When I think if incense, for some reason I tend to make a huge assumption that it must be environmentally friendly, especially when it is coined as ‘all natural’. The truth is that this incense is made from a tree that nearly went extinct. Hopefully with this wake up call, Satya has improved their harvesting practices, but information on that isn’t readily available.
This company’s internet presence is very disorganized, leading to all their informations being kind of confusing and patchy. There is a ton of information on the Nag Champa incense stick such as its history and the history of the creator, but not enough specific details on its sustainability that are also easily accessible to their consumers without a ton of research from multiple different sources. I would like to see a lot more organization and transparency about the Nag Champa incense in order to make more sense of the impact of this incense. I think this company does a great job at diverting its revenue to it’s community and that is something that warms my heart.
I would say that Satya Sai Baba is a pretty ‘old-school’ company, and their websites reflect this. I had a hard time finding what the Nag Champa stick was made from but finally found a tiny glimpse of what is in them from a YouTube video from the company. It says that the basic ingredients are: bamboo sticks, paste (charcoal, dust, saw dust, resin), and perfume.
They follow guidelines from the European Chemicals Agency and the US’s EPA to make sure the chemicals they use are not hazardous.
They state that their ingredients are “superior quality natural raw materials’ and ‘eco-friendly’ but it is not stated anywhere about where exactly they source their materials from. They also say they do not use harmful chemicals. The resin that is used is a mixture of honey and a liquid resin called halmaddi from the Ailanthus triphysa tree. This is a tree that almost went extinct during the 1990s. Satya acknowledged this and knew that their business would not be able to sustain without this important rainforest tree, so in 2006 Satya created a plantation of the halmaddi tree. This has allowed the company to be self sustaining for the next 70-80 years. Since this industry has led to the near extinction of the Ailanthus triphysa tree, I feel like it is their responsibility to try to restore its population in the wild, not just make a monocrop plantation of them.
Honestly, what I’m seeing here is a bunch of phrases about natural, eco-friendly, and raw ingredients without anything to really show for it. The ingredients that make up the incense might be natural, and it’s good they don’t use any hazardous chemicals, but just because the ingredients come from nature, doesn’t mean that they are extracted and used in a sustainable way. I would really like them to be more clear on where they get their ingredients from as well as how they’re extracting them and the impact they have. It’s also not listed anywhere exactly what is in them and even says in one spot that there are secret ingredients.
Satya Sai Baba preserves the traditional technique of creating incense, masala or flora, instead of the more modern practice of dipped incense. In the masala technique, the sticks are hand rolled using the ancient method. This is good because dipped incense require much more machinery. The packaging of the incense sticks is recyclable, but recycling sounds better than it actually is. It would be cool if they used a container that could be repurposed! I am a huge fan of repurposed containers!!
It was difficult for me to find a way to buy any of the incense online, I found one link from their website that just took me to Amazon. The fact that you can’t buy the incense from Satya directly and only through Amazon is kind of saddening. Amazon is notoriously unsustainable since they generate a ton of waste, encourage throw away culture, and don’t provide any sustainability report on their company, just to name a few reasons. Going through Amazon for all of their shipping also means that they have to transport their products from their facility to the Amazon facility, using more gas for trucks and vans than is necessary. While this may be extremely convenient for Satya, I think it would be worth looking into a better mode of transportation in order to alleviate some of their carbon emissions.
The people who hand roll each incense stick are employees of around 2500 women. This company states that they believe in women empowerment and have women hand craft all of the incense sticks. The country of India has a very low percentage of women in the workforce, so this is a great opportunity for women. Satya provides a lot of jobs with a fair wage to women, but I also noticed that almost all of the higher-up positions are held by men. Since this company promotes that they care about women empowerment so much, I think a good next step would be to see a lot of higher-up positions obtained by women.
Satya follows certain corporate social responsibilities such as providing free lunch to their employees, free education to employees and their children, and many other ways of giving back to their community. They always call their employees and customers a part of the Satya Family. It feels good to know that you are supporting a company that is using their revenue in order to better the lives of the people in their community when buying this product.
While all of this sounds nice, the company does not reflect on any values that include sustainability.