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2/1/2011
Ninety Beautiful Years
Ninety Beautiful Years

It was ninety years ago this year that Dr. Rudolf Steiner and Dr. Ita Wegman planted the roots of a new company— Weleda—in Switzerland, with the aim of using nature to help people heal and be well. The company was founded out of a movement Dr. Steiner created called anthroposophy, which encourages the individual to see his or her body, mind and spirit as intrinsically linked to our world. Steiner and Wegman teamed up with other like-minded scientists and doctors to determine how they might use this philosophy to take care of their patients’ needs. They developed a personal approach to health care using ingredients from nature that can holistically work with and support our own body’s healing tendencies.

The name they gave to the pharmaceutical company in 1924 couldn’t have been more appropriate: Weleda, after a Celtic goddess of healing and wisdom. To grow the ingredients they needed for their remedies, they created one of the world’s first Biodynamic® gardens. Patients were healed, health and balance were restored to them, and never once was a synthetic chemical or lab-made preservative used in the process. Skin care went hand in hand with wellness, so in 1925, they introduced Iris Cleansing Lotion Classic, replaced just this year by Weleda’s new Gentle Cleansing Milk. Arnica Massage Oil launched in 1926 and to this day remains a bestseller.

Word soon spread about the innovative, effective work Weleda was doing, and the company expanded from Switzerland to Germany and then into North America and the world. With some 400 employees until 1990, Weleda remained fairly small. In the early ’90s, however, a more strategic approach to marketing and the rise in popularity of natural cosmetics accelerated the company’s growth. Today, Weleda operates on five continents, with 20 direct subsidiaries, partnerships in 53 countries and close to 2,000 employees worldwide, all united in passionate commitment to cultivating beauty and working in harmony with nature and the human being. And we still put your health and well-being above all else.

What 90 years means to us

A look back on 90 years reveals a theme that runs throughout Weleda’s rich history: sustainability. Truly farmers at heart, Weleda has been a steward of the environment through the careful way it harvests its ingredients. But for Weleda, sustainability is not just environmental—it’s also social and economic. Taking care of the earth, our customers, our colleagues, our business and the communities where we work is deeply rooted in all aspects of what we do.

For example, Weleda decided long ago to help finance the conversion of conventional fields to organic by paying farmers organic prices while they are still in the process of converting their farms. Because this process of transitioning from conventional to certified organic takes at least three years, it would be financially impossible for many of the farmers to switch to organic without this support. Our efforts ensure the farmers get a living wage and better health for themselves and their families. The added bonuses: We get better crops, the earth gets more sustainable harvesting practices, and you get the most amazing natural products available.

Through efforts like these, we help sustain not only our business but also the local communities where we have created partnerships. Weleda currently has more than 10 fair trade projects around the world, where we pay a fair price for the crops, then guarantee the quantities we’ll need from year to year to help the farmers—and their communities—thrive.

When it comes to caring for the environment, we’re working to decrease our environmental impact through various ways, including water conservation. We’ve installed green roofs on our production and administration buildings in Switzerland and Germany. The roofs in Germany collect rainwater for use in our Biodynamic® gardens and allow two-thirds to evaporate back into the atmosphere. We also aim to increase our water efficiency by 5 percent each year.

In addition, we are reducing our carbon footprint through the use of renewable energy. Solar panels on our visitor and production center in Germany generate enough electricity to power our production and general operations there. Closer to home, the offices of Weleda North America in Palisades, New York, are now 100-percent powered by wind energy.

We know we still have a long way to go to further reduce our environmental impact, but the earth can’t wait, so it’s our priority now. Like our founders said, we are all linked to our world—we depend on its resources for our products, our health and our livelihood. We hope that by being economically, socially and environmentally sustainable in the way we do business, we will help strengthen the roots of the company—the ones that were put down so long ago by our founders. With such strong roots, there’s nowhere to go but up. And we’ll be spreading our passion for beauty, wellness and environmental respect around the world as we flourish—together with you. Cr

Weleda Through the Years

1921: Drs. Rudolf Steiner and Ita Wegman establish Weleda in Switzerland, and the world’s first Biodynamic® gardens are created.

1926: Weleda Germany creates this advertisement for the launch of its new cold-weather cream, Everon Face Balm, now known simply as Cold Cream.

1927: Skin Food launches and it’s the best-selling Weleda product in North America today, 83 years later.

1930s: Weleda opens a research laboratory in Schwäbisch Gmünd, Germany, where its Biodynamic® gardens are located today.

1939: A pharmacist by the name of Dr. Schiller begins making Weleda remedies at Goodman Pharmacy on New York’s Upper East Side.

1959: Weleda introduces Calendula Oil, our first product made especially for wee-ones.

1969: Weleda begins its first fair trade project in Peru to source ratanhia—the key ingredient in our Ratanhia Toothpaste.

2001: The fair trade Rosa damascena project in Turkey commences.

2005: Weleda North America moves its offices to its current home, Yonderhill.

2007: The first issue of we debuts in North America.

2010: Weleda North America’s headquarters become 100% wind- powered, and the company takes to the road on our Honestly Natural, Truly Beautiful tour.

2011: Weleda launches its new Pomegranate Firming Facial Care.