The Swiss-headquartered beauty firm was founded in 1921 by Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner and medical doctor Ita Wegman with a vision of providing an alternative and personal approach to healthcare based on natural ingredients and the body’s own healing impulse. Almost 100 years later, the company now offered a range of natural personal care products worldwide, including face creams and serums, body oils and drinkable elixirs.
Jayn Sterland, MD of Weleda UK, said whilst the centenary was of course highly anticipated amongst colleagues, Weleda also wanted to make it relevant and engaging for consumers.
“How we’re celebrating our 100 years is by talking about the importance of supply chain management, biodiversity in the soil and responsible farming methods. If we can – as humanity – look to change our farming methods, we could lock so much more carbon back into the soil,” Sterland told CosmeticsDesign-Europe.
“…For our 100th anniversary, it’s going to be about describing the Weleda way in a relevant, modern way, and in a way that we can hopefully inspire others to follow and work much more in collaboration right across the beauty industry,” she said.
The environment was a huge challenge for today’s beauty industry, she said, particularly as it pushed forward in its quest to become more circular. “Packaging, responsible sourcing of ingredients, the move away from synthetics and fossil fuel-derived ingredients, is all incredibly important.”
Sustainable beauty – biodynamic farming, ingredients processing and eco packaging
Sterland said all of Weleda’s ingredients were either grown and produced by the company or via partnerships around the world with farmers, distillers, universities and NGOS using biodynamic farming techniques.
Biodynamic agriculture, she said, was similar to organic farming but included various esoteric concepts like soil fertility, plant growth and livestock care that were considered ecologically interrelated – drawn from the ideas of Weleda’s founder Steiner.
“It was Steiner’s original vision in the early part of the 20th century to stop industrialising the land. It’s a holistic farming method. The key thing that makes it different to organic is we concentrate on the bacteria in the soil,” she said.
“…What I love about using 100% natural, grown-in-the-ground ingredients is, if you get the farming methods right, you can enhance the natural world; you can lock carbon back into the soil, you can give people a living wage, build schools and grow communities. You can actually do good with your sourcing.”
Sterland said Weleda was also highly focused on the processing of its ingredients because the types of ingredients used in a beauty product were only “50% of the magic” – the rest came from how they were processed.
“We have just spent a number of years perfecting a way of extracting prickly pear extract in a particular way, and we’ve patented that process,” she said. A range containing this Mexican prickly pear extract would launch in Q4 next year across Europe, she said, carrying a proven claim of 24-hour hydration.
And beyond sourcing and processing, Sterland said there was also plenty to be done in packaging. By the end of next year, Weleda wanted to have 65% of its plastic packaging made from recycled materials and in Q4, this year, it would relaunch its entire baby care range with packaging containing 98% recycled plastics.
“Our aim is to try and get to the highest recycled content of our plastics – the aim is to move towards bioplastics and so on,” she said.
Moving forward, Sterland said pre-competitive industry collaboration for sustainable packaging would be critical. “Self-interest is what has damaged the world. Particularly going towards 2030 and becoming climate neutral, we have to work together, particularly on packaging.”
Transparency key for beauty consumers – it’s not black and white
Sterland said within all these planetary efforts, it was important to maintain open and honest communication with consumers, and acknowledge that sustainability issues weren’t simply black and white.
“Palm oil has been really vilified, for very good reasons, but you can source palm oil responsibly. I think the key thing for me is to have transparency, authenticity and trust within the supply chain. I mean fully auditing the supply chain so you know where every single ingredient comes from and you know what contamination there might be.”
And this need for transparency would become even more critical for consumers in coming years, she said – from ingredients sourcing through to wider holistic business practices.
“Consumers are going behind the label and being much more demanding. Be honest. Nobody is perfect; we’re all on a journey trying to better each year.”
Asked what the biggest opportunities were in beauty for next year, Sterland said: “I think the brand that cracks a true natural hair product – shampoo – that’s the holy grail. And also, a truly natural sunscreen. Both of those are incredibly difficult to do, but there’s a massive prize there.”