Arne Frank, CEO and President for AAK

Arne Frank, CEO and President for AAK

Swedish supplier of speciality vegetable fats AAK and leading beauty and personal care company L’Oréal have signed an agreement to develop the trade of shea kernels sourced from Burkina Faso. Earlier this year, AAK had announced its intention to triple its activities with women groups in Burkina Faso with the aim to work with more than 30,000 women, against 10,000 to date.

Well known for its hydrating properties, shea butter is widely used in cosmetics such as skin, lips or hair care products. It is also common in soaps and in bath products. The shea tree grows in the dry savannah belt of western and central Africa from Senegal in the west to Sudan in the east.

AAK has been sourcing shea kernels in West Africa, including Burkina Faso, since the 1950s. In the past three years, the company established local women groups with the aim to improve the volumes and the quality of the raw material and to secure improved living conditions. AAK says its partnership with the women groups is based on the fair trade principles, ensuring “a steady income and a bonus for delivering high-quality products, but without binding them to trading with AAK”.

L’Oréal will now actively support AAK’s programme and will be the receiver of the shea emanating from the project until at least 2014. “By then we believe the programme will be larger than the need of one single company but it is very important to have a world class partner like this in the initial steps of this journey,” says Arne Frank, CEO and President for AAK. "Through our close relations with customers such as L’Oréal and with the local communities where we operate, we are committed to integrating sustainability in all our activities, with a balanced and holistic approach," he added.

L’Oréal’s interest in shea also refers to the company’s Solidarity Sourcing programme. The programme reaches out to fair-trade producers, companies working for the inclusion of disabled people, companies promoting social integration, very small, small and mid-sized businesses and minority-owned companies (depending on local law). Half of L’Oréal’s shea supplies will originate from “Solidarity Sourcing” in 2012. And the group is targeting a figure of 100% for 2013.