Q&A with Lou, Head of Sustainability at Neal's Yard Remedies

We were lucky enough to spend some time last week chatting with Lou, the Head of Sustainability at Neal's Yard Remedies. Have a read to find out more about her role and what sustainability means to her.

What is the best part of your role at Neal’s Yard Remedies?

That’s quite a difficult question! I’ve spent 25 years here in a number of roles, each of which I’ve enjoyed immensely: sourcing natural ingredients from around the world, developing new products, building relationships with the many fantastic organisations we partner with, including Soil Association, World Land Trust and Plastic Soup Foundation. What it really comes down to is the many inspirational conversations with keen, passionate people, all of whom are working hard to make a positive difference in the world, from their own different perspectives, and with a huge breadth of incredible talent and expertise. This brings me so much hope for the future, and a drive to share that awareness, help foster connections and lend support where we can.

Another simple, but very satisfying moment, is each time we get the stamp of approval on another product certification. Not only is it a testament to everyone’s commitment here, but I’m a list-ticking kind of person so it’s nice to have a clear endpoint! 

What does being sustainable mean to you personally?

It’s about feeling your connection within the world, a deep awareness that you are a small part of a much greater system, then acting responsibly within that. The same goes for personal health, being aware that good health is more than a lack of illness, that it’s important to be aware of when your body needs to rest, physically or mentally, and to nourish it with a balance of good food, exercise and care. I try to buy less, but better, with an awareness of where things have come from, how they’ve been produced, and by whom, and where anything that’s left post-use will be going. I’m extremely encouraged to see the current rise in refill schemes, from tap water to bulk ingredients to cosmetics, and the popularity of small-scale makers and artisans that help create a sense of community and deeper connection with the things we choose to buy.

How are Neal’s Yard Remedies committed to sustainability?

Neal’s Yard Remedies has been committed to sustainability since the first day in 1981, long before “sustainability” became a common term. Unwavering support of organic farming, the understanding that how we work the land is a vital factor in climate change, social justice and health for people and nature, is embedded at the heart of the company. We use renewable energy across all our sites, we have invested in solar panels and recycling waste water at our eco factory, we have been CarbonNeutral for more than 10 years and we have pioneered fair trade and sustainable sourcing from the beginning, all driven by our ethos to have a minimal, ideally positive, impact through our activities.

What is your favourite Neal’s Yard Remedies product and why?

Wild Rose Beauty Balm, it’s just the most no-nonsense, use-it-for-everything product, but not only it is practical, it’s also beautiful to use. I’ve been using it since working on its development back in 2004. My husband uses it after (infrequently) shaving, I use it for cleansing and as a moisturiser, the boys get a slick of it on dry lips or hands, particularly at the moment with all the extra hand washing.

What is your favourite season at your eco-factory in North Dorset and why?

Though beautiful in all seasons, spring is the most magical time for me, brimming with fresh new buds and potential. Currently we’re making tinctures from 17 of the herbs we grow ourselves from seed or wild harvest from the hedgerows of our 5 acre organically managed site. Nettles and cleavers will be amongst the first to harvest, perfect for cleansing tonics, then as the weather warms there will be meadowsweet, lemon balm, echinacea and plantain. It’s such an amazing opportunity to work with the freshest, vitality-rich extracts and keeping the production in-house means that we can ensure the quality, as well as maintain the closest relationship to the herbs. You can’t help but be aware of the heavily scented damask roses or golden calendula flowers as you arrive. It reminds us every day that plants are at the heart of everything we do.

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