• Sheryl O'Loughlin

What JEDI Means to Me | for WOB Project

I co-founded the JEDI (justice, equity, diversity and inclusion) Collaborative and the Women on Boards Project because I hope that, someday — once underrepresented and marginalized groups are seen, heard and included — such projects can be rendered obsolete. Only then can companies expect to truly thrive in the future and serve the needs of our ever-diversifying consumer base. Females are the majority in the United States; in time, people of color will be a majority, too. If you think about meeting consumers’ basic needs, this JEDI work should be a given — it’s so important to all of us. (It’s actually kind of ridiculous that embracing it is even a question.) We need more people in power to uplift and amplify the voices and ideas of those who have been “the others” or “the outsiders.” Those of us with privilege are obligated to use it to bring more seats to the table.

I recognize my own points of privilege. But, quite often, I know mine is the only female voice at the table. I have to push to be heard. Now it’s time to leverage that privilege to help others be included — and heard. I need to stake my rightful place at the table and, at times, get right up front. Importantly, I need to collaborate to help leverage the immense talent out there, to fuel sustainable growth and to tackle the major issues facing the natural foods industry — and the world.

I’ve been committed to this cause since 1999, when I helped launch the Luna Bar as the first whole-nutrition bar made for (and marketed to) women. During my almost four years as REBBL’s CEO, I sought to model from within the change we wanted to see in our industry. To achieve our mission, of co-creating a future without human trafficking (which disproportionately affects women), we knew we needed to integrate this JEDI work.

Across all industries, we need to support JEDI and diversity on boards to ensure everyone feels inspired and valued, we are fully utilizing everyone’s talent, and we are equipping them to serve and lead. One of our goals is 2025 JEDI commitments from companies by 2025, related to consumers, community and culture. Our objective (you might even call it our rallying cry) is that all people feel welcomed by the natural products industry — to participate, to be treated justly, to be represented in leadership and decision making, and to have access to healthy, organic products.

To do this, we have to be able to dig deep into the policies and systems that created this inequity — and fix it. Only then can we create real, lasting change and a more human, more regenerative society. And we have to do this work together. It’s not the job of any one marginalized or underrepresented group. It’s our collective imperative.

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