#SustyTalk: Weleda’s Bernhard Irrgang on innovation for a sustainable beauty sector

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#SustyTalk is all about keeping edie’s loyal readers connected to sustainability leaders across the world, whilst reminding us all that sustainability and climate action must go on through the current Covid-19 pandemic and beyond. It launched in the early stages of the pandemic in 2020 and has continued since then, keeping us connected to the leaders who are continuing to drive sustainability and climate action.

For this latest #SustyTalk episode, edie’s senior reporter Sarah George is in conversation with Weleda’s head of research & development (R&D), Dr Bernhard Irrgang.

Weleda is one of the world’s largest buyers of organic raw materials and, for more than 100 years, has been a traliblazer in the field of clean beauty.

But what it means to be a truly sustainable health and beauty business is changing rapidly, with new expectations on topics such as climate action, plastic packaging and sustainable supply chains. Expectations are coming from the bottom-up, with consumers expecting more transparency and action from self-styled sustainability leaders, and from the top down, though regulatory changes such as the EU’s Green Claims Directive and moves towards lifecycle carbon labelling on products. 

Dr Irrgang is on hand to speak about how Weleda is navigating this changing landscape, providing learnings for other companies in the health and beauty sector and beyond. A significant part of this is embedding environmental sustainability across key departments including R&D. Last year, for example, the business launched a new ‘Futurum’ group, convening experts in formulation, packaging, final product and marketing to enable more agile decisions on matters with an environmental and/or social impact. 

He said: “I think it’s very important that sustainability is not the task of a little group, but the whole company. Therefore, it’s very important that the strategy of the whole company declares sustainability as one of the most important columns… then, the detailed strategy for R&D, for purchasing, for marketing, includes sustainability.

“I think it’s also important for all kinds of investments to be checked [against] whether they are adding in terms of sustainability, or not.”

Dr Irrgange also discusses how the business certified as a B Corp in 2021, and the specific considerations around B Corp certification for health and beauty brands. There are now more than 6,500 B Corps worldwide, and the health and beauty sector is well-represented in the B Corp community. Other certified brands include Upcircle, The Body Shop, Rituals and The Inkey List.

Click here to see our catalogue of #SustyTalk interviews

Want to be featured on a future episode of #SustyTalk? Email [email protected]. Please bear in mind that our interview calendar is typically booked several weeks in advance. 

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