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Tribute to Horst Rechelbacher, the father of safe cosmetics

For Immediate Release: Wednesday, February 20, 2014
Contact: Margie Kelly, 541-222-9699, mkelly@breastcancerfund.org, or Janet Nudelman, 415-321-2902, jnudelman@breastcancerfund.org

SAN FRANCISCO – The Breast Cancer Fund and the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics extend our deepest, most heartfelt condolences to Horst Rechelbacher’s entire family for the loss of such an important role model and great man. As the founder of the plant-based cosmetic companies Aveda Corporation and Intelligent Nutrients, Horst was a true pioneer in advancing the concept of safe cosmetics. At his most recent company, Intelligent Nutrients, he set the highest bar in the personal care industry by using only 100 percent food-based, safe and organic ingredients.

Horst was one of the earliest, most enthusiastic supporters of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. Given the synergies between the work of the Campaign and his life’s mission of making safe, non-toxic cosmetics, we made a good team.  

He gave generously to the Campaign in terms of advice, strategic thinking and financial and emotional support, serving as a sounding board and providing steadfast encouragement for our work. He was unafraid to make bold statements and take bold positions to push the cosmetics industry to make safer products.

Horst believed so deeply in our work that he would hand out our brochures that announced a “free gift of toxic chemicals with every cosmetic purchase” at industry meetings and workshops, much to the chagrin of his more mainstream peers. He loved our “Story of Cosmetics” video so much, he would show it at posh events, during conference keynotes and at store openings. He inspired countless people to become advocates and start businesses dedicated to making safer products.

Horst was in many ways the father of safe cosmetics – he took action to address the problem long before most of us knew there was anything to even worry about.

Over the past decade, with Horst at our side, the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics has helped to energize a movement of people who are now holding cosmetics companies accountable for the safety of the chemicals they use, and demanding the government takes seriously its responsibility to safeguard the health of its citizens.

In 2011, the Breast Cancer Fund awarded Horst our Hero award to recognize his leadership and vision in demonstrating what’s possible: safe cosmetics that are healthy for people, for the planet and for business profits, too.

Everyone at the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, including Clean Water Action, Women’s Voices for the Earth, Friends of the Earth and the Breast Cancer Fund, extend our deepest thanks and gratitude to Horst. He will be missed.

###

Tributes to Horst Rechelbacher from the environmental health community

"It was Horst Rechelbacher who first explained to me how the cosmetics industry worked. And he did that the way I think he did everything else — through elegant story telling that combined Horst the Artist, Horst the Business Executive, Horst the Philanthropist and Horst the Passionate Advocate for a Healthier World. Every baby born today is a little bit closer to health because of Horst Rechelbacher."

Charlotte Brody, RN
Vice President for Health Initiatives, BlueGreen Alliance and Co-Founder, Campaign for Safe Cosmetics

"I will be forever grateful for Horst’s support of my book and our work at the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. 'Cosmetics should be safe enough to eat,' Horst said during our interview for my book. 'If you wouldn’t put it in your body, why would you put it on your body?' Horst had a knack for speaking truth in ways that made the truth so clear, obvious and hard to ignore. His unrelenting commitment to safer products changed the face of the beauty industry, and he inspired countless others to take up the task. Thank you Horst for believing in and investing in the possibilities for making the world a healthier place."

Stacy Malkan
Author, “Not Just a Pretty Face: The Ugly Side of the Beauty Industry”
Co-Founder, Campaign for Safe Cosmetics

"Ten years ago, just after we launched the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, we set out to build a list of the movers and shakers in the cosmetic industry. Many of us were seasoned advocates, but the cosmetic industry was new to us. We wanted to learn who we were up against in our goal to get toxic chemicals out of products.

That's when we first learned about Horst. As we dug into corporate websites and recent news stories, we found industry executives defending the safety of cosmetics, time and time again, story after story. And then we found Horst, in the national media, pushing back against the status quo:  "There are sixty known carcinogens in cosmetics. And they're still used. It's astonishing that the FDA simply does not care about that."

We knew we had found an ally, a strong voice speaking out for change. Horst was an early and staunch supporter of our work, an inspiration to the campaign, and a champion for public health. We will miss him."

Jane Houlihan
Former VP of Research, Environmental Working Group
Architect of Skin Deep database
Co-Founder, Campaign for Safe Cosmetics

"I remember seeing Horst speak at the Natural Beauty Summit in New York and finding it remarkable how bold and honest he was about the toxic state of the industry in a room full of conventional companies that all were there to congratulate themselves on how 'sustainable' their products were (they were working on their carbon footprint, but not on the toxic chemicals in their products).
 
None of them were willing to name the elephant in the room until Horst stood up and quite simply and eloquently told the truth—the reason the natural and organic cosmetics industry was growing by double digits was because people want safe, healthy, natural, truly sustainable products for their families. This was something Horst knew when he started Aveda and Intelligent Nutrients and this was the wisdom he shared with us at the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. His vision, leadership and generosity have helped ensure a healthier and safer world for us all. Thank you Horst. You will be missed."

