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Natura cultivates its naturalness

Thanks to its extraordinary growth over the last 20 years, and commitment to both promoting values of sharing and protecting the environment and Amazonian biodiversity, this cosmetics giant is one of the flagships of the Brazilian economy. As it has now reached a decisive phase in its development and is being increasingly challenged by its competitors, the Natura group intends to remain focused on innovation and environmental and social awareness – its trademark. Brazil Beauty News has met Marcelo Bicalho Behar, Director of Corporate Affairs, and Alessandro Mendes, Product Development Director.

Marcelo Bicalho Behar, Director of Corporate Affairs

Marcelo Bicalho Behar, Director of Corporate Affairs

Premium Beauty News - 1.3 million advisors represent and sell Natura products in Brazil. As this force has made the brand successful in an increasingly competitive, retail-driven environment, how can you make it change?

Marcelo Bicalho Behar - Natura has developed around the customer relationship: direct selling guarantees trust, which is a key element, here in this country. These women and men represent one of the founding pillars of the group. They have actually come to form a social network, in the original meaning of the word, and we have been mixing it with online networks for a year. We have transposed the advisor-customer relationship on the Internet, which makes access to our products easier, while preserving the link between our consulting trademark and a real relationship. This mix works perfectly well and the advisors concerned have already got better results. Our pool of advisors is being renewed with many young people, who see this job as an interesting way to pay for their studies. They are very knowledgeable about what the Internet has to offer.

Premium Beauty News - Are there other ways for tourists visiting Brazil to have access to Natura products?

Marcelo Bicalho Behar - Today, tourists can buy our products through our consultants in Brazil or on our portal rede.natura.net. In addition, we are considering increasing our presence in airports and launching an amenities project in hotels.

Premium Beauty News - What about the global markets less used to direct selling?

Marcelo Bicalho Behar - By purchasing Aesop, Natura has banked on a brand that shares the same values and helps it monitor the retail model in many countries. Besides, we are still working on experimental operations on mature markets like France, where our marketing strategy on ingredients from Amazonia is very well-perceived. European consumers are very sensitive to products’ sustainability.

Premium Beauty News - Is sustainability not a strong argument in Brazil?

Marcelo Bicalho Behar - We are the first Brazilian company to have developed eco-responsible products for Brazilian consumers. Our commitment to preserving Amazonia has become natural, it just goes without saying. Over 15 years, 15 million Brazilians have moved out of poverty: they have gained access to “non-essential” products, and as a middle class they have become demanding in all respects. Therefore we need to offer them both innovative and sustainable products, and to this aim we dedicate 3% of our turnover to these requirements.

Alessandro Mendes, Product Development Director

Alessandro Mendes, Product Development Director

Premium Beauty News - How do you organize responsible innovation at Natura?

Alessandro Mendes - We have set up a very strict innovation process over the last 12 years to control carbon emissions at each phase of development, for each new product. We launch 150 new products every year. Our rule is that a new product’s environmental impact must be lower than that of the product it is meant to replace, and if it is not, a committee decides whether it can still be launched or should be reviewed. We aim to keep improving quality, while reducing the environmental impact. We have replaced all mineral oils by vegetal oils, and 88% of our formulas are plant-based.

Premium Beauty News - Your flagship ingredients are derived from the Amazonian biomass. How can you exploit it while still preserving it?

Alessandro Mendes - We remain close to local populations. We show them the forest is a valuable source in the long term, and it is more profitable to protect it if we want to obtain a regular income from it, rather than clearing parcels to sell wood. As for ingredient sourcing, we draw inspiration both from their very instructive practices and traditional research. Natura guarantees efficient traceability by selecting the harvesting methods and periods with the communities, and then our partners – Symrise, Croda, or BASF – take over.

Premium Beauty News - Which segments are you focusing on for your next developments?

Alessandro Mendes - We intend to establish ourselves even more firmly as leaders on skincare products adapted to Brazilian skin types, as this segment has a strong potential, like makeup.

Interview by Kristel Milet and Vincent Gallon

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