While looking for new natural and sustainable ingredients in Paris at In Cosmetics Global I bumped into Richard Eyles and Dirk-Jan Oudshoorn from Forestwise and started an interesting conversation about sustainability and the ingredients they offer. So here is taste of our chat in Paris
- How was Forest Wise born?
Forestwise was founded back in 2018 by Theo Smits and Dirk-Jan Oudshoorn. Theo moved to Indonesia in 2007, looking to share his 30-years of experience and extensive production technology knowledge with people in less developed areas, through an Indonesian NGO. Dirk-Jan moved to Indonesia in 2013, to work for the same organisation. Theo and Dirk-Jan worked on various sustainable community development projects in different parts of Indonesia and witnessed at first hand the destruction caused by massive deforestation in Borneo. They also saw that the local inhabitants were eager to protect the forest and their culture and were eagerly looking for sustainable sources of income. In 2018, they decided to set up their own social enterprise, Forestwise, to empower the local inhabitants to keep protecting the remaining rainforest.
- How do you embody sustainability, in theory and practise, at Forest Wise?
Sustainability is our lifeblood as well as our USP. It’s something which differentiates us from our competitors. Every aspect of our business is viewed through a sustainability lens. We’re not perfect but we are getting there. Right now I’d point to the fact that our partners wild gather the raw materials from the forest floor or by tapping trees. This means that there is zero negative effect on the forest. Furthermore, I’d say that our efforts, by which I mean ours and the gathering teams, are protecting the forest by adding value to its fruits.
- It is rare to come across raw materials suppliers sharing metrics openly and beautifully like you, why is it important for you to do that?
We have looked very hard at our business model and trust is at the bottom of everything from our customers’ marketing claims to the legal aspects of our certifications as well as quality issues. Again, we’re not perfect but by being open with our customers we demonstrate that we’re a startup worth nurturing as a supplier. We’re digging deeper as well, working on quantifying and sharing our carbon impact. We envisage that this will be a key parameter and selling point in the near future.
- What are the social and environmental benefits behind using your ingredients?
There are benefits along the supply chain. We protect rainforest and give employment to over a thousand families. Forestwise employs local people from Borneo in all aspects of factory work. Today, we have agreements with six villages that they will protect their rainforest, as long as we purchase our raw materials from them. Further down the chain our customers will know that they are cutting their carbon footprint and saving biodiversity – and can share these stories with the consumer. Finally, the consumers can align themselves with socially and environmentally responsible brands.
Actually, can I add that we’re also spending time looking at upcycling the by products from oil and butter production. Powdered charcoal, biochar for soil improvement and paper are just some of the projects we’re working on. It’s really exciting at the moment.
- What is your supply chain strategy in order to be resilient and reliable
Our production site is in the middle of Borneo and this does present some challenges. But, and this is important, we’re not producing in a forest clearing. It’s a professional factory with all the utilities such as water from boreholes – one of our founders is a water diviner – generators for electricity, internet connection, etc. In common with the rest of the world, international logistics are a huge challenge at the moment. We’re mitigating this by keeping stock in Europe as much as possible.
- You use so many certifications, ie USDA organic, Eu organic, Cosmos, UEBT, Fair For Life and even Halal. Why is it important for you to do that?
Yes, we seem to have a blizzard of paperwork covering our products but this is so important. Twenty years ago customers seemed content to have “green” products but now it’s a more holistic sustainability approach and having externally audited certifications to high standards gives our customers confidence in us and reinforces trust.
- What are the benefits for Forestwise clients?
Twofold really. Firstly we’re providing ingredients that perform well and are easy to formulate with. They’ll add properties such as emoliency, structure, texture, palatability, or natural colouring to natural cosmetic formulations. Secondly, these ingredients are highly marketable as the sustainable way in which they are produced can be shared with consumers.
- At the moment what are your favourite ingredients and why? (Please talk about the skin and hair benefits)
This is like trying to choose a favourite child but OK. Today, I’m going for Buah Merah Oil. I’ve been involved with vegetable oils for over 20 years and I’ve never seen an oil like it. It has several unique properties: a deep red colour that at low inclusion levels is an amazing golden yellow, great antioxidant properties due to beta carotene and polyunsaturates and great stability. We see it being used as a natural colour, emollient, and maybe in tanning products and hair protection. This oil is going to be huge.
- What are their most common applications in the cosmetic industry?
Our focus products at the moment are Illipe Butter, Kukui Nut Oil and as I said before Buah Merah Oil. Illipe Butter has a higher melting range than Shea Butter and doesn’t have that graininess you can get sometimes. So, we see Illipe applications in solid formulations where the formulator is looking to add more body and structure. It’s a moisturiser as well – we have a clinical trial report – and all in all its a versatile workhorse ingredient with a great back story. Kukui Nut Oil is completely different. It’s an emollient vegetable oil that has rapid skin penetration that leaves a dry skin feel that formulators always comment on.
- Any tips for formulators and where are your ingredients available?
Hmm, tips for formulators? I would never tell these guys how to do their jobs – after all I’ve had no formulation training – but I would say that our products are functional, some with unique properties and they are all produced sustainably so they can be used with a clean conscience. In the USA, Western Europe, Korea and a few other territories we have very capable distributors like OnScent, DKSH, Alfa Chemicals and Raw Map. All of our products can be sourced from them. Of course we’re happy to get any conversation about sustainable ingredients started.