By and  on May 25, 2005

NEW YORK — Aveda, Wharton Business School's Net Impact Club and indigenous leaders gathered at the United Nations last Wednesday to discuss future models for business partnerships. The goal of the summit was to spark dialogue on how to best create business models that protect the planet and its myriad indigenous communities, not threaten them.

The summit was tied into the U.N.'s Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, which began May 16 and runs through Friday.

The day before, another meeting took place across town, showcasing the years of effort by Brazilian beauty power O Boticario to promote environmental preservation and protection in its native country. The Fundacao O Boticario de Protecao a Natureza (O Boticario Foundation for Nature Protection) held a dinner at the Helmsley Park Lane Hotel in conjunction with the Brazilian Embassy, The Heinz Center and Mitsubishi International Corp. Also lending support were some top beauty executives, the heads of International Flavors & Fragrances, Firmenich, and Mane USA.

At the U.N. meeting on Wednesday, Aveda, which is owned by the Estée Lauder Cos., was trying to break ground. As part of its own business model, the company has formed partnerships with key indigenous leaders to obtain raw materials for use in its beauty products.

Aveda president Dominique Conseil called on companies to change the way the world does business, and to act as responsible citizens in the communities in which they operate. Conseil said that such "creative rethinking" could bolster the bottom line. He noted that over the past eight years Aveda has cut its energy needs in half at its Blaine, Minn., manufacturing plant by implementing energy conversation programs, such as utilization of natural light. He added that since 1996, manufacturing and sales have increased 13.2 percent and 20.1 percent, respectively, while the company's carbon monoxide emissions output has been kept in check, with only a 1.2 percent increase.

Lauder shared several practical examples of how Aveda has aligned itself with farmers and harvesters to cultivate the plants used in its products.

Sandalwood — an ingredient used in Aveda products such as Love Essence and Pure-Fume Brilliant Shampoo — is widely available in India and Australia. Given human rights concerns in India, Aveda has spent the past seven years working with the Aboriginal people of Western Australia to foster a strong business relationship, one that stipulates they receive fair payment for their sandalwood harvest. Aveda has also partnered with Mount Romance, the Australia-based producers of sandalwood oil, to extract sandalwood oil by steam instead of using chemical solvents.

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