Natura’s chief brand officer: ‘We need to create a better today – not a better tomorrow’
As voting opens for The WFA’s Global Marketer of the Year, The Drum meets finalist Andrea Álvares, chief brand officer at Natura.
Andrea Álvares is leading efforts to improve rainforest conservation, advance climate justice and reduce social inequalities
Brazilian cosmetics and personal care brand Natura is built on an ethos of sustainability and social good. In 2021, it buckled down on these values: it established a handful of new conservation-focused partnerships, made a splash at Cop26 and renewed its commitment to meeting a set of ambitious climate and equity targets by 2030. Andrea Álvares, the company’s chief brand, innovation, international and sustainability officer, has been a driving force behind it all.
Natura, Brazil’s largest cosmetics multinational, hasn’t let the pandemic slow its mission to advance sustainability and climate justice not only in the cosmetics and personal care sectors, but in policies around the world.
The company, which has been carbon neutral since 2007, invests in sustainable agriculture and forestry management to combat deforestation in the Amazon – and has a commitment to using ethically-sourced, renewable and recyclable ingredients and materials whenever possible.
As a part of its mission, the company had a significant presence at the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (Cop26) in Glasgow this year. And Natura wasn’t there just as an attendee. Instead, Andrea Álvares, the leader behind Natura’s sustainability and social good efforts, says the company showed up as speakers with “a specific agenda ... to make sure that the nature-based solutions agenda was up there with the energy transformation propositions; to make sure that the carbon market was regulated; and ... to make sure that the climate agenda [goes] hand-in-hand with climate justice, so that in the transitions that occur, no one’s left behind.”
Álvares, who came to Natura in 2016 after holding various high-level managerial and marketing roles at PepsiCo and P&G, serves as the cosmetics company’s chief brand, innovation, international and sustainability officer. She spearheads marketing and branding, international expansion strategy, R&D, technology and sustainability projects at the company. “I wear a lot of hats, yeah,” she says, laughing.
And steering the company, whose parent Natura & Co also owns Avon, The Body Shop and Aesop, through an ongoing global pandemic while maintaining a laser-focus on social good and sustainability has been no simple task. But it’s one that Álvares has taken on graciously. Now, Álvares is up for one of the most prestigious awards in the industry: the World Federation of Advertisers (WFA) Global Marketer of the Year award.
Contending with Covid
Adapting to and succeeding despite the challenges of the pandemic has been an ongoing effort for Natura. Brazil, Álvares explains, is still facing many of the same struggles as other countries: issues with vaccine access, inflation, rising unemployment, supply chain disruptions and more. These and other issues have exacerbated social inequities in the country.
“The biggest challenge we have is finding the resilience to live through a second year of the pandemic, and all of the consequences that have come from that,” says Álvares. “Not only have we faced a health tragedy and a global issue, but the consequences that have come from that pandemic – which are fundamentally the social inequalities that have worsened – are really the key issue we have right now. [At Natura, we’re focused on] finding strength and resilience and designing the plans that are able to take us forward, despite all of these challenges.”
As a part of building this resilience within the company, Álvares and other company leaders have focused on “putting people first.” The company has aimed to prioritize employee mental health and communicated that “every person matters.”
‘We cannot give up our agenda of transformation’
In spite of the multifaceted challenges brought on by the pandemic, Álvares refused to compromise the company’s vision for a more sustainable future. “Even within the crisis, we cannot give up our agenda of transformation,” she tells The Drum.
And it hasn’t. Last year, Natura & Co unveiled its Commitment to Life, a set of three overarching objectives with quantifiable targets that the company pledges to achieve by 2030. The first is “to address the climate crisis and protect the Amazon,” an objective that includes reaching net zero emissions, expanding forest preservation investments from 1.8m hectares to 3m hectares, offering at least $10.7m in value with local communities and expanding the company’s pool of bio-ingredients from 38 to 55.
The second objective, “to defend human rights and be human-kind,” entails efforts to advance social equity – including ensuring the company’s executive team and board comprises 50% women and that 30% of management comprises underrepresented groups, as well as establishing full traceability for critical materials such as palm oil, mica, paper, soy and cotton. The final objective, “to embrace circularity and regeneration,” entails investing $100m or more in biotech and sustainability-focused research, moving to 95% renewable or natural ingredients, reducing packaging weight by 20% or more, ensuring half of all plastics used are made of recycled materials and more.
