Addressing the climate crisis and protecting the Amazon is one of the three pillars of Natura &Co’s 2030 Sustainability Vision – Commitment to Life, which includes ambitious targets to reach net zero by 2030, support collective efforts towards zero deforestation of the Amazon by 2025, and collaborate in the development of new tools for biodiversity target setting.
Corporate Citizenship spoke to Keyvan Macedo, Sustainability Director at Natura &Co, about what the company has learnt in its 20+ years developing sustainable, nature-positive economic alternatives for the Amazon region, and some of the challenges that emerging initiatives will need to overcome.
Why is “nature” important to the success of Natura’s business model?
Firstly, the company was named “Natura”, referring to nature (the word in Portuguese is very similar: “Natureza”). So, from the foundation of the company in 1969, Natura has had a different approach compared to the market, pursuing the use of natural ingredients over synthetic options.
This focus on sustainability has continued. In the year 2000, we created a new business model – the Ekos line – with the idea of connecting our products with small local communities, most of them located in the Amazon region, sourcing ingredients from them in a respectful way. Ever since then we have been learning about how to contribute to the protection of the rainforest, aiming to connect and enhance the tradition and knowledge of these local populations, and introduce the richness of Brazilian biodiversity not only to Brazilian citizens, but to the world.
What are the biggest challenges that Natura faces in terms of implementing a nature-positive strategy?
One of the biggest challenges, comes from the need to place a higher value on the forest. Deforestation is a reality that we face every day in Brazil, and as well as conservation, we need to think about how we can offer alternative economic opportunities to local communities. This means working with other organisations to make a strong business case that these alternatives will work, and supporting small agricultural farmers to get organised and form co-operatives that can operate sustainably in the long term without Natura’s support.
A second challenge, is that we face constant competition with other industrial sectors for the use of land and resources, as well as for people. We have seen new generations choosing to leave rural areas and move to the city, losing traditional knowledge and the real guardians of the forest. Regarding deforestation, we compete with sectors, such as mining and timber, and often it’s not a fair fight. This makes it essential that the private sector organises itself and joins forces with the public and the third sector in such a way that we can protect ourselves – sometimes literally – from these threats. This is particularly true currently, when we are facing a political scenario that is in their favour.
None of the UN’s 2020 biodiversity goals was met. What is going wrong and is there anything missing to enable action?
One problem is a lack of visibility and a direct connection in supply chains. Which is the reason why we are seeing and hearing so much about traceability and the block chain, tools that can guarantee that a company has zero deforestation across its value chain. If we compare nature or biodiversity with climate change, we can see that the science, data and disclosure concerning climate, make it much clearer for companies to evaluate if they are contributing or not. To accelerate action on nature, we need to develop standardised, aligned, quantitative tools and metrics that enable companies to assess and make decisions about their value chain – based on an understanding of real impact.
Lastly, it’s important that we keep the connection to real people – in fields, in the countryside – for whom this is not just a conceptual environmental topic. Because it’s also a social discussion. That’s why Natura is a co-founder of the Union for Ethical Biotrade (UEBT), to ensure that ingredients are purchased with respect and with fair prices, and why it’s important to have mechanisms such as the Nagoya Protocol of the Convention on Biological Diversity, that generate funding for conservation activities. It’s clear that we still don’t place sufficient value on the ecosystem services that nature provides to humankind. We need co-ordinated action – a global agreement on nature similar to what we did with the Paris Agreement.
Natura is part of the Science-based Targets for Nature’s Corporate Engagement Program. Why do we need an SBT for Nature and what will be the challenges for the initiative?
To be able to act, companies require clear metrics and standards that they can align with. But the big challenge is arriving at a comprehensive, consistent methodology that is also simple to apply. We’ve seen this at first hand, working with other organisations on a project to apply metrics to analyse biodiversity in the tropical Atlantic rainforest in Brazil: even though we were studying the same biome, in the same country, we obtained different results…
Compared to the GHG emissions protocol, biodiversity is more complex to assess, and measurement tools can be harder to apply. Therefore, the aim of the Corporate Engagement Program must be to develop clarity in the guidance, so that it can be consistently applied for different geographies in such a way that companies that apply the standard and set targets, can fairly measure and report their progress, and compare how they are performing compared to others using the same specific standard. But it’s not easy – we are suffering a bit!
In June, Natura was one of the partners that launched the PlenaMata portal – which gathers data and indicators of deforestation and initiatives for the conservation and regeneration of Amazon biome. What can you tell us about this project and why is it important?
The idea of the portal is to try to engage others, by providing greater visibility about the deforestation situation in the region, but also recognising the good restoration, conservation and reforestation efforts that are under way.
When we give stakeholders – including customers – visibility and access to the data, we enable them to understand that they are a part of a value chain, and empower them to make informed decisions and choose products that guarantee zero deforestation. And if customers change their behaviour, companies will change theirs. That is one of the aims that we have, not only to advocate, but to mobilise.
Sustainability Director at Natura &Co