When I think of original natural beauty brands Weleda is one of the first that springs to mind, a brand that is nearing 100 years of history, it is a cornerstone of the natural and organic movement. I caught up with Jayn Sterland from Weleda UK to talk about Organics, sustainability and Organic September:
Weleda is a brand that is a natural pioneer, as the brand evolves, how does it stay true to its original philosophy?
We were first established in 1921 and remain committed to our original ethos. We follow seven core values which are based upon sustainability. These values guide our decision making and shape our company but they also allow us to evolve as a brand. Everything we do in the whole company is centred upon these values. The one I think might surprise people is that making a profit is a result of our endeavours but it is not our aim. This is something that inspires me daily.
Weleda's relationships with the farmers who provide the raw materials for the products is key to the quality, can you tell us about why this is and also about the benefits for the farmers themselves?
The quality and the efficacy of our products are paramount. To do this it is essential we are using the best ingredients and working to the highest pharmaceutical standards. This rules out buying ingredients on the open market, from unknown sources. We grow our own plant ingredients where possible and work with farming co-operatives globally to create long-term sustainable partnerships. Weleda currently has over fifty of these projects worldwide.
We help create the co-operatives, bring in local experts in organic farming methods, partner with a local distiller processor and set a fair price – usually set for many years. A percentage of the profits goes directly into education, kindergartens and funding local students at university, often in organic agriculture. This makes for a robust, fair partnership, which is sustainable over many years.
Why are organic and biodynamic ingredients important to Weleda?
We have only ever used 100% natural ingredients at Weleda, ideally organic and biodynamically grown, as we believe this makes for the most potent, highest quality products. By growing without chemicals, in a traditional way, we know the levels of active ingredients found in the plant are higher than those grown conventionally. Not just that, but when you consider ‘what goes on you goes in you’ we want to supply our customers with safe, effective skincare they can trust and rely on.
Weleda uses both organic and biodynamic ingredients in its products, what are the main differences or similarities between them?
Weleda was founded by the Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner and we follow his principles. He believed to grow the healthiest plant it was important to consider not just how it’s grown but also where it is grown – its environment, the biodiversity, its neighbours and how it connects with the active forces of nature and the cosmos. This insight led to the foundation of a particular way of farming called biodynamic agriculture, which I liken to super-organic. In biodynamic farming the aim is to create a self-sufficient environment in which nothing is brought in from outside. The land is nurtured and fed with natural preparations made by the gardeners. We like to grow plants within a near-nature setting, often allowing wild cultivation where possible. We collect and sow from our own seed collection. We encourage wildlife and spend time and energy creating a balanced eco-system. We plant in harmony with the moon cycles as we know this makes a difference to the quality of the plants, although we aren’t quite sure why! We even hand pick our gardeners as we know truly engaged gardeners grow healthier plants.
What should customers wanting to buy quality organic products look out for?
Do your homework and consider all the brands you like the look of, ask your friends, read a few product reviews from magazines, websites or blogs you trust, dig deeper on the website of a couple of strong contenders and see if that brand’s values align with your own. Call them and ask if something is not transparent on their website. Decide, for example, if you would prefer a product that is 100% natural but only 70% organic, or whether you would prefer a product that is 95% organic but where the remaining 5% is synthetic rather than natural. Decide what matters most for you. Then look for a certification logo on the pack that meets those standards. A little research will really pay off, because then you will know which brands or which certification standards you can trust, even if the INCI ingredients list on the pack looks baffling or you are abroad and faced with foreign language packaging.
Can you tell us a little bit about Weleda's certification through NATRUE and what it means for the brand?
As there are no legal requirements for the claim ‘organic’ this means many products that are labelled as organic may contain as little as 1% organic extracts. To ensure you are buying reputable organic products, look for a reliable certification label on the packaging. Weleda packaging bears the global NATRUE label which we believe represents the highest standards of all the certification schemes. If you see either the NATRUE logo or the Weleda brand you know it is as pure and natural as it could be. In 2014, 84% of all our plant ingredients used in our products were grown to biodynamic standards and we are working towards 100%.
How is Weleda UK supporting organic this Organic September?
We are genuinely concerned about the amount of ‘greenwashing’ there is in the marketing of cosmetics. Greenwashing is where a brand will use claims deceptively, to promote a product as natural and good for you, for example by attracting attention to one particular ingredient or benefit to distract from the fact that it may contain harmful ‘nasty’ chemicals. We are spreading the word and encouraging consumers to read the INCI label. This is the list of ingredients on the back of every cosmetic product sold.
Thank you to Jayn for helping us get to know a little more about Weleda. What is your favourite product from the brand?