The biodiversity of the Amazon region offers unbeatable wealth of aromas, textures and essences. By the end of the 1990s, the management team at Natura knew that.
They also knew that no other cosmetics company in the world could compete with their know-how in harvesting the Amazons bounty.
On top of that, the Brazilian company's chiefs hatched a sustainable production plan that would help to improve the quality of life of participating indigenous communities.
Executives, chemists and technicians set out, all full of enthusiasm. Their aim was to get to know the native cultures and traditions, but the road to knowledge was at times a rocky one. "It was a very difficult learning process," Natura's chief executive, Alessandro Carlucci, tells Latin Trade.
To begin with, people work hard in the Amazon. But modern capitalism --its demands in terms of commitment and its rewards in terms of money--was alien to the villagers. Natura had to teach new values and learn traditional ones. The Natura teams had to find the villages, interest the residents in the project, determine which ingredients each one could produce, and then educate people to achieve continuity and commitment to production. Then came the tasks of verifying in the laboratory that the harvested plants really had the properties the indigenous communities had claimed, obtaining a constant flow of raw materials to maintain industrial production, adjusting logistics to conditions dictated by nature, and working with authorities on the new regulations.
"We had to develop a new internal corporate culture," says Carlucci. He recounts how they had to reorganize their procedures starting with the most basic of all: changing their way of thinking to solve the unique problems that arose each day. "Before, everything was easy. We'd call up a supplier and tell him, 'I want a ton of such and such,' and he would send it the next day. With a community in the middle of the jungle you can't call anyone because there are no telephones. And if there's a downpour and the rivers are in spate, you can't get there at all." You need to develop a different kind of supply chain and accept that it simply isn't stable, he adds.
Innovation was matched with tenacity, and at last the project began to show results. Dozens of ramifies from remote villages joined the production chain, improving their quality of life, while Natura created the unique products known as the Ekos line, on sale...