“We are in the middle of the most serious environmental crisis, and huge inequality prevails in many parts of the world. Is it possible to change this? I believe it is. What inspires me is this belief and the possibility to contribute to it.”
—Guilherme Leal, Co-Founder and Co-Chair, Natura &Co
THE RACE TO SAVE THE AMAZON
To perfume consumers, the Brazilian fragrance Ekos Alma delivers complex, woodsy aromas that pay homage to its derivation from Amazonian flora. Look closer and the perfume’s limited seasonal availability—a purposeful decision by its manufacturer, Natura, mindful of the Amazon’s delicate ecosystem—offers a simple template for natural resource protection.
Since its founding in 1969, São Paulo-headquartered beauty brand Natura, and now the group Natura &Co, has balanced profitability with sustainable sourcing. Its three co-founders, including Guilherme Leal, share an abiding commitment to protect the Earth. “Our deepest belief as a group is that life is a chain of relationships,” says Leal. “And if you want to take care of the part, you need to take care of the whole. And so we need to promote life. Humanity and nature, we are the same thing.”
Saving the Amazon is critical not just to Brazilian pride and sensibility, but to the health of the planet and achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Yet efforts to preserve this “pillar of life on Earth” have gotten more difficult in recent years. In the past decade alone, the Amazon has lost more than 10 million football fields of rainforest to deforestation, threatening much of the world’s biodiversity. Three football fields of forest are lost every minute.
It is now up to the private sector to prove on a large scale that sustainable business practices lead to greater biodiversity and capturing more carbon, and that above all they offer robust financial returns. Sustainability isn’t a ‘green cost of doing business.’ It is now the business itself.
“There is no Paris Agreement without the Amazon,” notes Marcelo Behar, vice president of sustainability & group affairs at Natura &Co. “Nothing can be achieved unless the Amazon is there.”
Natura &Co has grown significantly in the last five years, with three iconic brands—Avon, The Body Shop and Aesop—joining the group. It’s one thing for a small company to do its part for the environment, taking small but meaningful steps, but Natura &Co is now the fourth-largest cosmetics company in the world. How can a business of such scale make an equally sized contribution to sustaining our natural world?
Roberto Marques, group CEO & executive chair, Natura &Co
“Have the bravery to challenge the status quo and enter the unknown. Set ambitious targets and be disciplined in applying accountability to get to them. It’s by taking action which makes us uncomfortable that we make real change.”
“When we retrospectively think about business leaders’ legacy in helping society’s progress toward a net-zero and nature-positive world, how do you want to be remembered?”
BUSINESS WITHIN PLANETARY BOUNDARIES
In 2015, the UN and governments everywhere set in motion the twin engines for saving the planet: the SDGs and the Paris Climate Agreement. One year prior, Natura became the world’s largest B Corp. B Corporations (the “B” stands for “benefit”) are for-profit enterprises that commit to a rigorous certification process, demonstrating their commitment to certain social and environmental benchmarks. Natura was then the first publicly traded company to be certified, sending a clear signal to both shareholders and stakeholders.
Cognizant of the Amazon’s essential role in regulating the world’s oxygen and climate—as well as its abundance of natural resources, which feature in many of Natura &Co’s product offerings—group leadership launched Commitment to Life (Compromisso com a Vida in Portuguese), a decade-long sustainability vision, in 2020.
We understand the critical moment we live in right now and the role that companies need to play. We have so much more to do to be the generation that restores our planet and protects its people. Aligned with our guiding principles, Natura &Co is a part of this dialogue and intends to be a part of the solution.
—Roberto Marques, group CEO & executive chair, Natura &Co
Commitment to Life is an ambitious pledge that focuses on three critical areas: 1) addressing the climate crisis and protecting the Amazon; 2) defending human rights and being “Human-Kind”; and 3) embracing circularity and regeneration across its businesses.
3 million hectares of land to be preserved in the Amazon region by 2030
Working toward 30% inclusion of under-represented groups in management by 2030
100% of all packaging material will be reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2030
UNIFYING AGENDAS AND LEADING WITH TRANSPARENCY
The 31 targets in Commitment to Life are wide-ranging, accelerating existing efforts in some areas and building on past learnings in others. In addition to its promise of net-zero emissions by 2030, Natura &Co is racing to reach full circularity of packaging, use more than 95% renewable or natural ingredients and biodegradable formulas and increase investment in regenerative solutions.
Natura &Co’s 10-year vision extends to social sustainability. A decision to increase investment in local communities in the Amazon, for instance, will drive human and social development in impacted areas. Other targets include closing its gender pay gap and providing a living wage to all employees by 2023, and enforcing intolerance to human rights infringements across its supply chain.
Leadership acknowledges they are not yet where they want to be on certain key goals, such as gender balance and diversity in executive leadership. But Commitment to Life offers a transparent roadmap, to which the board and executive team are holding themselves publicly accountable.
With 35,000 employees and eight million consultants and representatives around the world, Natura &Co is no minor stakeholder group. Every employee is empowered to advocate for personal causes and greater ambition within Commitment to Life, with a sense of ownership in the company’s direction.