Honest Tea CEO Compromises Less, Increases Sustainable Efforts

Honest Tea

Honest Tea

[Note 5/4/2012:   This article incorrectly stated that Honest Tea was working toward using a PLA (plant-based polylactic acid) alternative for its bottles. It has been updated to reflect that the company is actually pursuing a PET bottle with 30 percent plant-based content.]


Honest Tea, an organic beverage company balances being profitably green without compromising its core ethics.  In my interview with CEO Seth Goldman we explored everything from its origins, to a new recycling program to the problems he has encountered running the company.  As an added bonus, Goldman shares words of wisdom for start-ups.

I highly encourage you to watch the video or listen to the podcast.  Be forewarned, the below Skype video isn’t as clear as I wished it to be; however, Goldman’s engaging conversation overshadows any technical difficulties.


Honest Tea’s Ethos

Just to give a little sip of the Company’s ethics, it strives to “create healthy and honest relationships with its customers, suppliers and the environment” as follows:

  • Its products are made with organic ingredients and their tea leaves are fair trade certified.
  • Products contain less sugar.
  • Supports initiatives with its partners
  • Goldman founded Green Bethesda, a green incubator to help foster and support sustainable businesses.
  • Gave bikes to all employees to encourage health.
  • Decreased packing to create lightweight PET bottles
  • Bottle and pouches are phthalates and BPA free.
  • Corporate headquarters in Bethesda are environmentally friendly and an open design.
  • Partners with Terracycle to give 2 cents to schools for each Honest Kids pouch collected.  Other companies who sell pouch juice drinks have followed suit.

Great Recycling Program Initiative

If the above actions aren’t considered enough, on April 30, 2012, the Company roles out its new Great Recycling Program, a call to action  to encourage increased plastic bottle recycling.   Honest Tea generates approximately 20 million glass bottles and 60 million plastic bottles annually.  The International Bottled Water Association (IBWA) recently reported  approximately 32% of all PET plastic bottles were actually recycled.

A 30 foot blue recycling bin will be stationed in New York City’s Times Square for one day with a goal of collecting 45,000 bottles.  To encourage recycling, the Company will offer reward incentives.  The Company’s goal by 2020 is to recycle every bottle it produces.

Company Frustration

Despite all the Company’s accolades, Goldman’s biggest frustration is people don’t see the value of organic products.  Goldman explain sthat  studies have shown that people think “natural” ingredients are more meaningful than organic. In order to change consumer perception, Goldman feels that the organic industry needs to better educate people about the value of organics.

Wish List for the Company

If I could change two facets of the Company, it would be to reduce their use of plastic bottles and single serve juice containers. Studies have shown plastic bottles leach.  In addition, plastic products are made of petroleum products, which is not a renewable source.  Worse yet, single use products are a complete waste, literally.   Goldman argues from a packaging standpoint the pouches have less of a footprint than a glass bottle.  Alternatively, parents could buy the Company’s larger bottles and just use a reusable bottle.  Remember, the first rule of  the three “Rs” is reduce not recycle.

As for the arguments against using plastic, Goldman responds that the Company is pursing the use of parent company, Coca Cola’s 30% plant based PET bottle with the goal of using a 100% plant based bottle.

I remain skeptical about the environmental advantages of switching from the original PET bottle to a 30-percent-plant-based bottle until further study.   However, one thing I learned about Goldman, as his company grows, he compromises less.  I believe he will create a viable solution.  If not, rest assured he will be honest.

Join the Conversation:

  • If you run a green company, what frustrations have you encountered?
  • What have you learned from Honest Tea that you can use in your business?
  • Are you more apt to buy Honest Tea products given what you learned here?
  • Is my wish list achievable or am I simply being too unrealistic.

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  1. 1


    I’m glad you addressed the packaging of the HonestKids drinks. When I began reading this I had every intention of making it known that I am not a fan of plastic pouches, but I see you have already pointed out the hazards! I am encouraged by the green initiatives Honest Tea seems to be making and I’ll admit that Honest Tea was a brand I turned to in my early days as an organic fanatic. I turned away from Honest Tea when I learned they were a subsidiary of Pepsi Co., but this information makes me feel better about the company as a whole.
    Gretchen@HealthfulMama´s last blog post ..Kashi & The Truth About GMOs

    • 2



      Aren’t the pouches plastic or lined with plastic? He mentioned they were foil. I called him out on this. His base is moms. Surprisingly, I think moms might think about convenience first and not realize the health hazards. I did bring it to his attention. Anna

  2. 3


    I thought Honest Tea was Coca-Cola?

    I fully believe in celebrating a company’s sustainable successes. It doesn’t give them a pass for other issues, but it does seem like Honest Tea is trying – which is more than I can say for all too many other brands.

    I would be interested to see some data to back up Goldman’s assertion that pouches have less impact than glass bottles. I can’t really figure out how plastic of any kind is better than glass.

    I don’t buy many of these kinds of drinks, but have, and would, buy the pouches on occasion when there weren’t other good options. It is nice to know that a subsidiary can try harder than the parent company.
    Brenna @ Almost All The Truth´s last blog post ..My Birthday Boys


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