In the world of biology, mutualism describes the relationship between two organisms in which both
benefit from the interaction. In pollination, for example, the pollinator receives nectar or pollen from a plant, and in return, the plant receives a pollen transfer from the pollinator.
Fitting, then, that the relationship between UBC Botanical Garden and luxury tea purveyor TEALEAVES has developed into a cross-functional collaboration that is mutualism at its finest.
For the past five years, the Garden has worked with TEALEAVES on a number of initiatives, including a video showcasing our expedition research work in the Hoang Lien mountains of Vietnam and an herbal tea, Garden of Secrets, inspired by the tonics and medical elixirs often found in botanical gardens.
Most recently, TEALEAVES produced the film The Garden of Secrets in collaboration with the Garden. This philanthropic project advocates for the importance of botanical gardens as “idea libraries” that can provide valuable solutions to address biodiversity loss, human health, and climate change.
“The Garden of Secrets” from UBC Botanical Garden and TEALEAVES will be featured at the World Biodiversity Forum in Davos, Switzerland, February 23-28, 2020. Alongside a multi-disciplinary team of professionals and other garden colleagues, the Garden and TEALEAVES will discuss how solutions can arise from biomimicry: the practice of observing and using the lessons the natural world teaches to inspire innovation in science, design, engineering and public health.
The idea that a for-profit company can successfully team up with a not-for-profit academic institution like the Garden is something that Garden Director Patrick Lewis is particularly excited to explore.
“This is a special partnership,” says Lewis. “On the one hand, TEALEAVES is a for-profit company that speaks to a very specific audience. Their products can be found in Michelin-starred restaurants and hotels around the world. UBC Botanical Garden is an educational and scientific institution. Our world is academia. One would not automatically think of putting these two organizations together in a business union.”
The concept of mutualism is not lost on Lewis. “Both of our organizations are deeply concerned about the loss of biodiversity on the planet and are committed to the sustainability goals set by the United Nations,” he continues. “Together, we’ve been able to share our resources, networks, strategies and ideas. Because of this, we’ve been able to promote the idea that botanical gardens are ‘living libraries’to a much greater audience than ever before.”
Lana Sutherland, TEALEAVES Co-Founder and CEO, hopes that this extraordinary business model will become more commonplace in the future. “We want to help create a movement and demonstrate that the for-profit sector can be part of the solution, furthering the goals of the social and public sector through fostering multi-layered partnerships to address global challenges,”says Sutherland.
Stay tuned for future updates on the team’s experiences in Davos and the discoveries that most inspire them to explore projects and partnerships for the future.