A Summer Internship with Pangea Organics: Sharings From the Ops Field

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By Devon Bertram, MBA Candidate

Published 9.13.13

As we learn at Presidio, there are individuals and companies that are pushing boundaries and norms to reach smarter, more sustainable solutions, and in the process are implementing exemplary cultures, products and business models that support values-driven success. This summer, I had the opportunity to intern at such a company, Pangea Organics, based in Boulder, CO. Pangea is a small company with a big impact as a global leader in the organic skin care market. Founder and President Joshua Scott Onysko (who visited Presidio last spring to speak to the Integrative Capstone course), has a dream to leave the world better than he found it. He is doing so through the creation of Pangea, a company that emulates his beliefs and values and is committed to integrity, innovation and transparency.

What is Pangea?
Pangea is a model in product innovation in that they “only want to make things that make things better” – products shouldn’t only be sustainable, they should perform better and be better quality than conventional ones. Pangea began in a garage in 2000, as Onysko started out making bars of soap and selling them at farmers markets and festivals. Soon enough, his business expanded and the Pangea Organics brand was launched. Pangea’s dedication and focus on quality products and sustainably-sourced ingredients led them to be the first fully certified organic skincare line on the market, and there are only a few such companies that exist today. Pangea’s support of farmers and organic farming reduces the use of manufactured (synthetic) fertilizers, pesticides, food additives and genetically modified organisms (GMOs). However, the company’s focus is beyond just ingredient selection; it is also on the entire life cycle of the product and educating the consumer about the importance of quality skincare: our skin absorbs up to 87% of whatever we put on it, and a vast majority of the ingredients in mainstream cosmetics are said to be carcinogenic. These are not only toxic to the user, but to our environment as well. All ingredients used in Pangea’s products are listed on their bottles (which is not always the case in the cosmetic industry), and they never include sulfates or detergents, harmful preservatives, synthetic fragrances or GMOs. 

Pangea OrganicsPangea’s re-branding was initially developed by IDEO in 2006, and their packaging, too, depicts thoughtful, innovative design. Some examples include the packaging for bar soaps made of 100% post-consumer newspaper embedded with tree seeds (biodegradable, compostable and plantable!); brown glass bottles that protect active ingredients and are recyclable; origami boxes that eliminate any need for glue; screen printed labels; and product information printed on the inside of packaging. Through these efforts, Pangea’s product presentation speaks to quality, elimination of excess and waste, and smart thinking.

Leading the Industry

Pangea has regularly been recognized as a leader in the body care industry for its commitment to pure ingredients and transparency. Their leadership and commitment to integrity is being demonstrated in other ways as well. The company was recently recognized by PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) for pulling out of China after mandates were introduced that required animal testing be performed to fulfill market entry regulations. As a cruelty-free company, Pangea kept to its values and commitments despite their substantial Chinese market.

Another component that exhibits Pangea’s commitment to integrity is Pangea’s Community Bank, a new program designed to begin in April 2014. A portion of profits will go directly to the Bank, and Pangea customers and Beauty Ecologists can vote on a nominated cause to receive the contributions. To me, this demonstrates not only a company that is reinforcing the DNA of the Pangea brand, but also one that is invested in community and the opportunity for positive impact, as well as gathering input from its community.

Last, Pangea’s dedication to integrity and quality goes beyond ethical decisions and financial donations. The latest evolution in thought leadership is a new business model that involves a focus on direct sales – a social selling model – in order to support a redistribution of wealth and greater income for those involved with creating and selling the product, and helping to build the brand. This direct sales model also allows Pangea to better share the unique story of their products and their origins, and empower individuals to make informed choices. The company launched this new model on Earth Day, April 22, 2013 and already has enrolled over 800 independent sales consultants, known as Beauty Ecologists. With this new model, Pangea plans to double in size in 2014.

My Role

As one can imagine, being in the midst of a company and culture that is passionate about their products, brand, and one another, makes for a rewarding summer internship experience. My role as Operations Intern was focused on creating a tool that captures data from the 95+ raw materials and ingredients used in Pangea products, and tracking their documentation and compliance across various attributes important to the company (i.e., country of origin, certificate of analysis, organic, GMO-free, corn-free, gluten-free, fair trade, etc.). With growth and new business models such as the social selling model come shifts and changes in processes, and a need for frameworks to easily and accurately capture data, as well as convey it to a broad number of users. The tool is intended to create a framework for their operations and communications with manufacturers and vendors in regards to product sustainability and compliance, and support a smoother and more efficient tracking process. As Pangea grows, this tool will also be used to collect information on secondary vendors in addition to supporting quality control, organic re-certification efforts and audit processes.

Overall, my internship provided me an opportunity to delve into a new industry that is gaining traction in the sustainability world and to work with one of the leading companies in this realm. Cosmetics and skincare seem to be the next wave of industry grabbing attention as we recognize the impact of these products on our health and the environment. There is a growing need and demand for quality and sustainable products, and it was an invaluable opportunity to join the Pangea team at such a pivotal point of expansion. I was able to apply skills gained in my Operations and Production class and work with their operations team to evaluate the supply chain and tracking processes, and develop a system and resource that can support their scaling business. The internship allowed me to broaden my experience and deepen my interest in developing frameworks and tools to support efficient quality control processes and improve communications across teams. As I start my second year of my MBA and continue my role as Sustainability Manager at YR&G, I look forward to strengthening this skill set and seeking out opportunities to support organizations improve their operations and communications in order to best meet their sustainability goals. Last, I look forward to seeing Pangea evolve and expand their impact and influence during this time of growth and business model transition.

Devon Bertram, MBA Candidate

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