It’s no secret that our health matters in all aspects of our lives. As more and more people listen to what their bodies need, the wellness and personal care industry continues to thrive. According estimates by McKinsey & Company, the wellness industry has an estimated global value of $1.5 trillion, growing 5-10% per year. The growth in an industry focused on healthier living is great. But economic growth in any industry usually comes with environmental costs, which should give you pause. If an increase in sales of wellness products harms the environment, how much wellness is actually provided? Fortunately, some companies, like the nearly century-old Swiss wellness brand Ricolaset a new standard.
Discover a healthy lifestyle as seen in the Swiss Alps.
Healthy planet, healthy humans
The Ricola philosophy: you can’t really have a wellness industry if it’s not rooted in environmental sustainability. For the company, this principle is part of its DNA. After all, its daily care products are all based on a traditional family recipe made from ten locally harvested products. Swiss mountain herbs. Without the clean air and pure water of Switzerland’s high altitude landscape, these herbs simply wouldn’t have the same potency.
Sustainability is at the heart of everything Ricola does. Without a healthy environment, Ricola cannot offer the wellness benefits up to its standards.
Ricola centers its business practices on the idea that a healthy planet is crucial for a healthy life and that the products are better for it. That sounds good, but the world is full of companies touting the merits of sustainability. How to distinguish the good from greenwashing? Watch carefully and see how these goals are put into practice on the ground.
From seed to shelf
For Ricola, it all starts before the seeds are even planted. Most modern farms select growing sites for convenience of location. Then they pour synthetic fertilizers into the soil and pump water until the site’s soil can support the desired crop. Ricola rejected this approach. Instead, the company chose to focus on herbs: Ricola’s five growing regions were carefully chosen to match each herb’s preferred natural conditions. The dry climate of Valais is perfect for sage and thyme, for example, while the rainy foothills of the Jura mountains are ideal for peppermint.
The cultivation system works in harmony with nature, rather than against it, reducing unnecessary water consumption and chemical waste. In addition, all sites are located in the Swiss countryside, far from cities, traffic and sources of pollution.
Next comes the care and harvesting of the herbs. More than 70% of Ricola’s seedlings are planted by hand, a method that has a very low carbon footprint compared to machine-assisted planting. The herbs are then tended by farmers who specialize in caring for tiny, delicate plants without harsh chemicals. And rather than using fertilizers, farmers are helping the soil to replenish naturally by rotating crops.
The result is healthy, fresh botanicals which are then used in the proprietary blend of ten herbs that form the basis of Ricola products.
Small and durable
Many of Ricola’s partner farms are family operations that pride themselves on being small and sustainable. Take for example Ferme Morard in Valais. Owner Frederic Morard now manages his father’s mint fields, the same ones he worked as a child. And in the Emmental, where the peppermint and lemon balm that eventually go into Ricola throat soothing drops are cultivated, the Schutz family weeds and plants together and even asks for help from neighbors at harvest time.
When the herbs are harvested, they are transported to nearby Laufen to dry there. The short travel time both reduces carbon emissions and ensures the herbs stay fresh. The drying plant runs on 100% renewable energy. Later, all Ricola products are packed in 95% FSC-certified boxes (FSC stands for Forest Stewardship Council, a certification body that verifies the sustainability of paper products).
The bottom line(s)
Ricola also ensures that its farms adhere to high cultivation standards and follow fair labor best practices, such as the use of fair trade honey in its Honey Grass and Honey Cherry Throat Drops and investing in bee health and research through the company’s environmental and cultural nonprofit, the Ricola Foundation.
Each choice ties back to the emerging idea of a triple bottom line, or the three Ps (people, profit and planet), a business concept that is gaining traction among outdoor and wellness businesses. This philosophy, one in which Ricola strongly believes—stems from a growing body of research on the importance of environmental justice. Without supporting people and employees, you cannot truly support the environment.
Ricola is such a big part of so many people’s daily wellness routines. This is especially true in the dry climate of mountain towns and places where wildfire smoke has become a reality. For Ricola, the best way to support the health of its customers is not only to provide the products they need, but also to support the environment they rely on to go out and improve their health and well-being by first place.
Take-out? The next time you buy personal care products, whether it’s a bath bomb or throat soothing drops, don’t just look for something that will make you feel better in the moment. Look for brands that have your long-term best interests in mind. It’s the only way to truly provide you with well-being, today and for years to come.
A family business since 1930, Ricola is one of the most innovative confectioners in the world. Ricola exports over 60 specialty herbal products to over 45 countries in Europe, Asia and America. All products are made in Switzerland. Ricola uses the best Swiss herbs to contribute to the well-being of consumers around the world.