It has become fashionable to use the term ‘eco-friendly’ everywhere these days. In reality, there are very few that not just understand the meaning of what this means, but are fully committed to the cause of reducing the hazards on the environment in the garb of technology and development. SoulTree is one such rare brand that produces a line of organic certified skin care solutions made with natural ingredients and eco-friendly processes and in true Ayurvedic tradition.
As India’s first and perhaps the only range of certified genuine natural beauty & personal care products made from purely natural ingredients, SoulTree is setting the roadmap for other brands to follow in their manufacturing, sourcing and production processes.
Most of their products (personal care and cosmetics) are made using natural oils and carefully selected Ayurvedic herbs which are grown organically in the Himalayas. They also follow stringent processes to ensure that not even the slightest synthetic and/ or harmful ingredients “contaminate” the SoulTree products. And it all started in 2008, when Vishal Bhandari, CEO and Founder of SoulTree chucked his job in the merchant navy to find safe and more natural replacements of chemical cosmetics. After a year of futile search for someone who could manufacture natural cosmetics, Vishal realised that he would have to build this ground up. The base ingredients required, needed to be extracted from natural sources such as corn, sugar, coconut oil, etc., had entirely different characteristics from the contemporary ones available. With the help of a septuagenarian Ayurvedic vaidya and a chemist, he established a small lab, that has since then grown to become the only brand in India to obtain a “Natural” certification for all its products. “In the new millennium,” says Vishal, “one found that there was no manufacturer of genuinely beneficial cosmetic products. Most of them, including few very reputed ones, were using chemicals, in some cases carcinogenic ones at that, while claiming the herbal or Ayurvedic tag. Worst still, they were not even listing all the ingredients used in the products, thus depriving the customers of the right to choose what they use. The idea was not just to create awareness amongst consumers, but also offer them a range of genuinely natural cosmetics, devoid of harmful chemicals with an authentic third party guarantee. If there could be ways to improve the livelihood of the small organic farmers, it was perfect.”
Vishal and his motley crew explored the concepts of natural cosmetics, scoured the internet and finally emerged with the initial range of natural & organic cosmetics which were meeting BDIH standards. SoulTree, a unique combination of Ayurveda and organic standards, holds to its credit to be the first Indian brand to be certified natural by a European body. The brand name conveys its core elements of human consciousness and respect for nature. Being free from synthetic & harmful ingredients such as SLS/SLES, parabens and completely devoid of artificial colours/ fragrances, these herbs deliver their full benefit without any side-effects.
Giving Back, To Society as Well
At SoulTree, goodness does not end with the consumer. All their products are environment & community friendly too. The raw material sourcing follows environment-friendly practices like organic farming & water conservation. SoulTree works closely with farmer groups and NGOs to ensure that farmers get a good price for their produce and are assured of a sustainable livelihood. The products themselves are non-toxic and not tested on animals. So, on the whole, wholesome goodness is spread to more and more people.
SoulTree works very closely with women farmers and small not for profit organisations, to promote organic farming and generate sustainable livelihoods amongst the rural communities. Since their humble beginnings, the brand has come a long way. Vishal feels there is a need towards educating consumers to “choose what they use”. To go organic means not just marketing your product, but also marketing the concept of going organic. “I do see a big difference in the awareness that people have in North India as compared to South India. Down South, people look at the value of a product as opposed to in North India, where the demand is more brand-oriented,” observes Mr Bhandari, adding, “SoulTree is committed to fair trade policies by either buying directly from farmers or aggregates. We have processes where we check that they receive fair prices and also that they receive payments on time.” This is turn means that there is a direct connection between farm and factory. SoulTree works with over 3,000 farmers, most of whom are women who tend to the farms, the menfolk having gone away to work in factories due to lack of employment opportunities in the hills.
The overall objective – of being able to contribute to sustainable development – by following a route that develops high-quality products while also promoting livelihood generation through organic farming – is a case study.
It is perhaps this commitment that makes SoulTree a trailblazer.
Text and images by Aarti Kapur Singh