Treating partners as equals
Interview with Annette Piperidis
Raw materials. The sowing of seeds marks the beginning of every Weleda product, and the focus is on sustainability and quality right from the start. As International Strategic Sourcing Coordinator at Weleda, Annette Piperidis is responsible for ensuring that all raw amterials meet the company’s high standards.
Where do the raw materials for Weleda natural cosmetics and medicines come from?
ANNETTE PIPERIDIS: Many of the plants that we use in Weleda medicines are grown in our own biodynamic gardens. But we source the large quantities that we require for our natural cosmetics from our partners around the world, for example, sesame from Mexico, roses from Morocco and lavender from Moldova. Likewise, we only work with certified suppliers who meet our high-quality standards.
What are these standards and how does Weleda define sustainable sourcing?
AP: Ecologically, economically and socially acceptable practices. These are the three key aspects of our partner- ships with suppliers. For instance, by gathering wild arnica in the Romanian Carpathians, we ecologically protect the natural arnica plant population and generally promote biodiversity in the region. We economically invest a great deal there, such as in drying facilities and refrigerated transport systems. The arnica is gathered across a vast area and not every picker is near a drying facility, so refrigerated trans- port preserves the arnica’s valuable natural properties.
Such investments make it easier for people to properly handle the medicinal plants. As independent entrepreneurs, they are also free to offer their high-quality products to other buyers on the market. The entire region benefits from this development on a social level because it creates jobs and slows down the rural exodus.
What social projects has Weleda initiated?
AP: There are different needs in every country and in every community. Sustainability is the common thread that ties together all our projects, but the initiatives are adapted to local conditions. In Moldova, we helped to finance a school, and we built a day care centre as part of our rose project in Turkey. We also fund a scholarship for organic agriculture at the University of Isparta, Turkey. In Uganda, where sesame is grown for Weleda, we are building wells to ensure a reliable supply of drinking water for the local population. It always depends on what is actually needed.
Do you and your colleagues know all of the Weleda partners around the world?
AP: Yes, we all know each other personally. We have been working with a number of growers for many years now. We generally visit our partners once a year, to monitor adherence to standards and to renew the certifications. Furthermore, we regularly organize supplier conferences in Schwäbisch Gmünd, Germany to keep our partners up to speed on the latest developments at Weleda and to enhance our exchanges and collaborations.
Annette Piperidis travels extensively as the International Strategic Sourcing Coordinator for Weleda. In the Atlas Mountains of Morocco, the avid gardener learned the Berber secret to lush iris blooms: rhizomes should be trimmed at the sides and planted in the soil with about one-third of their length below the surface.