Each month, our Grafter Award looks at an individual in the natural health industry. This issue is the fascinating story of the pionerring Susie Hewson, who developed the first organic personal care brand.
Encouraging unwilling participants into action or activity is something Susie Hewson describes as a well-honed skill. And given she was a lone pioneer 30 years ago, when she boldly took the move to launch an organic personal care brand, there’s no doubt she had quite some convincing to do when she began her mission.
Of course, today, the personal care market is flooded with organic brands, but Natracare has always stood head and shoulders above with its environmental and health messages, perhaps explaining why it has stood the test of time over the last three decades.
“I’ve been a graphic designer, teacher, and a fitness instructor – all wildly different roles to the one I’m in now, but all of my past roles have helped me to arrive at where I am today. I still use all the skills I developed in one way or another. It would seem encouraging unwilling participants into action or activity is a well-honed skill I seem to have acquired,” Susie commented.
She launched Natracare back in 1989 to offer certified organic, 100 per cent cotton tampons and plastic free natural sanitary pads.
“This was at a time when the menstrual product market was completely dominated by a few big multinationals and there was absolutely nothing remotely close to my idea of what a more natural product should be,” Susie recalled.
“I saw a documentary about the toxic dioxins produced during the chlorine bleaching used extensively by the pulping industries. Enraged, I started looking closely into the menstrual product industry and soon realised that the big companies who were dominating at the time and still do today were seemingly unconcerned by toxins and chemical residuals found in their products. After unsuccessfully lobbying for change, I decided to take matters into my own hands, driven to provide women with an option which would neither burden the earth with toxic pollutants nor our bodies. This is perhaps one of my proudest achievements.”
Having never worked in the natural and organic sector before, it was a new direction for Susie, although she had been an active environmentalist all of her life. Because of this, organic was always a key part of the offering.
“It’s bounty and diversity, discovered as a young city dwelling girl up on my dad’s allotment, led me to become a lifelong carer of nature – an environmentalist – but once I started thinking about the larger impact I could make as a disruptive business owner, it all started to click into place for me – about the benefits of organic and natural ingredients starting with the raw materials, all the way down the line to the end product. Citizens have a powerful voice in the opening of their purses. Generally, people want to do better as consumers, so often choosing climate positive options makes us all feel that little bit more empowered,” she explained.
“Organic farming has always made sense to me – why disrupt nature’s balance and processes, Mother Nature often knows best!”
Thirty years on from the founding of Natracare and the brand has a strong reputation within the market, with a wider product range now within its portfolio. Being its passionate founder, Susie is still heavily involved.
She commented: “I start the day out in the wildlife garden here at our HQ. It helps me to energise myself for the day ahead. It’s a beautiful environment, with trees, wild flower meadow, a pond, vegetable patch and even a Hobbit house for bugs! Once I’m at my desk, my day is filled with all sorts of actions and commitments – from radio and podcast interview recordings, to auditing the supply chain and the quality of the products, to having meetings with the team about marketing or new product innovations. Oh, and of course, some serious disrupting! No two days are the same, even after 30 years of Natracare!”
The company has always been a positive disruptor and continues to do so with its innovations – and this is clearly something that Susie is proud of.
“We keep on innovating because we like resolving problems. And in 2019, environmental problems in the disposables industry are rife, so we’ve got plenty of work to keep us on our toes,” Susie explained.
“Our most recent disruptive innovation was achieving the Water UK Fine to Flush accreditation for Natracare’s Safe to Flush Moist Tissues, still the only brand to have passed the Water UK standard for making a flushable claim. False claims made on packaging by wipe companies causes millions of pounds of infrastructure damage when they are flushed down toilets and it’s not always just the consumers’ fault! We spent three years developing our plastic free moist tissue product alongside analysis and testing to Water UK Flushability standard. This product is doing incredibly well, so much better than we could have imagined, which goes to show that when people are presented with a greener solution, they will embrace it.”