We’ve come a long way as a brand but are committed to doing better. We’ve established a sustainability program and are very proud of our three new industry-defining sustainability goals. We have committed to 100% sustainable packaging (either recycled, refillable or recyclable) by 2025, we are close to hitting our goal to have 100% of our formulated ingredients and processing aids Made Traceable, and we put a bold stake in the ground to have Net Zero emissions by 2030. We know these goals are ambitious, but we’re committed to doing the hard work. 

Q

Tell me about your product packaging and its recyclability. Is the Protein pouch recyclable?

A

We use scientific tools—like Life Cycle Assessments (LCAs) to help drive truly sustainable decisions around ingredients and packaging. Right now, we’re proud to say that 71% of our packaging uses post-consumer recycled materials. This means we are giving plastic and paper a second life, rather than sending it straight to the landfill. 

When it comes to our multivitamins, our bottles are made from 100% post-consumer recycled plastic bottles (highly recyclable and less carbon intensive than glass) and our monthly mailers are made exclusively from recycled newsprint and plant fibers. Even the ink on our mailer is plant-based. 

We currently have two packaging formats that are not recyclable and are about to launch a takeback program with the Pact Collective at our retail location. While the pouch of our protein powder is not recyclable, we’re proud of the rationale behind choosing this packaging. We conducted a Life Cycle Assessments to understand the most sustainable material, and the protein bag that we chose uses 89% less carbon than traditional post-consumer recycled tubs on the market. Our Synbiotic+ gut health product is a uniquely designed moisture-controlled bottle that helps protect the biotic strains (so you know they are alive and well throughout the shelf life of the product, not always the case with other packaging formats). The moisture control design makes the bottle unrecyclable at curbside, but we are happy to know that our takeback program will make sure they are properly recycled.


“I’ve been working in this field for over 20 years, and I know that perfection doesn’t exist, but we work really hard to live a sustainable lifestyle without driving ourselves crazy.”


Q


In what ways do you adopt a more sustainable lifestyle at home in your day-to-day routine, with your family, etc.?

A

I’ve been working in this field for over 20 years, and I know that perfection doesn’t exist, but we work really hard to live a sustainable lifestyle without driving ourselves crazy. We use only clean and non-toxic products in our home, including furniture. I have been a longtime fan of buying secondhand clothes, we heavily rely on hand-me-down clothes, books and toys for our children and we are mindful of our carbon footprint through limited driving, flights and meat consumption. Finally, living in Southern California we think daily about the drought and use limited water (hello crunchy lawn) and opt for oat milk instead of almond milk. 


All photos courtesy of Ritual

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