Weleda: 90 years of nature

By Shannon Dunn

Weleda's Adele Frewin in Weleda's Hawkes Bay biodynamic gardens.  Photo / Warren Buckland
Weleda's Adele Frewin in Weleda's Hawkes Bay biodynamic gardens. Photo / Warren Buckland

Beauty: An eco beauty and natural health stalwart, Weleda continues to cement its reputation as a global leader, more than 90 years after social reformer and ecologist Rudolf Steiner created it in the biodynamic fields of Switzerland. Shannon Dunn congratulated Weleda's Adele Frewin on their latest award for excellence.

Shannon Dunn: Weleda has just won another award. Congratulations! What has kept Weleda ahead of its competitors for almost a century?

Adele Frewin: Weleda is a trusted brand, known for its natural, organic ingredients. It's our heritage and knowledge that provides us with a unique platform. We have many products, from hair, facial, body and oral care to medicines and mother and baby essentials. Skin Food, which won the recent prestigious New Zealand Women's Weekly Hall of Fame Beauty Award, is one of our hero products - as well as one of our oldest, developed in 1926, which says a lot about what a great product it is. It really deserves the iconic status this award brings.

SD: The brand's creator, Rudolf Steiner, was in many ways ahead of his time. Has his vision of purity and potency remained true?

AF: Weleda still has that connection to our creation and the idea of products that work in harmony with nature and the individual to maintain the health of the person. That is our goal: to maintain our presence in the market to support the healthy development of the individual and the planet.

SD: What does the manufacturing process involve, from plant to package?

AF: We are farmers. We're up to our elbows in dirt, obsessing about weather reports and analysing the pH of rainfall. Weleda is not your average health and beauty company. We are obsessive about the ingredients that go into our products - how they are grown and prepared. For over 90 years, Weleda has demonstrated that nature can nurture and the earth can heal. We grow organic roses so you can glow youthfully, we gather golden arnica blossoms to tend to bruises and strains, and we harvest acres of biodynamic calendula for the comfort and health of newborn babies.

The Biodynamic method of farming aims to provide long term sustainability, improving soil fertility over time. It's so much more than not applying chemicals. In New Zealand, Weleda sits on 25 acres in the hills of Havelock North and exports medicines and all-body care to Australia and Malaysia.

SD: How significant is New Zealand in Weleda's success?

AF: New Zealand represents less than one per cent of Weleda's global turnover, but the interplay between all the sister companies is seen as a part of the dialogue that sustains Weleda. We actively contribute to the discussions that form part of the global business. The pioneering pharmacists at Weleda NZ created some unique formulations that contribute to the rich library of Weleda formulations.

SD: Being certified is a big deal in an often green-washed marketplace. What bodies certify Weleda?

AF: There are three certifications that we operate with including NATRUE, a rigorous independent certification scheme that was founded by Weleda and other pioneers of natural and organic cosmetics in Europe. It ensures that natural and organic cosmetics meet the highest standards and that skincare products and cosmetics labelled "natural" really are just that. Our medicines are registered and externally audited by Medsafe, while our gardens are Demeter certified by The Biodynamic Society.

SD: What's next for Weleda?

AF: Economic, social and environmental responsibilities have been at the heart of our business since 1921, and we are constantly looking for new ways to improve what we do.

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