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Brazil's Natura, The Largest Cosmetics Maker In Latin America, Becomes a B Corp

Brazil's Natura, The Largest Cosmetics Maker In Latin America, Becomes a B Corp

Posted by Juan Gavasa on December 17, 2014

Brazil’s top cosmetics company, Natura Cosmeticos S.A., whose competitive differential is the development of products based on the biodiversity of the Brazilian flora, has recently obtained a ‘Benefit Corporation’ (B Corp) sustainability certification. The certification stamp, which is run by B Lab, a non-profit U.S. organization responsible for B Corp certification, is designed to encourage high standards of environmental and social stewardship and transparency among business.

Currently there are more than 1,170 B Corp businesses located in 37 countries, the majority of which are small and privately owned. Natura has become the largest — and first publicly traded company — to attain the certification. Other significant companies that have recently obtained a B Corp certification are crowdfunding platform Kickstarter, which in March passed the $1 billion mark in pledges; and Green Mountain Power, the first B Corp utility; it supplies electricity to 80% of the households in Vermont.

Natura was founded in 1969 by Antonio Luiz Seabra  (now a billionaire) as a door-to-door business. It employs 7,000 and is present in Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Mexico, Peru, Colombia and France. The company operates a network of 1.7 million sales consultants (think “Avon ladies”) throughout the world. In December 2012, Natura acquired 65% of Australian cosmetics manufacturer Aesop for a sum reported at $71.6 million.

Billionaire Guilherme Peirao Leal, who joined Natura in 1979, today co-chairs the company along with Seabra. Leal is also known for promoting biodiversity and sustainable business practices, and is a prominent member of the Brazilian arm of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). In 2010, he briefly resigned from Natura to run as the Green Party candidate as Marina Silva’s vice-president. He lost the election.

Natura’s certification as a B Corp indicates that the program is gaining momentum among major economic players. With $2.65 billion in sales reported last year, Natura is expected to help all the other B Corp-certified companies to solidify their commitments for the future, thanks to its long history in sustainable growth. In a recent announcement, the company promised to pursue “concrete commitments” and to adopt new sustainability guidelines by 2020.

In the U.S., certification as a B Corp can provide significant legal protections for companies seeking sustainability objectives, both from shareholders and potential takeovers. As a result, companies with documented commitments to sustainability such as eyeglass firm Warby Parker and ice cream maker Ben & Jerry’s (which is owned by consumer goods giant Unilever) have sought the designation. But B Corps’ biggest value is attracting high-quality employees.

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