The B Corp movement continues its momentum, with almost 1,200 certified B corporations spread across 37 nations. Earlier this year the first electricity utility achieved B Corp certification. And last week the “Impact Economy” organization scored its first publicly owned company and largest addition to date: Natura, the second largest cosmetics manufacturer in Brazil with revenues around $US3 billion annually.
Natura, founded in 1969, has always beaten taken a different drum compared to its competitors within the cosmetics sector. The company’s products are generally based on native Brazilian flora, provided such plants can be harvested in a sustainable manner as required by the company’s “bioprospecting” policy. The same products have long been encased in packaging made from recycled or at least recyclable materials. Natura is also a founding member of the Union for Ethical BioTrade and has been praised for including everyday women in its advertising campaigns instead of supermodels. This new B Corp certification will not only burnish Natura’s reputation in the marketplace, but will have more far reaching effects as well.
Just consider the number of people who will be affected, and even inspired, by working for a recognized social enterprise. Over 7,000 employees work at the company’s headquarters in Cajamar, near Sao Paulo, Brazil’s largest city. Using a direct sales model, Natura relies on a network of 1.6 million people, mostly women, selling its products across several countries. The company also sources from over 30 supplier communities and about 3,100 family-run businesses. For B Corporation, these numbers represent a massive opportunity to evangelize even further the benefits of partnering with a company that emphasizes social enterprise. The new certification also sends a message to Natura’s competitors that conducting a business in a social and environmental way can also be profitable.
The benefits that Natura employees enjoy are one reason why it was able to achieve B Corp certification. The company commits to a significant amount of training time more most of its employees. About 75 percent of those employees participate in Natura’s profit-sharing plan. Full-time employees also receive supplemental insurance plans. Diversity is not only talked about, it is the norm, with approximately half of all managers are women.
While Natura emphasizes social responsibility within the company, it also practices what it preaches. The biggest example of how the Natura’s message was amplified was when its co-chair, Guilherme Leal, ran as the vice presidential candidate for Brazil’s Green Party in the 2010 elections. Natura representatives have also vigorously lobbied for environmental reform throughout and beyond Brazil. Finally, the company contributes three percent of profits to local community organizations.
Considering Brazil’s polarized political climate and conservative business community, Natura has accomplished much by going again the grain. Companies abroad would benefit their overall triple bottom line, and the communities in which they operate, but following this company’s lead.
Image credit: Natura