Quantcast

Leonardo DiCaprio Invests in Runa, Donates All His Shares to Ecuadorian Farmers

Food

Leonardo DiCaprio announced that he is investing in the fast-growing beverage startup Runa, which works with Ecuadorian farmers to manufacture sustainably produced organic teas and natural energy drinks made from the guayusa plant found in the Amazon.

But DiCaprio isn't just financially backing the brand, the Oscar-winning actor and environmental activist will donate all of his shares back to the guayusa farmers, meaning they will be direct shareholders.

“I am so proud to join with Runa in supporting the indigenous people of the Amazon,” DiCaprio said. “The future of these communities, and many like them across the world, are at risk as their native lands are exploited for natural resource and agricultural development. Sustainable farming practices are key to helping ensure a brighter future for so many local people.

“We must all do everything we can to help indigenous and local people who too often suffer the worst environmental degradation, and are most at risk from climate change. Empowering them to stand up and fight back against the outside interests that threaten their survival is a cause that must be championed.”

Runa, founded in 2009 by college graduates Tyler Gage and Dan MacCombie, buys guayusa leaves from 3,000 indigenous farming families in Ecuador. The guayusa leaves, which have been consumed as a tea by the native Kichwa communities for thousands of years, are processed in a plant in Ecuador and then shipped to the U.S.

"At Runa, we’re asking ourselves a basic economic question: How do we create new value for these traditions, people and the rainforest?" Gage, who lived in the Ecuadorian rainforest for two years to build a guayusa supply chain, told Fast Company.

"Local governments are not placing value on Amazonian knowledge and cultures; they are deforesting the land to grow palm oil," Gage added. "I wanted to prove that we can manage land more profitably using sustainable farming practices and direct trade relationships with products like guayusa."

Runa's products, which can be found in thousands of stores across the U.S. including Whole Foods Market and Safeway, are also certified non-GMO and Fair Trade.

According to Inc., Runa has "grown its revenue by more than 2,000 percent since 2011, and bringing in nearly $5 million in sales in 2014. This year, the company expects to more than double that figure."

DiCaprio will also be joining Runa's advisory board, which includes Yolanda Kakabadse, the president of the World Wildlife Fund, and Ann Veneman, the former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture and director of UNICEF.

DiCaprio invested an undisclosed sum in Runa. The noted planetary steward has already put his wealth and resources in a number of environmentally and socially conscious organizations and businesses, including Blue Planet, a prominent developer of carbon capture technology based in Los Gatos, California. He formed his Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation in 1998 to protect biodiversity and threatened ecosystems. This past March, he announced that his philanthropic foundation is establishing "a mega-fauna sanctuary" in the Leuser Ecosystem, a precious rainforest in Sumatra, Indonesia that’s under threat from industrial development for palm oil.

Along with DiCaprio, a number of other all-star names also participated in Runa's latest investment round, including actor and comedian Marlon Wayans, actor Adam Rodriguez (CSI Miami, Magic Mike), and professional tennis players John Isner and Steve Johnson.

“Our vision for Runa was inspired by the rich spirit of family and collaboration in the Amazonian communities that revere guayusa tea, and we’re very grateful that the quality of our products and integrity of our vision has attracted such a great group of supporters,” Gage said in the press release.

Actor Channing Tatum, an existing Runa supporter and early investor, was interviewed by ABC News earlier this year about guayusa.

The Hollywood actor said that drinking the naturally energizing beverage, which has the same caffeine content as coffee with double the antioxidants as green tea, helped him keep his energy up while he wrote the film Magic Mike.

"I grew up in the south, where I was 7/11 culture, I was McDonalds culture, I just ate stuff just cause it tasted good," Tatum told ABC News. "There's something beautiful about knowing like where this is coming from and what the story is … There's an intentional consumption that I believe is really where I hope that society's going."

Watch here:

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

Will Philadelphia Become the Vertical Farming Capital of the World?

Nation’s Leading Yogurt Maker Will Remove GMO Ingredients and Source Milk From Non-GMO Fed Cows

The Role of the Worm in Recycling Wastewater

Quaker Oats Accused of Being ‘Deceptive and Misleading’ After Glyphosate Detected in Oatmeal

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Aerial assessment of Hurricane Sandy damage in Connecticut. Dannel Malloy / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Extreme weather events supercharged by climate change in 2012 led to nearly 1,000 more deaths, more than 20,000 additional hospitalizations, and cost the U.S. healthcare system $10 billion, a new report finds.

Read More Show Less
Giant sequoia trees at Sequoia National Park, California. lucky-photographer / iStock / Getty Images Plus

A Bay Area conservation group struck a deal to buy and to protect the world's largest remaining privately owned sequoia forest for $15.6 million. Now it needs to raise the money, according to CNN.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
This aerial view shows the Ogasayama Sports Park Ecopa Stadium, one of the venues for 2019 Rugby World Cup. MARTIN BUREAU / AFP / Getty Images

The Rugby World Cup starts Friday in Japan where Pacific Island teams from Samoa, Fiji and Tonga will face off against teams from industrialized nations. However, a new report from a UK-based NGO says that when the teams gather for the opening ceremony on Friday night and listen to the theme song "World In Union," the hypocrisy of climate injustice will take center stage.

Read More Show Less
Vera_Petrunina / iStock / Getty Images Plus

By Wudan Yan

In June, New York Times journalist Andy Newman wrote an article titled, "If seeing the world helps ruin it, should we stay home?" In it, he raised the question of whether or not travel by plane, boat, or car—all of which contribute to climate change, rising sea levels, and melting glaciers—might pose a moral challenge to the responsibility that each of us has to not exacerbate the already catastrophic consequences of climate change. The premise of Newman's piece rests on his assertion that traveling "somewhere far away… is the biggest single action a private citizen can take to worsen climate change."

Read More Show Less
Volunteer caucasian woman giving grain to starving African children. Bartosz Hadyniak / E+ / Getty Images

By Frances Moore Lappé

Food will be scarce, expensive and less nutritious," CNN warns us in its coverage of the UN's new "Climate Change and Land" report. The New York Times announces that "Climate Change Threatens the World's Food Supply."

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
British Airways 757. Jon Osborne / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

By Adam Vaughan

Two-thirds of people in the UK think the amount people fly should be reined in to tackle climate change, polling has found.

Read More Show Less
Climate Week NYC

On Monday, Sept. 23, the Climate Group will kick off its 11th annual Climate Week NYC, a chance for governments, non-profits, businesses, communities and individuals to share possible solutions to the climate crisis while world leaders gather in the city for the UN Climate Action Summit.

Read More Show Less

By Pam Radtke Russell in New Orleans

Local TV weather forecasters have become foot soldiers in the war against climate misinformation. Over the past decade, a growing number of meteorologists and weathercasters have begun addressing the climate crisis either as part of their weather forecasts, or in separate, independent news reports to help their viewers understand what is happening and why it is important.

Read More Show Less