SOiL was born out of our family managed, organic essential oil farming operation in Zululand, Kwa Zulu Natal, South Africa.
It is here that we have been growing and distilling aromatic plants for their precious oils since 2001. As an eco-ethical range certified by ECO-Cert , SOiL was the first company in South Africa to sell a complete range of 100% certified organic essential oils, many of which we grow ourselves on our organic farm in Zululand. We also launched South Africa’s first line of certified organic massage oil blends and body care products, which we expand and grow year by year.
As we continue to grow our range and expand our business we never lose sight of the fact that our customers’ needs come first, which is why the quality of our product and service, the authenticity of our brand and our strong sense of commitment to our ecological and social ethics remain our key focus.
The way we are able to maintain these strong social and ethical guidelines is by closely managing our product through manufacturing, packaging and distributing directly from our farm, thereby encouraging local economic growth, creating employment and utilising local, renewable resources.
We are unique in that we farm, process and market our own products. By owning most of that supply chain we are able to control and understand what determines the quality of our products.
ETHICS: No animal testing ever.
PURITY: No petrochemicals, no parabens, no synthetic fragrances or colorants.
SOiL products are packaged in recyclable biodegradable glass.
ORGANIC CERTIFICATION AND INGREDIENTS
As your guarantee of the products integrity, the ingredients used in our products help you without harming the environment. SOiL products are certified organic by ECOCERT, France.
In South Africa there are no laws regulating the use of the word “organic” on skincare labels and there are many products on the market which claim to be organic. The reality is that unless a product is certified you cannot be sure whether it is truly organic. Our organic certification is issued by an independent third party (ECOCERT), who on an annual basis inspects our farming and processing facilities to ensure we meet strict organic requirements and remain truly organic; rather than just saying it.
SOiL is not merely a brand of essential oils. We don’t just buy in bulk and repackage for retail, we actually farm many of the plants we use and distil the oils on our organic farm in Zululand, South Africa. We understand essential oils intimately and know what determines quality and we demand this same quality from the other organic farmers who supply us.
CERTIFIED ORGANIC ESSENTIAL OILS ARE THE BETTER CHOICE FOR YOU AND THE ENVIRONMENT.
Growing our plants organically means that no chemicals ie. pesticides or fertilizers are used. It has been proven that using these chemicals kills off micro-organisms in the soil, therefore reducing soil diversity. These chemicals also pollute our groundwater, killing off fish and marine life as well as polluting our drinking water. Not using these chemicals results in nutrient-rich, fertile soil which nourishes the plants and protects water quality, plant life and wildlife. Therefore farming organically leads to a cleaner and more natural environment.
It takes a great deal of plant material to create even a small amount of essential oil and due to the way that essential oils are produced; residues of pesticides in concentrated form may appear in the oil if not produced organically. Organic farming ensures that the end product is free of many of these residual toxins and results in a purer and more effective oil. This is comforting to know when you consider that 60% of what you put onto your skin is absorbed into your body!
SOiL Fair Trade Practices
SOiL Organic Shea Butter is certified by the ECOCERT Fair For Life Programme, Our Ugandan Shea Butter, Lavender Scented Shea Butter and Citrus scented Shea butter all carry the Fair For Life Logo. To SOiL, fair trade means paying a fair price or wage in the local context, providing equal employment opportunities, engaging in environmental sustainable practices, providing healthy and safe working conditions and reducing the number of middlemen between producers & consumers. We believe fair trade should be environmentally, economically, and culturally sustainable and give local communities the opportunity to self-empower.
WHAT DOES FAIR TRADE MEAN?
Fair trade certification is an independent, neutral third-party certification verifying that a company upholds fair trade, social, and environmental standards in their operations. SOiL is certified Fair for Life through ECOCERT, an international inspection & certification agency for organic and social (fair trade) accountability. This Fair for Life certification combines strict social and fair-trade standards with adaptability to local conditions. You can read more about ECOCERT Fair for life at www.fairforlife.org. For more information on the Certification programme for Fair Trade and responsible supply chains click here.
Fair for Life promotes an approach of Fair Trade that allows all producers and workers who are at a socio-economic disadvantage to access a wider range of social and economic benefits. Fair Trade is part of a broader context of sustainable development that safeguards and supports the local social fabric, particularly in rural areas.
Companies are held to an international agreed Fair for Life Standard to ensure global recognition of this label. The Fair For Life standard applies throughout the whole supply chain covering producers, traders, manufacturers and brand holders.
While there are several definitions of fair trade, they all include:
- Fair Trade Price: base price for raw ingredients or goods is adjusted higher than the open market price.
- Price Premium: a percentage above the base fair trade price is paid into a separate account for development projects in producer communities.
- Working Conditions: fair trade operators must adhere to basic human & labour rights, including the right to organize, no child labour, access to health care, and so on.
