Sourcing Story: Super Lotus

6 min read

Our Impact

Sourcing ethically,* from the farm to your skin

fresh's ethically sourced super lotus

fresh has always been about nurturing your skin with the highest quality natural ingredients. But equally as important to the brand is finding a way to give back—to nurture the skin of the earth. For our Lotus Skincare Collection, we turned to Alabama, USA—specifically Ten Mile Creek Farm—to source our youth-preserving lotus plant that creates our Super Lotus ingredient and in turn, help the community’s people and biodiversity thrive. In 2020, we became a member of the Union for Ethical BioTrade (UEBT) to improve the way we source and work with ingredient suppliers. An evolving partnership, we made changes over the years and in 2023, our Super Lotus ingredient reached UEBT verified ethically sourced* level. Here we talk about our initial obsession with the lotus plant and the steps we took together to improve our sourcing practices and relationships with Laura Bancroft, who runs the Ten Mile Creek Farm.

A preservation of beauty

The lotus plant has existed for over 138 million years. Known as a living fossil, its seeds are viable for centuries. When our co-founder Lev Glazman learned that the lotus rises through murky waters to blossom into a stunning flower, he wanted to tap into the plant’s ability to preserve its beauty for the skin. And so, our search for the sacred plant led us to the largest lotus-based farm in the United States, Ten Mile Creek Farm.

A multi-generational agricultural endeavor, Ten Mile Creek Farm was started by the Kennedy-Bancroft family in South Alabama in the early 1900s. (The name comes from a creek that runs through the property and for 100 years has never run dry.) Over the past century, the farm evolved from growing cotton, peanuts, and corn to pine trees and fish (specifically catfish and tilapia). Overseas business made producing fish competitive, and the ponds on the property were left unused. Then an ingredient supplier of fresh approached them about growing lotus for one of their sourcing projects. “[Ten Mile Creek Farm] is now the largest business based solely on growing lotus in the United States,” says Laura Bancroft. “We sell over 400 cultivars of ornamental lotus rhizomes via the Internet, both wholesale and retail. Our partnership means that our lotus is featured in some of the most respected brands in the world.”

From farm to face

The sacred lotus is a type of lotus with a large petal flower that’s commonly pink and white. On Ten Mile Creek Farm, the lotus plants (nelumbo nucifera) are handpicked right from the water while they are in full bloom, between mid-July and August. fresh’s Super Lotus extract—found in our AHA serum, dream cream, daily moisturizer, and eye cream—is obtained from the whole living lotus plant, capturing its molecules to help preserve skin’s youth (aka smoother lines and texture, more radiance, and protection from daily stressors). Using an on-site mobile lab, a scientist ensures the active molecules are still intact after the plant is harvested. From there, the living lotus plant—flower, stem, and leaves—is gently pressed to extract the juice within the hour of being cut. Off site, a revolutionary youth-fractioning technique is used to isolate the plant cell fractions to create the concentrated ingredient. Any plant by-products from the juicing process are returned to the soil to help maintain ecological balance.

Sustainability standards

As a small child, Bancroft recalls her grandfather’s farming philosophy: “It was our duty to protect the land so that it would produce what we needed to survive and grow—then and in the future.” These are the same standards we hold ourselves accountable to today. Which is why fresh is on a mission to advance sourcing practices that help people and biodiversity thrive. Biodiversity is the variety of all living things—plants, animals, fungi, and even microorganisms—that make up our natural world. Each of these species work together in complex ecosystems to maintain balance and support life. As a member of the Union for Ethical BioTrade (UEBT), fresh has been working to improve the way we select and source our ingredients, nurturing relationships with suppliers that elevate the brand and industry to a new standard. (Why not find ways to inspire each other?) “UEBT standards provide a framework…so that you’re not just hitting it once in a while,” explains Bancroft. “With the framework it gives [you] something to work for, to work towards, and to gauge your success.” These guidelines involve on-site assessments against the strict UEBT standard. The verification process is based on UEBT’s 7 principles (biodiversity conservation, sustainable use of biodiversity, systems for ethical sourcing, legal compliance, respect for worker rights, fair and equitable benefit sharing), with the aim of showing progress toward sourcing with respect for people and biodiversity.

Ethically sourced*

Making improvements in how we source ingredients and respect the community is an ongoing process. Since 2020, fresh hasn’t stopped looking for ways to improve our practices. And in July of 2023, during harvest season, the sourcing of our Super Lotus ingredient was assessed by UEBT using their full field checklist of more than 100 criteria and verified to be ethically sourced* level. The highest level achievable in a UEBT onsite verification means that our sourcing practices for our Super Lotus (used in our Lotus Skincare Collection) promote a positive impact on people and biodiversity. What did we do to create a positive impact? On top of having a transparent supply chain and organic agricultural practices, we improved in three key areas:

Water analysis

In partnership with Ten Mile Creek Farm, we needed to implement a monitoring system to check the quality of the water from the ponds to ensure it’s safe and viable for all living things in the surrounding area. (The gopher tortoise, for example, which lives nearby on the Ten Mile Creek property, was recently removed from Alabama’s endangered species list). We look for any presence of toxic substances or residue, as well as biological components, to confirm there’s no risk of cross contamination when draining the water to go back to the wetlands area.

Renewable energy

The farm’s energy consumption was always known and tracked, but UEBT recommended adopting new measures to optimize energy use and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Keeping water in the ponds during the hot Alabama summer and draining them for the harvest requires a lot of energy. So, we installed a new system with two pumps that are powered by solar panels to optimize energy use. The new setup converts energy from the sun and reduces overall energy consumption. “Today, crystal clear water flows into the lotus ponds via renewable energy, removing us from the standard energy grid,” says Bancroft.

Workers’ contracts

Nurturing the community includes taking care of its people. Alabama is an “at will” state, so it’s uncommon for agricultural workers to receive a written standard job contract. We wanted to change that. And so, in 2023, Ten Mile Creek Farm’s two full-time employees were given written employment contracts. This ensures the protection of human rights—especially for the more vulnerable groups. The onsite UEBT assessment verified that the employees’ working conditions can be qualified as “very good.”

At fresh, we are committed to caring for the skin of the earth as we do our own. That means working to protect what we have, like biodiversity, to ensure a world that is forever connected and forever fresh.

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