To further its commitments, Natura attended nearly 50 sessions – some of which Álvares and other leaders headed or participated in – at Cop26 this fall. At the conference, the team advocated for eco-friendly production, more stringent carbon emissions regulations and the advancement of climate justice efforts, which Álvares points out are especially needed in Latin America and the global south at large.
“I came from Cop even more certain that we have a short window of time where we need to put the world on a different trajectory,” she says, “or else we will not like the consequences – the loss of life, the loss of biodiversity, the loss of wellbeing and welfare.”
Natura’s various efforts, according to Álvares, build on the company’s history and longstanding ethos of social and environmental good. “This is a journey that Natura has been on for a very, very, very long time,” she says. “We’ve been carbon neutral since 2007. We’re connected to the integrated reporting agenda, which considers both environmental and social indicators within the overall assessment of value production. We’ve published our environmental profits and losses since 2016 and we’re now going to publish our integrated profits and losses. [These efforts are] connected to the idea of this company. We believe that everything is interdependent, nothing exists by itself and that we are responsible for the impact that we generate in the world. What [we] do affects others, and [we] have to be responsible for that impact. [We] have to make sure that over time, with science, with better understanding, we can promote a more positive impact and reduce the negative impact of any business.”
Álvares also acknowledges the importance of drawing partners and vendors into the effort in order to ensure that the entire value chain becomes more sustainable. “No one can tackle any complex challenge alone. We believe in collaboration,” she says. “Natura itself has about 2 million different beauty consultants in its network, and when we [consider our sister brand] Avon, we reach almost 7 million people connected to this network. And when we talk about our supply chain, we’re connected to 7,300 families in the Amazon region, which is almost 25,000 people [who belong to] communities from which we source many of our bio-ingredients. Then we’ve got bigger, broader suppliers – and we’re working with them on the agenda of circularity, traceability and regeneration.”
And it’s clear that Álvares’s passion for and commitment to environmentalism and climate justice extends beyond her commitments with Natura. She also sits on the board of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development. The council has signed a net zero carbon pledge and, like Natura, works with the Science Based Targets initiative, which aims to advance climate action in the private sector by offering resources to help companies set their own targets for cutting emissions. It has also worked in partnership with CEBDS, a Brazilian nonprofit organization focused on sustainable development, to contribute to the ‘Business Leaders for the Climate’ manifesto, a commitment to a low-carbon economy taken by more than 100 Brazilian companies, including Natura.
Messaging that motivates
Álvares carries Natura’s vision for sustainability into her work on the brand side of things, too. When it comes to advertising, she says she’s focused on “questioning the status quo, challenging cultural norms and ... setting forth new agendas” while crafting narratives that are both “convincing” and “[work in] service of the change we want to see.” As such, many of Natura’s latest marketing initiatives have stemmed from its various conservation- and research-focused collaborations.
In August of this year, the company launched a new joint project with Dow called Project Ybá: Conservation that Transforms, which aims to establish a local cooperative to sell products made of ingredients sourced from Dow’s preserved areas of the rainforest and help develop local economies.
Natura also recently teamed with scientific collective MapBiomas, news platform InfoAmazonia and ethics-focused tech company Hacklab to debut PlenaMata, a platform that provides mapping and data analysis, stories, proposals and opportunities for collective mobilization – all geared toward the goal of bringing businesses and communities together to advance conservation of the Amazon.
To bring its marketing efforts to life, Natura works with a handful of trusted creative partners, but has, of late, focused on evolving these relationships and bringing more of its digital and data-focused capabilities in-house. “[Our marketing mix] needs to evolve – we need to make sure that we connect with audiences in a different way ... from a very authentic place. [We want to] be very precise in who we’re talking to, with what message [we deliver] at what point in time and with what format.” She indicates that Natura is focused on finding new ways to connect with audiences in order to better communicate the brand’s ethos and objectives while adding real value. She says: “Advertising should be at the service of trying to promote a better today – not even a better tomorrow, a better today.”
When asked what she’s most proud of accomplishing in 2021, Álvares has no hesitations. “The thing that I’m most proud of is going to Cop and being an integral part of that discussion, which will lead us to the next 10 years [and inform] critical decisions that need to be made about how we’re going to conduct our lives. I think we were a relevant voice [at Cop26]. We are bringing to the table important discussions ... [which extend to] the whole Amazon discussion that we’re promoting and moving forward.”
The World Federation of Advertisers (WFA) and The Drum have partnered once again to find the Global Marketer of the Year. We’ll be running interviews with all finalists ahead of the vote closing on December 31. You can cast your vote to crown this year’s winner here.