- Environmental Stewardship: fair trade organizations must minimize environmental impact
ECO AND PEOPLE FRIENDLY
From the plant to the shelf, we minimise environmental impact.We also support self- sustained community initiatives.We are also actively involved in establishment and support of various projects which seek to uplift impoverished communities. Our brand provides a route to market for the products made by these communities.
- Beauty Without Cruelty is an animal rights organisation with a primary objective to educate and inform the public about the exploitation, abuse and suffering of animals and to offer humane, non-animal alternatives to replace cruel and harmful lifestyle choices. Beauty Without Cruelty (BWC) means living without cruelty. BWC has endorsed SOil products with its stamp of approval.
- South African Vegan Society (SAVS) takes its responsibility to offer vegan information and products to South Africans seriously. They strive to service the rapidly growing South African vegan market along with growing global awareness of compassionate, healthy and sustainable living. SAVS has endorsed SOil products with its stamp of approval and our Vegan Friendly status.
‘Groenkop’, translated into English our family farm’s name appropriately means ‘Green Hill’. Situated in the north eastern part of South Africa, the farm is in the heart of rural Zululand overlooking the eMakhoseni Valley, the sacred burial place of Zulu kings. The quality of essential oils is affected by many factors including altitude, soil type and climate to name a few. We undertook two years of extensive trials to establish which plants, when grown in our soils, would yield high quality oil. The results showed that a few of the varieties we trialled were suitable for our farm. We are fortunate that our fertile soils and moderate climate ensure that the oils we produce are of a high quality. The farm’s isolation from industrial centres means it has some of the cleanest air and water in South Africa, further enhancing the quality of our products.
The distillation of essential oils is a relatively small industry in South Africa. There are also very few nurseries which grow seedlings using organic methods. As a result we have had to build our own nursery to ensure that we have high quality organic seedlings for our fields. The seedlings are made by taking cuttings from the tips of mother stock plants. These are inserted into an organic growing medium. The cuttings are watered by automated mist sprayers, and are kept in the nursery for an average of six weeks. Once the cuttings have rooted they are planted out into the fields.
FIELDS OF AROMATIC PLANTS
In order for a field to be certified organic it must have been free from chemical fertilisers and poisons for at least three years. We are fortunate that the fields where our oils are grown have been free from chemicals for much longer than that! The seedlings from the nursery are planted out into the fields by hand. Each hectare of field requires tens of thousands of plants which makes this labour intensive work. Added to this any weeds that grow up cannot simply be killed with chemicals; they too must be removed by hand. However, this type of labour intensive agriculture is just what is needed in rural Zululand where unemployment pressures persist. When ready, the plants are harvested by a tractor drawn cutter. The plants are then gathered by hand and loaded into bags to be taken to the distillery.
At the distillery the bags are hoisted over large stainless steel distillation vessels, or stills, into which the plant material is emptied. These stills can hold about a ton of plant matter. Once the stills are closed, steam is let into the still from the bottom. The steam moves upwards through the plant material causing the oils in the plant to vaporise. The mixture of steam and oil then leaves through the top of the still and is passed through a condenser which cools it, changing its form from steam into liquid. The liquid (mainly water) then flows into a separator where the oil, being lighter than water, floats to the surface. The oil is then drawn off from the top of the separator, leaving only the water which is known as floral water or hydrosol. We use an open system which means that no pressure can build up in the system; resulting in a slow and relatively cool extraction. Together with our stainless steel processing facility this ensures that the volatile oils retain all of their therapeutic qualities.
MEET THE SOIL TEAM
GRANT MCMURRAY- FOUNDER
Grant is the founder of SOiL and started this enterprise in answer to a growing need for all things organic. The first oils marketed by SOiL were grown on his family farm in Zululand. His knowledge of the full essential oil supply chain from growing, distilling and marketing these precious oils means he is continually adding value to this emerging business.
NATALIE MCMURRAY- FINANCIAL MANAGER
Natalie has been in the background of SOiL since the beginning. When she became a mother she found it an easy decision to give up her corporate career and come on board full time to help run this now truly family-managed company.
SLINDILE - ADMINISTRATOR
Slindile will most likely take you order and ensure the correct orders are packaged for the correct person, she loves dealing with people and is extremely efficient in her role managing multiple orders customer queries and dispatch.
NONHLANHLA MSANE- DISPATCH CLERK
Nonhlanhla (Nonnie) comes from a farming background in the Hluhluwe area. She heads the dispatch department and is a valuable part of the SOiL team
BARBARA DU PLESSIS - MARKETING MANAGER
Barbara is creative and practical and will guide you through our range of products and answer all your queries and questions about SOiL.
SWEETNESS MTHIMKULU - SALES ADMINISTRATOR
Sweetness is on our sales and orders team, she will process and follow up on all orders and deliveries.
MELISSA PETER - OFFICE ADMINISTRATOR
Melissa spends a lot of time working with our sales and accounts team and assisting with HR queries.
CAROL MWANDLA - ACCOUNTS OFFICER AT SOiL
Carol will handle all payment queries.