How Weleda is changing the world

Weleda is now a certified B Corp. In this interview we speak about the certification process, the high standards of the issuing organisation, and the reasons that led us to take this step.

How Weleda is changing the world

What does B Corp actually mean?

Stefan Siemer: B Corp stands for “Benefit Corporation” and the certification recognises a company for its social and ecological achievements. It is issued by the non-profit organisation B Lab. Notably, it is not products that are certified, but a company’s actions and overall approach. The focus is on social added value and ecological sustainability, not maximising profits at any price. In other words, it is about the environment, biodiversity, species protection, human rights, climate protection, employees and customers. B Lab calls it “business as a force for good.” The global B Corp movement originated in the US and aims to make our planet a better place.

It almost sounds too good to be true. Can you elaborate on their mission?

Stefan Siemer: The B Corp community, which currently includes over 7,000 businesses, is united by the desire to make a difference. In the business world, this attitude is tantamount to a paradigm shift. Most of the time, the main aim of a business is to make profits. While that’s not going to change anytime soon, it shouldn’t be at any price or at the expense of people, animals and the environment. This has always been the fundamental attitude at Weleda. So it made perfect sense for us to strive for this certification. To do so, we had to amend the purpose clause in our company’s articles of association, which is akin to our DNA. Now these core guiding principles include the common good and environmental protection.

Weleda receives B Corp certification

If Weleda has always upheld such values, was it really worth the effort to obtain certification?

Stefan Siemer:

Yes, absolutely! To achieve certification, a company must undergo a rigorous examination process. This includes evaluating our positive societal contributions and our evidence supporting these claims.

Sustainability is at the heart of what we do, and it is anchored in our corporate purpose. Being in harmony with nature and people is only possible if we are a responsible and sustainable company. B Lab recognises Weleda’s commitment to sustainable living, for example, in our certified natural and organic cosmetics and the good relationships we nurture with our cultivation partners. And at our MUNDI sustainable development centre in Schwäbisch Gmünd, where school classes, community groups and companies can experience sustainability directly.

There are a number of other certification organizations with similar goals. Why did Weleda choose B Corp certification?

Stefan Siemer: Weleda has a global presence, and this is also true of B Corp. Plus, it has an extraordinary community behind it, consisting of very dedicated and inspiring people; these contacts are enriching and broaden our perspectives. We considered various labels, but ultimately went with this one due to its worldwide presence in particular. This decision was driven by the Weleda Group and our sustainability department, and was fully supported by the entire management team and the board of directors.

The focus is on social added value and ecological sustainability, not maximising profits at any price.

Why did Weleda want to become certified in the first place?

Stefan Siemer: We have always actively promoted an ecologically and socially equitable future. However, we are now approaching issues such as sustainability even more strategically and systematically than ever. The B-Corp approach provides several benefits in this respect. Firstly, it is a robust risk management tool by thoroughly evaluating important sustainability areas. Notably, this assessment function is available free of charge to companies worldwide. Additionally, it boosts transparency, as our audit results are published on the B Corp website. The B Corp score we receive after the assessment serves as our primary sustainability metric. Our goal is to improve this score by improving our overall sustainability performance. Lastly, B Corp places a strong emphasis on impact, particularly the measurable sustainability effects we create.

What did Weleda have to do to achieve certification?

Stefan Siemer: We needed to answer and provide documentation to a great deal of questions about all aspects of the company. More than 100 employees were involved in the process, to gather and prepare all the information required. From our initial decision to our final certification, that took us about one and a half years. Our commitment to the common good and ecological wellbeing had to be formally anchored in writing into the company’s bylaws – which the Weleda shareholders approved at their meeting. Our corporate strategy now builds on this foundation: we aim not only to avoid negative impacts but also to make positive contributions in a very targeted way.

How is Weleda involved in the movement?

Stefan Siemer: We want to actively serve as a role model and example for the B Corp community, especially in Switzerland and Germany. There are currently thousands of companies worldwide that also want to be certified. To support them, we are being very transparent in sharing our knowledge and experiences with the movement as a whole. In addition, we give lectures, participate in working groups and engage in political advocacy by seeking dialogue with decision makers. I believe there is great potential when everyone pursues common goals. We know the main global sustainability challenges, and governments have already agreed on related targets. If, as a movement, we can show that these goals can be achieved while remaining financially viable, it will set a powerful example for other companies to follow.

Customers are becoming increasingly aware of how their own consumption impacts the planet and society. People are quite rightly asking brands and companies to care.

How does Weleda’s B Corp certification benefit natural cosmetics users?

Stefan Siemer: Customers are becoming increasingly aware of how their own consumption impacts the planet and society. People are quite rightly asking brands and companies to care. So that is an important part of the product promise and the brand promise. As the industry leader in certified natural and organic cosmetics and anthroposophic medicines, we are happy to take up these impulses in order to increase our efforts. And because the pharmaceutical industry is not yet as far advanced in this area as the beauty industry, we also want to be a pioneer in sustainability in our pharmaceutical business.

Will Weleda products carry a B Corp label?

Stefan Siemer: We are allowed to use the label on our products. For example, the “B” logo is included on the packaging of the Weleda Firming Facial Care series.

Have there also been critical voices?

Stefan Siemer: It’s an encouraging development when more conventional companies decide to start start the process, even if they aren’t perfect yet. If we truly want to improve the world, we need change across the board, not just among the trailblazers. We need the cooperation of the large corporations as well. The B Corp label is by no means mere ornamentation. The requirements are demanding, highly transparent and easy to comprehend. Any company that is interested can consult not only the criteria but also the assessment reports. The harder question for companies is: Can they maintain their B Corp status after the recertification assessment in three years? If they don’t take it seriously enough, they will lose it then at the latest. The auditing process itself continues to evolve and become even tougher, so that bad actors should have no chance of passing in the future.