Bas Schneiders - Actually, the two of them are closely linked. Sustainability is in our DNA, it is the starting point of our corporate identity and it goes hand in hand with our strategy and values. Which means that the way we operate our business must be consistent with the message brought through our products and it must meet with our customer’s expectations. Nevertheless, it is true that being natural does not automatically means being sustainable. We have therefore set-up a package of sustainability goals to guide our business: ecological sourcing & biodiversity, fair trade, climate neutrality, sustainable packaging, water management, and, communication.
Premium Beauty News - It is also why you became a member of the Union for Ethical Bio Trade?
Bas Schneiders - Since ecological sourcing & biodiversity is a major keystone of our sustainability strategy, becoming a UEBT member was merely logical. UEBT plays a key role in developing both the public’s and business’s awareness on issues such as sustainable and ethical sourcing. As we only use natural ingredients, biodiversity is the source of our business and we cannot afford to have a negative impact on it. This is why I say that preserving biodiversity is part of our business model.
Premium Beauty News - And what about fair trade?
Bas Schneiders - Fair trade is a way to share our values with our suppliers. The difficulty with fair trade is that there are a lot of different standards, a lot of different certifiers and labels. As a consequence, it is somewhat complex to provide clear information to consumers. In particular for a cosmetics company that uses hundreds of ingredients! From this point of view, the UEBT standard is very interesting and practical. It is a very good management tool for the verification of all our supply chains of natural ingredients.
We currently run over 50 partnerships and projects with suppliers around the world. Working on a long-term basis and avoiding one-shot actions is beneficial to all parties. It is a guarantee for our suppliers and a way to secure our supply chain for us. In the context of rising prices for raw materials and speculating markets, these partnerships are also interesting from an economical point of view.
Premium Beauty News - Why is the supply chain so important in your sustainability strategy?
Bas Schneiders - Because everything starts with the quality of the ingredients and because it is a key factor in the transparency consumers expect from us. All the ingredients we use must be organic or comply with stringent ecological and social standards. We control and assess all our suppliers from the origin. For instance, when we buy sesame oil, we assess our suppliers but also the initial producers.
Premium Beauty News - But your strategy is not limited to sourcing organic and fair trade ingredients?
Bas Schneiders - As I mentioned, some of the other key areas are climate neutrality, sustainable packaging, and, water management.
As far as climate change is concerned, we carefully look at the environmental impact of our supply chain and have a programme to reduce our carbon footprint. Our final goal is to become carbon neutral, for instance by using only green energy in our production plants and offices. Where becoming carbon neutral is not possible, we’ll compensate what is left.
Packaging is another important area with a heavy environmental impact. We are working in three different directions in order to reduce this impact: reduction of the volume and weight of packaging materials, increase the use of recyclable materials, and finally a redesign of our packaging (cradle to cradle).
Eventually, we have identified the use of water and water management as another key issue regarding sustainability. While this topic does hardly emerge in current discussions about corporate sustainability, we believe it will top the agenda in the future. Water supplies are a real problem at a global scale. Our main goal is to reduce the water footprint of our supply chain, for example by implementing better water management schemes in our own premises and by helping our suppliers to improve their performance in this field.
Premium Beauty News - Is a high sustainability performance a real competitive advantage?
Bas Schneiders - For a company like Weleda there is no doubt about that. Our consumers have very high expectations in this field. In a context where many cosmetic companies intend to improve their environmental credentials by greening some parts of their activity, our consumers expect us to remain leaders in sustainability. Actually, there are in fact very few companies with ambitions similar to ours.