At the Sustainable Cosmetics Summit held in New York on May 12-14, 2011, leading natural personal care company Aveda shared its experiences in adopting the Cradle-to-Cradle (C2C) design approach, a novel way for companies to integrate sustainability into their business practices in response to rising consumer expectations.
Designed by McDonough & Braungart, the C2C design is a holistic approach that involves production processes in which nutrients are recycled at the end of their life-cycles, seeking to create systems that are not just efficient but waste free. The C2C approach enables companies to create positive impacts rather than minimizing negative ones and has evolved from a systems approach into an eco-label. Products made in accordance to the C2C design approach are given a certification.

Although originally made for industrial design and manufacturing, the C2C approach has expanded into consumer goods that include food and beverages, personal care products, cleaning products, apparel and office products. However, Organic Monitor research firm finds the adoption rate in the natural and organic products industry is surprisingly low, considering many such companies have sustainability built into their corporate ethos.
Aveda, a Blaine, Minnesota-based personal care firm was one of the first to adopt the C2C design approach. Aveda manufactures innovative plant-based hair care, skin care, make up and lifestyle products retailed through Aveda Experience Centres and over 7,000 professional hair salons and spas in more than 30 countries.
Established in 1978, the company is now the largest buyer of organic essential oils in the world and has established organic agricultural projects in Latin America, Africa and Australasia to secure supply of organic ingredients. By adopting the C2C design approach, Aveda has gone beyond making ecological and safe personal care products and has pioneered many sustainability initiatives that have had positive impacts on the environment and social communities.

Evan Miller, Director, Global Communications at Aveda said the Cradle to Cradle concept is still relatively new to consumers globally and even more so in the United States. “So at this point I don’t know that a majority of consumers would buy a product because of a C2C logo or certification associated with it,” he said. “However, Aveda believes that its socially and sustainably responsible business practices do contribute positively to sales and consumer loyalty - many factors of which are incorporated into the C2C approach. The C2C, however, is not something that Aveda put into practice simply to achieve certification. These methods have been implemented over the course of time so Aveda can continue to lead the industry in all that it does.”

Mr Miller said that due to Aveda's approach to sustainability, numerous Aveda stakeholders recognize and reward the brand for its use of sustainable and recycled packaging, corporately responsible business practices and product sourcing. “We believe consumers vote with their pocketbooks – demonstrating that they reward us for our choices in doing business,” he said.

Aveda is the first beauty company to power its manufacturing plant and head office with renewable energy. The company has become the largest buyer of green energy in Minnesota, keeping 5,500 tons of CO2 out of the air. Aveda is also the largest user of recycled plastic in the beauty industry, saving over one million pounds of virgin plastic each year. Its ‘Recycle Caps with Aveda’ campaign has had a positive contribution by removing 37 million polypropylene caps from the environment. By undertaking social investment projects, the company has also built schools, hospitals and energy plants for indigenous tribes in the Amazon.

Professor Dr. Michael Braungart, co-founder of the Cradle-To-Cradle Design approach, has been invited to the Sustainable Foods Summit in Amsterdam on June 23-24, 2011, to discuss how food and ingredient companies can create positive impacts by the C2C design approach.