“We believe beauty should emotionally connect with those that use beauty as a form of personal expression,” said Carla Vernón, vice president of the consumables category at Amazon, at the WWD Beauty CEO Summit. “It should be a welcoming place for newcomers who may be navigating their way with uncertainty.”
During Vernón’s presentation, she shared that she has experienced searching for the promise in beauty for much of her life, and her biggest reason for joining Amazon “was to support an important set of transformations to make Amazon more inspirational, aspirational. And that one-stop shop for everything you want and need, especially in our beloved beauty store.”
The invitation to help transform consumables in three important dimensions (technology, equity and sustainability), she said, was irresistible. From a sustainability standpoint, Vernón brings to Amazon a degree in ecology from Princeton, experience from working with The Nature Conservancy and in leading sustainability and regenerative agriculture at General Mills. “I also loved the idea of joining Amazon to apply technology advancements to these categories I love. We have all seen the pandemic accelerate technology adoption. The revolution is here to stay!”
At the same time, Vernón shared that she joined Amazon for much more personal reasons. “I am an Afro Latina,” she said. “And I’m a mom. And I live in Minneapolis, Minn., which is where George Floyd was murdered. On that day, lives changed profoundly. I realized that I needed to use my time and skills to advance transformations toward equity and justice. When I met the leaders from Amazon, and they told me their plans to make positive changes in the lives of Black and brown people, I was ready to listen. I was no pushover on diversity. But they told me their plans. And I was convinced.”
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Instead of telling shoppers what beauty means to them, Vernón suggests brands and companies do more listening. “Let’s allow our work to reflect the views today of beauty and luxury. Because after all, hasn’t the pandemic taught us that there’s nothing more luxurious than shopping for beauty from the comfort of your own home?”
Vernón also talked about Amazon’s leadership principles, and in particular cited the one to earn trust, “which says leaders must listen attentively, speak candidly and treat others respectfully.”
Moreover, being a large company, Vernon said the leaders recognize that they can drive systemic change for communities. In September, Amazon announced that it was raising the average minimum wage in the United States to $18 and made a commitment to fund full college educations for employees.
The company has also made strides in improving sustainability. As of June 2021, Amazon has reduced the weight of its outgoing packages by 36 percent and has an ongoing commitment to getting to carbon net-zero by 2040. To do that, Amazon has introduced a fleet of electric vehicles and has been working to develop a new kind of padded envelope that is fully recyclable.
“We’ve studied the research, you’ve studied the research, we know that the younger generation is more likely to purchase things that are supportive and associated with their values,” said Vernón. “That’s why we’re working to make it easier to have a way that’s easy and elegant to showcase your gorgeous products to the sustainability-minded shopper and close that loop.”