Health and longevity are important values for people, businesses, and not surprisingly, for our environment. At the heart of Weleda is a business model that protects and sustainably manages the natural ecosystems where it sources the ingredients used in its skin-care products and plant-based remedies.
Today, many of the planet’s ecosystems are in danger. Experts say that 35 to 150 species of life are vanishing every day. Of the 50,000 different plants used for medicinal purposes, 10,000 are endangered. The destruction of the rain forest and overfishing of the oceans are two examples where greed and short-term profit are destroying our earth’s biodiversity. It’s vital that we develop strategies to turn the tide.
Another reason for the loss of biodiversity is the global standardization of agriculture. Andreas Ellenberger, former Weleda sustainability manager in Switzerland, points out that Biodynamic® methods have been used by Weleda since the company was founded in 1921. “Supporting the vitality of the soil and a large diversity of cultivated plants has always been a high priority,” he says. Selecting seeds for their wide genetic diversity and using organic and Biodynamic® farming methods that help provide the soil with nutrients create gardens that become a welcoming habitat for many plants and animals. The result is a 70-percent increase in the amount of worms in the ground and a balanced soil that can more easily overcome droughts.
Michael Straub, who manages Weleda’s Biodynamic® gardens in Germany, the largest in Europe, says that there are more than 6 billion active organisms in one handful of soil. A 21-year study in Switzerland comparing organic and Biodynamic® farming to conventional farming found that the organic soils were indeed home to a larger and more diverse community of beneficial organisms. (The results were published in the journal Science in 2002). “This is why Biodynamic® agriculture is a role model for the whole agriculture value chain,” says Straub.
“We are trying to keep the cultivation of our plants and the ecosystem in balance using various methods,” says Bas Schneiders, former head of Weleda international sourcing and corporate sustainability. This includes education and research in countries where Weleda obtains raw materials, so that the projects benefit both the natural landscape and the local communities as well. An example of this can be seen in the arnica project in Romania, where Weleda teamed up with the World Wildlife Fund to help teach locals in the Carpathian Apuseni Mountains to collect wild arnica in a sustainable way.
Schneiders and Straub both know that without a reliable partner, who can appreciate and identify with the Weleda philosophy, nothing will work. For sustainable agriculture to succeed, everyone involved must be pursuing the same goals, from the farmers to the conservation organization to the university professors.
One of the newest projects Weleda is engaging in for a sustainable resource supply and to protect biodiversity is the argan project in central Morocco. The argan tree, which is the source of precious oil Weleda uses in its Pomegranate Firming Facial Care, grows in a region there that was declared a conservation area by UNESCO in 1998. Botanists say the species is more than 80 million years old. The African sun and stony barren soil are essential for the growth of the argan tree.
The ecosystem of the argan plantation is complex and diverse. Argan trees thrive off of smaller plants that live in their shadows; sustainable cultivation methods ensure the survival of these shade-loving plants, which can also be used for aromatherapy and as medicinal plants.
Schneiders says the protection of biodiversity contributes to a new understanding of growth, while the loss leads not only to the diminishment of plant and animal species, but also to cultural degeneration through the destruction of beauty, knowledge and the stability of societies. This is what drives Weleda to search for cultivation methods that enhance life. “If we can achieve that,” he says, “perhaps we can always say, ‘My senses are awakened to the continuous miracles of nature.’” Erdmann Wingert, edited by Dena Moskowitz
The Weleda Calendula Story
Quality has a home in Weleda’s Biodynamic® gardens in Germany, as does the calendula herb, used in so many Weleda products.
Biodynamic® farming methods pay close attention to sustaining the life of the farm, never applying chemical pesticides but instead using the rhythms of nature and herbal preparations to enliven soil and plants. The production site is close by, ensuring that the healing properties of calendula, rich in carotenoids, flavonoids and essential oils, are processed quickly to become high-quality tinctures and extracts used notably in Weleda’s Calendula Baby Care.
- Sowing Weleda gardeners carefully select the best plant species and sow the calendula seeds directly into the field for unsurpassed quality.
- Cultivation An insect “hotel” houses beneficial insects that help keep the seedlings safe in the soil by eating other insects that would normally devour the plants or spread disease.
- Harvest Hand harvesting of the calendula blossoms is always done under the warmth of the summer sun. The blossoms are picked in the early morning, as soon as the dew has dried.
- Transportation Directly next to the garden of medicinal plants is the facility where the tinctures are produced. This ensures timely processing for maximum quality.
- Processing Splitting and chopping the blossoms is performed as gently as possible.
- Active Ingredients To make calendula’s active, healing ingredients usable, Weleda uses salt or oil to extract the beneficial properties and make the tinctures, which are an essential component of the Calendula Baby Care products.
- For Your Weleda Baby Calendula Baby Care products are some of Weleda’s most-loved, giving comfort to parents and nurturing babies throughout the world.