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High Country: How Prima is positioning to become the Patagonia of CBD

A year into business, the Los Angeles-based brand earns B Corp certification for ‘setting a course for bold social and environmental action.’

Katie Shapiro
High Country

In the clean beauty and wellness category, companies use vague lingo like “all natural” and “non-toxic,” “vegan” and “cruelty free” on packaging, rarely going beyond the flimsy promise of their products being “green.” But Prima, an award-winning CBD brand, has just achieved the highest honor for sustainable and ethical business practices: the B Corporation (B Corp) Certification. 

The Santa Monica-based company has been in operation just over one year. Founded in August of 2018, Prima secured the largest seed round to-date in the consumer hemp marketplace six months later: $3.3 million from venture leaders Lerer Hippeau and Greycroft (with additional private institutional investors). Prima’s initial product lineup was released on June 5, 2019. Earning B Corp after only 12 months in market is a remarkable feat to reach, considering the meticulous accreditation process led by B Lab, the nonprofit on a global mission to use “business as a force for good.” 

“Prima stands clearly ahead as poised leaders of consciousness, credibility, responsibility, sustainability and transparency in the quickly developing CBD category,” said Lindsey Wilson, a senior associate in business development at B Lab. “Prima’s certification demonstrates their unyielding commitment to consciousness and mission work innovation, as they are setting a course for bold social and environmental action, which showcase their deepest beliefs and responsibilities for a more equitable, impactful and brighter future.”

There are more than 3,000 Certified B Corps — think Ben & Jerry’sDr. Bronner’s, Allbirds, Danone North America and Patagonia — spanning 150 industries and 70 countries. But Prima is one of just nine CBD companies to achieve such status. To receive B Corp Certification, Prima participated in the B Impact Assessment process, which evaluated Prima’s entire social and environmental performance, from its business model’s impact on workers, community, environment and customers to its supply chain, charitable giving and employee benefits.

“As one of the very first brands in the CBD industry to achieve this rigorous certification, we are setting a bold example of responsible business practices for this category in order to inspire a deeper and more meaningful approach to functional, preventative healthcare,” Prima founder and CEO Christopher Gavigan told me during a recent phone interview. “Now, more than ever, it’s imperative that businesses are transparently accountable for the health of individuals, our environment and our collective well-being. As a socially and environmentally conscious Public Benefit Company, these are the essential principles that Prima was founded upon — now validated by our B Corp Certification.” 

For Gavigan, who co-founded The Honest Company (also a B Corp) and remains its “chief purpose officer,” doing business for the betterment of the world was instilled in his mindset early on; he worked for Patagonia in Southern California in the late 1990s, where founder Yvon Chouinard was one of his mentors. 

“Seeing the Patagonia platform not focused on profit, growth and velocity, but moreso on the ideals, values and principles of doing the right thing always — that lit me up,” he added. “The fact that you could build in the deepest DNA of a business, a moral compass, was very powerful and influential for me.”

Gavigan, joined by Laurel Angelica Myers (another alum of The Honest Company) and Jessica Assaf (a Harvard Business School grad and Forbes 30 Under 30 honoree in 2020), Prima was co-founded on six principles of purpose: Beyond Clean, Climate Positive, Reduce Wisely, Source Responsibly, Give More and People First.

Laying out (and upholding) stringent standards isn’t common for CBD companies — the industry overall is notorious for having a lack of transparency and efficacy — largely due to a lack in regulation by the FDA. According to a recent study conducted by Leafreport, 27% of leading CBD brand products don’t contain the dosages that they indicate in their labels.

“CBD or not, our hope and my vision is that more for-profit organizations pursue this type of mindset, this type of operation and this type of business model,” Myers shared with me. “I think that’s the only way we are going to create progress and change within the for-profit, private business sector. If this mentality isn’t part of how you make decisions as a business, you should be asking yourself, ‘Why not?’ And certainly within CBD, [Prima] wants to be a North Star for transparency and trust.”

The Prima portfolio includes 11 products with CBD-forward formulas developed by doctors that are clinically tested. Prima’s line of supplements, skincare and body care is available online and through retail partners including SephoraErewhon Market and Pharmaca.

“We started Prima to take CBD out of the shadow economy of cannabis and into the wellness industry in a meaningful way,” said Prima co-founder and chief education officer Jessica Assaf. “With over 30 years of collective experience in the natural product industry, we’re proud to be leading from the heart with [informative] content, best-in-class products and human support in order to evolve and sophisticate this industry with the highest standards and purpose.”

Katie Shapiro can be reached at katie@katieshapiromedia.com and followed on Twitter @bykatieshapiro.


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