November 30, 2006


Philosophy of Connecting Beauty, Wellness and Care for the Environment - Aveda Corp.

Keywords: Newsletter 

JFS Newsletter No.51 (November 2006)
Toward a Sustainable Japan--Corporations at Work Article Series No.54

Horst Rechelbacher, the founder of Aveda Corp., once got terribly sick while he was working as a world-renowned hair stylist in the 1970s. He tried some remedies using herbs, on the advice of his mother who was an herbalist, and learned for himself the power of plants.

At that time, shampoos and other hair care products used in most hair salons contained a lot of chemicals and petroleum-derived substances. Skeptical about chemical products for cosmetic use, based on his own experience, he began to have a desire to provide beauty using natural ingredients harmless to the human body. He traveled around the world and finally encountered Ayurveda, a medical lore originating in ancient India.

Ayurveda is an alternative medicine under the concept of maintaining the balance of mind and body with the help of plants' power and enhancing the body's natural healing power. Based on this idea, Horst developed a shampoo using plant-based materials that have medicinal benefits, and established Aveda in 1978 in U.S. state of Minnesota.

Aveda now produces more than 600 items of beauty products including hair care, body care, skin care and aroma products, and sells them in 23 countries and regions. Moreover, using these products, it manages hair salons and spas that offer body massages and treatments, supports its affiliated salons called "network salons," and operates cosmetology and esthiology schools.

Since its establishment, Aveda has been committed to environmental responsibility in all business activities, pursuing its mission of caring for the Earth, a precious planet for all living things.

Aveda established an overseas subsidiary in Japan in 2000. A flagship store, "Aveda Lifestyle Salon & Spa Minami-Aoyama," opened in September 2003 in Tokyo. This is a complex facility consisting of a retail shop, hair salon, spa and cafe, and now has the highest sales among Aveda's five complex stores in the world. In November 2006, a similar facility "Aveda Lifestyle Salon & Spa Shinsaibashi" opened in Osaka as a flagship store in western Japan.

Aveda in Japan has about 60 employees in these two direct-managed stores and its network salons of hairdressers across the country. At the network salons, Aveda's products and services are offered with the company's support. There were already 112 of these salons by November 2006.

In this issue of the JFS Newsletter, we will not focus on the company's activities in Japan, but rather, will introduce Aveda's overall corporate philosophy and how its environmental activities are integrated into the production of its products.

"Aveda's products could only come from Mother Nature, but should not be manufactured at her expense" -- This is the corporate philosophy based on the beliefs of the founder, Horst Rechelbacher.

Flower and plant essences are the main ingredients of its products, and the company tries to maximize the use of plant materials from organic or biodynamic agriculture. In addition, its product development has a basis in solid scientific evidence that supports benefits from plant-based ingredients.

Although it is not yet possible to manufacture its products completely from plants or natural ingredients, the company makes it a principle to choose the best materials available at the time, and to use the latest techniques. The company constantly improves the ingredients and materials, even for the existing products, by substituting natural for chemical ingredients.

For instance, half of the surfactants used in shampoos and other products are natural cleaning components derived from Brazilian babassu nut oil. The company also uses a natural pigment, instead of a chemical one, extracted from the urukum plant grown by the Yawanawa, an indigenous tribe in the Amazon region. Furthermore, numerous studies by the company are searching for plant- or natural mineral-based alternatives to replace petroleum-sourced materials used in preservatives, hair dyes, and permanent wave ingredients.

When the company's research and development department submits ideas for new products, they are screened by the executive director of the environmental sustainability department, a medicinal herbalist and the president of the company. This system is designed to prevent the development of products that could be inconsistent with the company's mission. Under the system, products are checked to see if they meet criteria under the company's own guidelines. This includes screening to ensure the ingredients are not sourced from threatened and endangered species, that they come from sustainable agricultural and harvesting processes, that they comply with ethical standards, that the extraction and processing of ingredients have no negative environmental or safety impacts, that packaging meets environmental and safety standards, and so on.

Today, for most of the company's major hair care and skin care products, the ratio of natural-based ingredients is over 90 percent. About 75 percent of the total weight of essential oils and 40 percent of total plant-based ingredients were certified organic as of fiscal 2005.

Aveda's business would be impossible without the use of flower and plant essences. The most important challenge is how the company can utilize natural resources in a sustainable manner without damaging the global environment.

Aveda believes that protection of biodiversity is indispensable to secure sustainability at the global level. For this purpose, the company strives to form relationships with indigenous people all over the world, seeking solutions of sustainability in their lifestyles. That is because they have acquired the wisdom to allow them to live in harmony with diverse ecosystems, and to gather, grow and utilize plants sustainably.

Aveda has established the relationship between indigenous people beyond the fair trade system, based on the holistic idea of Ayurveda; all things in the earth are interconnected. By procuring materials from the indigenous people, Aveda helps them to conserve their traditional wisdom and to achieve economic independence. Not only that, its comprehensive efforts include improving their social infrastructure for education, medical services, and more. Urukum, mentioned above, is one example of the materials obtained through partnership between Aveda and the Yawanawa tribe.

Another example is the essential oil of sandalwood, which is used in many Aveda's products, for the sedating effect in its rich aroma. Aveda once used sandalwood imported from India, but due to the possibility of it coming from illegal logging involving organized gangs, Aveda stopped using it in 1997. After four years of seeking high-quality organic sandalwood from a traceable source, Aveda finally found high-quality sandalwood that the Aborigines of Western Australia have been using for thousands of years.

Aveda began to purchase sandalwood harvested by Aboriginal communities at a fair price. Thanks to the trade, it succeeded in making sandalwood-used products again with the essential oil. Aveda, together with local environmental organizations, urged the Australian government to certify the organic sandalwood as a raw material. The certification verifies the quality of the sandalwood, and allows sandalwood-producers to protect their own interests and also to benefit from business with others.

Under the concept of connecting beauty, wellness and care for the environment, Aveda says in its mission, "We strive to set an example for environmental leadership and responsibility not just in the world of beauty, but around the world."

When establishing relations with network salons, Aveda offers salon staff trainings of about 40-hours in length to impart to them the company's sense of values relating to environmental conservation. In the trainings, staff learn about the background of each product, as well as the details and directions for use. Aveda expects all network-salon staff to act at all times with an awareness of Aveda's mission.

Aveda in Japan also hopes to actively promote nationwide environmental activities jointly with its network salons, by organizing workshops and campaigns in which customers can also participate.

(Staff Writer Eriko Saijo)