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Weleda - a company inspired by anthroposophy
It all began with a hospital and a pharmaceutical laboratory – founded by a Dutch doctor, an Austrian philosopher and a chemist and pharmacist from Munich. Now it has become the world’s leading manufacturer of holistic, natural, organic cosmetics and pharmaceuticals for anthroposophic therapy. Our motto ‘in harmony with nature and the human being’ is much more than a catchphrase – it’s a genuine system of understanding which has applied since the founding of the company.
How it began
Around 1920 three intellectual and spiritual pioneers set about giving a specific form to new ideas which were abroad, as disparate threads of anthroposophical teaching and research activity. In 1921 Dr Ita Wegman (1876-1943) opened the Clinical and Therapeutic Institute in Arlesheim in Switzerland, a hospital using anthroposophical medicine for sick patients. Viennese-born chemist Oskar Schmiedel (1887-1959) had already worked alongside both Dr. Wegman and Rudolf Steiner since studying chemistry at Munich University, and indeed worked with Dr Wegman to produce the first mistletoe preparation for cancer treatment which is still in use today.
The first products of a revolutionary idea
1920 - 1923
These three pioneers developed the first pharmaceutical products using a concept that has formed Weleda's product philosophy to this day – medicine should provide crucial stimulus for the body's own healing powers. The revolutionary idea pre-empted what complementary medical research proves today: healing can indeed be brought about by holistically formulated pharmaceutical products that stimulate the body to heal itself.
In 1920, Steiner and Wegman founded the Futurum AG in Arlesheim, Switzerland and Der Kommende Tag AG in Stuttgart, Germany – a limited company for the development of economic and spiritual values. Both companies had chemical and pharmaceutical departments run by chemists, doctors and pharmacists. The aim of the companies was to secure financial resources for the running of the Freie Waldorfschule - also known als Steiner School - in Stuttgart and the School of Spiritual Science in Dornach, Switzerland in the premises of the Goetheanum – the architecturally-dramatic world centre for the anthroposophical movement and also the centre of the General Anthroposophical Society.
In 1921 Futurum AG took over the trial laboratory at the Goetheanum, led by Dr. Oskar Schmiedel, and merged it with the chemical-pharmaceutical manufacturing laboratory, led by the pharmacist Ernst Heim. In August that year the company moved to new premises in neighbouring Arlesheim and the history of today's Weleda AG began.
From this point, the main focus was the production of pharmaceutical products and of natural cosmetics with a holistic view of humans, society and nature. Within a year Weleda’s range totalled 120 different products and the two companies merged for financial reasons as International Laboratories and Clinical Therapeutic Institute Arlesheim AG.
Introduction of the name 'Weleda'
1924 - 1933
By 1924 there was a developing worldwide demand for medicinal products and natural cosmetics, which is why several Weleda subsidiaries were founded. The first was established in France in 1924, then in 1925 came the Netherlands and Great Britain, the following year Austria and Czechoslovakia and the USA joined the family in 1931.
In 1928 the company name Weleda was introduced and adapted from the Germanic healer and prophet Veleda. Rudolf Steiner personally designed the logo, which is still used today. It shows a stylised staff and Aesculapian snake – symbolically and mythologically linked with healing. A giving and a receiving symbol is drawn around the staff, symbolising the medical and the social approach of Weleda.
Development of classic products
By the end of the decade Weleda employed twelve people at the company’s site at Schwäbisch Gmünd. In this first decade classic products had been developed, which are still popular with Weleda’s customers today. In today’s catalogue and website you can find Rosemary Hair Oil (1922), Calcium Compound (1924), Birch Elixir (1924) Arnica Massage Oil (1926), Skin Food (1927) and Pine Bath Milk (1927).
Starting in 1932, Weleda provided its customers with information in a regular publication called Weleda Nachrichten – today’s Weleda Magazine. Banned during the war, it now has a circulation of half a million people.
1933 - 1976
As a Swiss company, Weleda survived World War II relatively unscathed. The product range expanded in the 50s and 60s during a time of European economic boom. New classic products appear such as the Nursing Tea (1950), Sea Buckthorn Elixir (1955), Skin Tonic (1959), Shaving Cream (1960), Lavender Bath Milk (1961), Foot Balm (1962), and Chestnut Shampoo (1966). With the launch of Calendula Baby Oil in 1960, the foundation was laid for the successful baby and child care range, based on bio-dynamically cultivated calendula.
Weleda all over the world
In 1952, Weleda France also expanded with a new production site in St. Louis, Alsace. Further international subsidiaries were also established in Italy (1953), New Zealand (1955), Sweden (1956), Brazil (1959), and Argentina (1965).
In an important breakthrough in 1976, Weleda’s employees began working on the monographs for the German Homeopathic Pharmacopeia. Since then, Weleda has been responsible for information on almost all remedies in the list that undergo mineral, heat and rhythmic treatment.
1977 - 2004
By 1992, Weleda was present in 30 countries with a huge range consisting of over 10,000 products. People were becoming increasingly environmentally-aware and demand was growing for natural cosmetics, which led to revision of old product recipes and the creation of new ones.
Further international subsidiaries were also founded in the 1990s and 2000s: Weleda Chile in 1992, Weleda Peru in 1993, Weleda Japan in 1999, Weleda Slovakia in 2000 and Weleda Finland in 2004.
Still a pioneer
2006 - today
In 2006, Weleda France opened Espace Weleda, an oasis of well-being with, amongst other things, exclusive treatment spas and shops.
In 2007, Weleda and other leading natural cosmetic manufacturers created the NaTrue non-profit initiative, which defines clear international guidelines for the use of the term ‘natural cosmetics’ and ensures transparency for the consumer by issuing NaTrue certification.
In 2011, Weleda celebrated 90 years of growth and sustainability. We are now one of the most well-known providers of anthroposophical medicine and the main provider for natural cosmetics. Today, Weleda has around 2,000 full-time employees around the world, of which 70% are women. In addition, we co-operate with numerous other companies and partners in fields such as research, retail and the harvesting of raw materials.
Making history with our heritage in mind
In the course of its history, Weleda has continued to develop with the help and teamwork of committed people around the world. By developing other national companies, a different kind of globalisation has appeared – in many countries where the company operates today patients, doctors and pharmacists provided the impetus for establishment by asking for anthroposophic medicinal products and natural cosmetics.
Weleda has always been true to itself, its founders and its values. As a world business brand, and on social, environmental and economic levels, Weleda has operated on the same principles since it opened its doors to healing and bodycare in 1921.