Lisa Archer
Director, Friends of the Earth Food and Technology Program
Co-Founder, Campaign for Safe Cosmetics

"In November 2007 Horst invited the entire steering committee of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics to the original Aveda spa and Osceola Retreat Center in St. Croix for one of our best planning meetings ever. He invited us to his home and treated us to an Indian feast, giving us a tour of his private art collection, wine cellar and aromatherapy mixing room and regaling us with war stories about the early days when he was considered an upstart in the beauty industry because he complained about styrene in hair spray.

With Horst’s help, the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics has been at the forefront of efforts to move the beauty industry in a life-affirming direction for the past decade educating millions of people in the United States and around the world about the problem of toxic chemicals in cosmetics and the availability of safer alternatives and pressuring major manufacturers to reformulate toxic products and move toward safer production.  Horst was truly a great and kind man, whose spirit will live on through all of us who were forever changed by his vision and his work." 

Janet Nudelman
Program Director, Breast Cancer Fund
Co-Founder, Campaign for Safe Cosmetics

"Horst was a huge force standing up for organic integrity in personal care, who always kept organic agriculture and ingredient purity front and center. Various interests tried to water down standards, but Horst held the line for all of us. His organic ethics as well as philanthropic generosity was an inspiration and example for all to follow.  

Rest in Peace Horst, thank you."

David Bronner and the Dr. Bronner’s team
Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps

"Horst was a pioneer, a hero, an unforgettable presence for good in our world. He will be so missed."

Judi Shils
Co-Founder, Teens Turning Green

"The loss of Horst is strongly felt; we became close friends over the past 6-7 years since we met when I served as director of The Organic Center. He was a staunch supporter of GMO labeling and organic.

I just published a blog about Horst, plus we released in January a 14-minute video clip of an armchair interview we conducted with Horst in April 2012 when he was our featured guest in Boulder as part of our At the Epicenter entrepreneurship speaker series. It’s a great segment on his philosophies and approach to business and life and reflects his caring for people and the planet. Our companies, Compass Natural and Best Organics, have been producing the At the Epicenter green entrepreneurship speaker series for the past four years, and we had the great honor and pleasure of hosting Horst and his wife Kiran in Boulder for his sellout talk, not to mention a few days spent together."

Steven Hoffman, Compass Natural
Seleyn DeYarus, Best Organics

"Though I didn't know him well, Horst made a lasting impression on me. I fondly remember when a group of environmental health advocates met for a couple of days at Horst's Osceola Retreat Center. We had a really productive time, and a lot of fun. Being in Horst's company in that extremely cool, cultivated space was just amazing. I loved seeing his pack of rescued dogs drinking from a huge water fountain. When he saw me, a huge animal lover, hanging out with them by the fountain he asked me if I had animals of my own, and suggested that I too put organic rose petals in their water fountain every day.  I couldn't promise that, but I loved the suggestion. And I still have a vial of rose oil he gave me on that trip, made from the petals of thousands of organic roses. He promised it'd help me find love. I'm not sure if that was the magic elixir or not, but I did find long lasting love. Thanks, Horst!

Horst was a true visionary and a fascinating man. I am so grateful for his total candor; He brought much needed, refreshingly honest dialogue to the cosmetics industry. He walked the walk and wasn't intimidated by huge challenges or breaking from convention. No one will ever be able to fill Horst's shoes, but I promise to keep bringing truth to the industry, and to keep pushing for ingredient innovation, safety, and better sourcing."

Mia Davis, Beautycounter
Formerly of Campaign for Safe Cosmetics


"Horst was a rare type of man. He was generous, knowledgable, and kind. He acted upon his visions and dreams, and gifted those around him with that same spirit. He will be missed, but never forgotten."

Ian Illuminato
Friends of the Earth

"It was March 2005 and I was launching my company, Plum Organics at the Natural Products Expo West in Anaheim, CA. On the 2nd day of the trade show, a man wearing a black silk tunic with an aura of jasmine stopped to talk to me. He complimented me on my brand and gave me his card with the invitation to reach out for advice and support if I was interested. 
 
After he walked away from my booth, I looked at the card he had handed me and saw his name with the words, “Founder of Aveda”.  A huge fan of Aveda, I was naturally flattered that he stopped to talk with me. 
 
Nearly a year and many email exchanges later, we sat down to lunch at Cipriani in Soho, New York City. He asked how my company was doing and shared with me his latest project, Intelligent Nutrients.  He spoke of “food grade” ingredients for personal care, “shampoo you can drink”, “soap you can eat”. This was more than 8 years ago and his vision evaded me as I wasn’t very knowledgeable about environmental health and the toxins in our products then.  My focus at the time was centered on organic food.

We continued our exchange over email and would always stop to catch-up at the various trade shows. Over the years, I came to learn much more about environmental health and often reflected on that conversation over lunch as his vision became clearer to me as I educated myself. I can only claim to be a casual acquaintance of Horst’s at best, but am privileged to have shared those few moments with him.

While there is surely a void left with his passing, it is also overflowing with the largeness of the contributions he has made to this world." 

Gigi Lee Chang
Founder, Plum Organics
CEO, Healthy Child Healthy World