Doctor Who?

By Melanie Timbrell – While multinational giants capitalise on competitive cutthroat strategies and invest in breakthrough technology, this German brand retains its loyal following by maintaining a 43-year-old tradition of hand-harvested medicinal herbs and skincare formulated to satisfy the spirit. 

Influenced by the anthroposophic principles of philosopher Rudolph Steiner, the ethos of the company is to use biodynamic farming practices to produce chemical-free products with no synthetic preservatives. 

About 90 percent of all ingredients used in Dr. Hauschka products are grown at the gardens and farm of WALA, the foundation that oversees the brand. 

Standing for Warmth, Ash, Light, Ash, the WALA method is an 11-step process that begins with hand-harvesting at sunrise to optimise ingredient efficacy, progresses to hand chopping and grinding of ingredients and finishes with a liquid extract, fondly known as “Mother Substance” stored for one year in a controlled environment.

Committed to the concept of self-healing through nature, the brand significantly breaks with the zeitgeist to consider profit simply a product of efficiency, rather than a measure of success. 

“Profit is a necessary basis for a company’s development. However, this basis should not become the company’s main objective, but rather a means of bringing its ideas to life,” comments a brand representative in Germany. 

WALA changed from a general commercial partnership to a public foundation in 1986, a move that means the company’s equity is unable to be bought, inherited or sold. All profits of the limited company belong to the foundation, which reinvests in the entity or distributes surplus to employees, who collect cash dividends or participate in a unique staff loan system. This staff fund returns the loan principal with interest when employees leave the company whilst giving the organisation a working capital base to help reduce the need for institutional debt. 

Eschewing the concept of big advertising budgets, Dr Hauschka has built its success on the back of the most powerful promotional tool of all: word of mouth. And that success is by no means insignificant. The brand manages around 12 per cent operating margin annually, with Australian retailers alone jumping from four to 160 over the past 10 years. 

“We embrace a similar philosophy to WALA where we uphold the integrity and sustainability of Dr. Hauschka. We are very selective with who stocks the brand in Australia,” explains General Manager of Australian operations, Ben Brander.

“People are cynical about the hype and overblown promises that traditionally beauty houses peddle. When they buy Dr. Hauschka, they are buying into the integrity of the brand, not just the efficacy of the products,” adds Australian Director, Lars Brander.

The precept of the WALA foundation sees the organisation support a number of international philanthropic initiatives, including The Rose Project in Afghanistan, which supports farmers making the switch from opium poppy to roses grown for essential oil. The foundation additionally provides long-term purchase guarantees to women in Burkina Faso who produce shea butter according to traditional practices.

“For many families the sale of shea butter is an important source of income. WALA helps to preserve these village communities by purchasing the shea butter from the villages at above-average prices…the villages receive financial, advisory and organisational assistance with obtaining organic certification,” comments WALA Head of Raw Materials Sourcing, Ralf Kunert of the project.

That there is clearly a place within the industry for a brand which defies the modern lure of bottom-line focus to concentrate on social responsibility, personal well being and sustainable, environmentally-friendly growth gives pause for thought. Especially because such success not only defies the wisdom of an industrialised model of efficiency, but is also testimony to the consumer creed of contemporary conscience. 

The robust prosperity of Dr. Hauschka is indicative that an ethos of healthy plants and happy skin is not such an antiquated idea. With the global natural market growing at 16 per cent annually and a recent swathe of bad press on the chemical nasties that form our daily beauty bread, these quiet German revolutionaries may in fact be pioneering a sustainable alternative for our entire industry. 

It may transpire that a future return to the values of yore will turn out to be just what the Doctor ordered.