Ding Dong Avon calling! Or reporting.
Its global sales staff will not be knocking on our doors to announce the company’s latest work on sustainability, philanthropy and governance, but Avon’s latest corporate social responsibility (CSR) report sets an ambitious standard within the beauty industry.
The company’s third such report, released earlier this week, touts a bevy of achievements and promises to address its various stakeholders’ concerns. Nothing about Avon’s report is surprising or particularly new for the company. Since its founding in 1886, the company’s founder stated the company would commit to “corporate citizenship” and “the well-being of society and the environment in which it functions.” That is still true 125 years later.
Avon’s initiatives include:
Deforestation: Palm oil and its nasty consequences have long been a bugaboo of the beauty industry. This spring Avon announced its Palm Oil Promise which pledges to buy the ingredient only from certified, reliable and sustainable sources. Even though the company is not a large palm oil consumer (compared to food companies and the retailers who sell their goods), Avon’s pledge to support 13,000 metric tons of sustainable palm oil kernel production through “book and claim” certificates sends a signal to other firms that they are wise to follow.
Green Building: This year Avon retrofitted its US headquarters in New York and earned LEED Gold certification. The company’s distribution center in Zanesville, Ohio, (also LEED Gold certified) should reduce water consumption by 60 percent and energy consumption by 35 percent. Every new facility throughout Avon’s operations will meet LEED certification standards–Gold, if possible. The company plans to remodel current facilities with energy efficiency, water stewardship and recycled materials in mind.
Philanthropy: Corporate philanthropy has long been a mantra of the American business community, and Avon is arguably a leader here. Its philanthropic foundation raised US$73 million in 2010, putting both the Avon Foundation and the company on track to raise US$1 billion for a variety of causes by 2013. Avon and its employees support breast cancer research, fighting domestic violence and responding to global disasters from Haiti to China, among other causes.
Corporate Governance: With Avon’s operations in 120 countries, imparting what is ethical and what is not can prove challenging. Last year, Avon established a global ethics and compliance council to embed the company’s code of conduct through all levels of the company from the C-suite to the newest sales hire. Sales associates can even help their pitch by customizing Avon’s corporate responsibility report for their customers. Those same associates also must complete an in-depth anti-corruption training, with updates planned for 2012.
But beyond the Global Reporting Initiative certified reports, the statistics and the promises, Avon’s biggest contribution to social responsibility is summed up in one word: opportunity. With 6.5 million sales representatives working in 100 countries, Avon does more than just pay commission checks. The company is one of the world’s largest micro lenders to the tune of US$1 billion annually. For women around the world, financial independence and empowerment pays dividends far more valuable than what can be quantified in a spreadsheet.
Photo courtesy of Avon’s media relations site.