A Cradle-to-Cradle Feedback Loop at Aveda

Nature of Business Radio

Cradle to Cradle

A Cradle-to-Cradle Feedback Loop at Aveda

[Correction: This story previously misstated Adeva's number of employees and has been updated to reflect the correct number.]

Nature of Business radio, created and hosted by Chrissy Coughlin, is a weekly show on business and environment.

Sometimes things are worth the wait. In this case, allowing Chuck Bennett's and my schedules to align was a lesson in patience for both of us but as expected, it was well worth it.

Chuck is Aveda's Vice President for Earth and Community Care at Blaine, Minnesota-based Aveda. We chatted about everything from the origin of his job title, the company's commitment to Cradle to Cradle design, their work on alternative energy (something near and dear to Chuck's heart), customer engagement, packaging, as well as their synergistic relationship with parent company Estée Lauder, which bought Aveda in 1997.

chuck bennettAveda is a beauty products company founded by Horst Rechelbacher in 1978. They sell products ranging from skin care to hair care. From its inception, Horst had the vision of creating a company that produced products derived from plants and that were safer and more efficacious than ones that were in use -- a mantra that permeates through the company to this day even as it has grown exponentially.

In fact, today Aveda has a little over 2,900 employees worldwide and around 125 stores in the U.S. It's one of the five biggest brands of Estée Lauder, the $8 billion a year cosmetics giant, which bought Aveda for about $350 million back in 1997.

For a company whose growth is directly correlated with high performance as well as its reputation as a sustainable company, Chuck has his work cut out for him. And he loves it.

Particularly interesting to me was our discussion regarding the aforementioned Cradle to Cradle design administered by McDonough Braungart Design Chemistry as well as their commitments to alternative energy. I do love that they run their Minnesota manufacturing facility on wind power that they purchase off of the grid. They also recently put up a solar array on their distribution facility in Tustin, Calif., near Los Angeles -- producing half of the energy there.

It has to be reassuring to sustainably minded employees and customers to know that support still comes from the top, with company president Dominique Conseil often heard saying, along with Chuck, that sustainability at Aveda is not a program but rather a philosophy.

Again, sustainability philosophy within companies = increased sales and customer loyalty...not to mention employee engagement and loyalty as well. Win-win.

Regarding customer loyalty, Chuck says, "The beauty is that we really don't get a lot of feedback [from customers] that suggests that what we are doing in the sustainability realm is not to their liking. If they are unhappy, we hear about it. And one of the things that we find reinforcing and reassuring is the extent that our consumer base supports what we are doing by defending the brand if we come under attack in, for instance, the social media space."

We even had time to talk about the positive impact they have had on Estée Lauder to broaden their sustainability portfolio. And Estée Lauder encourages Aveda be who they always have been -- a company with a heart and soul (and really good-smelling products).

George Papoulias edited this podcast.