Thursday, May 5, 2011

Aveda--saving the Amazon? Unfortunately not

Yawanawá Indians participated in ceremonial games and dances marking the arrival of Aveda executives.

MUTUM, Brazil—In a remote Amazon village a full day by canoe from the nearest road in western Brazil, Yawanawá Indians in grass skirts gather around a pile of urukum, a spiky fruit they use to make body paint, and pose for two photographers from the U.S. beauty firm Aveda.

The images will help Aveda, a unit of Estée Lauder, sell its popular Uruku line of lipsticks, eye shadows and facial bronzers that use the plant as coloring. The company can charge a premium for products that look good and, at the same time, help save the rain forest by giving the tribe a sustainable livelihood.

But there's something wrong with this picture. For starters, the Yawanawá don't produce much urukum. They delivered none of it to Aveda between 2008 and 2010. Also, urukum itself isn't as exotic as Aveda portrays it in a documentary-style video on its website. Best known as annatto, it's an inexpensive food coloring, grown commercially around the world, that gives products like Kraft Macaroni & Cheese an orange hue.

So not only is Aveda not getting its annatto, I mean urukum, from the Yawanawá, or helping the tribe in any way, but yep, that exotic Amazonian urukum can be bought in any bodega--don't you love it? Maybe tribal peoples were correct when they said that Europeans were stealing their souls when they took their pictures.

This excellent article by John Lyons can be read in full at the WSJ.

If this link doesn't work--the WSJ is a subscription online site--Google the title and you should be able to read it then.

Being in the cosmetic business in a small way, and sourcing all ingredients responsibly, & taking care to inform my customers when they are constantly bombarded by super crap like this gets me really tired.

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