Aveda and Estee Lauder Find Common Ground on Sustainability

Aveda and Estee Lauder Find Common Ground on Sustainability

Aveda soap - CC license by Flickr user Calgary Reviews

Since Aveda was purchased by Estee Lauder Companies in 1997, the smaller, environmental-focused personal care company has benefitted from the larger scale of its owner while also influencing Estee Lauder's sustainability efforts.

Aveda makes special mention of its relationship with Estee Lauder Companies (ELC) in its latest environmental and social report, laying out the many ways the two companies interact and also stay separate.

Aveda has deep roots in environmental and social issues. It's focus is on plant-based and nature-derived hair and beauty products, it was the first private company to sign the Ceres Principles in 1989 (at the time they were called the Valdez Principles), it follows its own Aveda Mission and 11 Beliefs, and it has embraced the Cradle to Cradle (C2C) philosophy.

After Aveda's previous report in 2008, stakeholders demanded more transparency about if ELC was influencing Aveda's environmental and social work, the company says. An entire section of Aveda's 2009-2010 Earth and Community Care Report is devoted to talking about how the two companies have interacted in the 13 years they've been together.

Aveda has primarily benefited from the scale and funding that Estee Lauder can provide. ELC has invested in 47 energy efficiency projects at Aveda's manufacturing site in Blaine, Minn.; supported Aveda's forays into wind and solar energy; and was key in bringing the amount of Aveda's raw herbal ingredients and essential oils that are certified organic from 20 percent to 90 percent by helping with long-term procurement practices and sourcing contracts.

ELC's scale was also influential when Aveda asked suppliers of ethoxylated surfactants to make modifications to line up with Aveda's green chemistry efforts. "Scale is applied only where scale matters, and when Aveda’s Mission-aligned initiatives are conflicting with some of ELC’s other brand interests, they remain Aveda-only programs," the report says.

The company also says that ELC brought the capability to develop systems and processes that have helped Aveda run more efficiently, like a new process for evaluating the safety and environmental impacts of ingredients. Aveda also now shares administration and market intelligence resources with similar ELC brands.

But Aveda has brought its fair share of benefits to ELC as well. It's research, development and manufacturing site in Minnesota was designated as ELC's Natural, Organic and Green center of excellence, and it helps other brands with developing naturally-derived products. After Aveda increased its use of post-consumer recycled content in its bottles, similar programs have been initiatives at other ELC brands.

However, Aveda's relationship with ELC is not in all ways positive. As the report notes:

Being 100%-owned by ELC means that Aveda complies with the Company’s policy of reporting financial information only by product categories and regions. Therefore, very little Aveda-only financial information can be reported. This is a source of disappointment among stakeholders who analyze CSR reports, as Aveda’s ECC report does not allow them to benchmark based on economic scale, nor reach conclusions on the correlation of business and sustainability data. In addition, Aveda and ELC have disagreed in the past, although infrequently, on issues of stakeholder engagement.

Aveda soap - CC license by Flickr user Calgary Reviews