Inside Out: Weleda’s MD Jayn Sterland on The Beauty of Doing Good
Jayn Sterland is a woman on a mission: that has seen her as No 1 of 2018’s ‘Whos Who In Natural Beauty’ list for the third year running. The Managing Director of cult-status beauty brand Weleda, we spoke to her on what beauty means to her, and Weleda’s earth-friendly approach to being beautiful…
WHERE IS HOME FOR YOU?
I’m Derbyshire born and bred. My parents were farmers, my father was a farmer and I was brought up by my gran who was quite a herbalist. My mother was a doctor so I was brought up in a very grounded, practical way about how you approach health and wellbeing and where your food comes from.
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR CAREER PATH TO BEAUTY?
I was a global brand director in fashion until I had kids, and then I have two beautiful children, and when I had my eldest I thought oh god what am I doing. Ive had strong personal values all my life but it took me having children to realise, I work in marketing and sell lies everyday and I just wanted to speak the truth – and that’s why I went to Weleda as that’s the only brand that I found, where they speak the truth.
WELEDA WAS FOUNDED IN 1921 – HOW HAS THE BRAND CHANGED?
While the beauty industry has completely changed, our values and brand haven’t changed at all. We were founded by, well I was going to say a visionary, I’m trying to think of another word to use apart from visionary and I can’t think of one! Rudolph Steiner had a particular philosophy about life and it was incredibly broad. He believed that we are totally interconnected with nature and if you take us out of nature and we become ill, which is interesting in itself. If you apply factory rules and industrialisation rules to our food, it takes all the nutrients out of it. Well, guess what? That’s exactly what’s happened!
His philosophy encompassed every aspect of our lives from education, from how we live, food particularly. He’s known as the grandfather of the organic movement, he founded or he was the first visionary of organic farming and he also had very strong views on our health, and how we need to maintain our health through good food.
WELEDA IS A BRAND TO TRUST – HOW DOES YOUR BUSINESS MODEL REFLECT HIS VALUES?
We have 3 elements to our business. The first is that we look at how sustainable we are, in terms of all the ingredients that we use, all of our working practices. We also look at how we deal with people and making sure that the work place is a good work place, where you can fulfill your own potential. We also look at making sure that we pay fair wages, within our sourcing project all the way through to actually having lower prices for consumers to buy, so that the price is very low for the quality that you get. The third leg – so there is the planet side and the people side – is of course there is profit. We have to make a fair profit, but we ensure it’s fair, we are not there to take money, but we have to make money to be sustainable. So those three lenses that we look through when we look to how we run our business.
HOW DO YOU COMBINE SUSTAINABILITY WITH PROFITABILITY?
We are always questioning how to improve our methods. Even down to the vehicles that we drive, we should be driving electric vehicles, you know powered from carbon neutral electricity, or whatever. But we have older vehicles, so what do we do with those older vehicles? Do we go and buy brand new ones? So, we kind of have to look at it and weigh it up – is it right for the planet, is it right for the people and also is it right for our profit? In terms of sourcing, we will go work with partners, we will develop partnerships there – we usually try and be cooperative with local farmers – and we are usually with an educator there from a nearby university. We will work with a local distiller; there is no point in us shipping raw plants, ingredients, half way around the world, just to distil it in France or Germany. So it is about being conscious of every single decision that you make. We’re just having a really big debate at the moment because actually plastic is really better for carbon offsets than glass – so what do you do there?
You know, it’s really hard to know. If we had perfect systems, where 100% of plastics would be continually recycled then it wouldn’t be a problem. But we don’t have these perfect systems. Therefore, we are look at glass and glass takes a huge amount of energy to recycle, versus plastic, massive, the carbon offset for carting glass around the world, products in glass bottles, is enormous, compared to plastic which is so much more light weight. So, it’s really difficult and what makes me very cross, I wouldn’t say angry, but it makes me very cross, is when people seem to suggest there are easier solutions, because we all want a simple solution and I think that if it’s a simple solution then you’re not really looking at the real problem. At Weleda we try to be as good as we can, but we know we’re not perfect.
“CONSCIOUS BEAUTY MEANS BEING AWARE OF EVERY SINGLE THING, EVERY SINGLE DECISION THAT YOU MAKE.”
WHAT’S NEXT FOR ‘CLEAN BEAUTY’?
The whole kind of movement was really started in the States through the woman’s environmental network. They did some amazing pieces of work, in the early Noughties. They really started to raise the profile and there were very good pieces of work done in the UK, by people like Greenpeace around 2010 and 2012. But it hasn’t really engaged the consumer and I think it taken us until now, and it might even be down to the next generation coming up, for us to really raise our consciousness about it.
WHAT DO YOU THINK MAKES SOMEONE BEAUTIFUL?
Beauty comes from within and it comes from a mindset. If you’re happy with yourself and you’re healthy and really look after yourself, mentally-speaking and you get to know yourself and then you really start to love yourself and it shines through you.
I certainly don’t understand why people wear foundation, as foundation makes your skin bad. Why do you want to wear a mask in the world? Particularly now, as its really relevant to younger women as you have to be a different person through social media and I think it just sends out the wrong message. I’m a huge advocate of being the same person as at work, having a blended life and being the same on the inside as I am on the outside.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE WELEDA PRODUCT?
Without a doubt, it’s Skin Food. It was created in 1925, it comes from five really simple ingredients you can use it anywhere on anything, young, old, men, women and its just a fantastic nourishment for skin. It’s got rosemary, which helps boost circulation, it feeds you from the inside out. If there was one product that you never knew was us, Skin Food for me is Weleda in a tube. It’s got a heritage story and a sustainable one too – and it really, really works.
WHO OR WHAT INSPIRES YOU?
So the name Weleda is a Celtic name that goes back to a seer, someone who has second sight or a priestess. But the word became synonymous with the wise person of the village, the person who you’d go to for guidance, herbal advice, marriage advice, health practices – everything. We were given the name by Steiner not as a brand name but more of a call to action. So, I’m fortunate as I work with some amazing people and 500 Weleda advisors who are all ‘Weledas’. They’re an amazing bunch, so the people I work with on a day to day basis give me so much. Everyday I hear the work they do, hearing their stories and listen to their innate wisdom and they really put so much care in to the world.
In front of me I grew up admiring people like Anita Roddick and we don’t have any activists anymore. We’re all too passive. What’s happening with the planet is just shocking. I really admire people like Professor Kate Raworth who wrote Doughnut Economics. People who are really taking a stand in the world.