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Natura Asks: Why Do You Need What You Don't Need?

Image credit: Natura

In December 2011, Patagonia called US consumers to make more considered purchases with its famous “Don’t buy this jacket” ad and this year encouraged customers to value what they already have with its “Worn Wear” campaign. Along the same lines, Brazilian cosmetics company Natura launched in May 2013 a new flagship brand called SOU (meaning “I am”), reconciling low environmental impacts and low costs with high sensorial impacts and inviting users to a new kind of consumption.

Natura is a Brazilian cosmetics brand, ranked the most valuable in Brazilian retail, according to Interbrand’s 2013 ranking. Its business model is based on direct sales through more than 1.5 million consultants in all Latin America (and a tiny bit in France). The results are impressive: With 100 million consumers, a market share of 23.2 percent and a penetration of home of 62 percent, Natura is the number one player in Brazil, its net revenue in 2012 exceeding $3 billion.

Low environmental impacts and costs

Denise Alves, Natura’s director of sustainability, explains: “We have studied SOU chain from the beginning to the end in order to optimize resources, reducing costs and environmental impacts. In the whole production chain, we consume less energy, generate less waste and less shipping, then less pollution.” (watch her presentation at the SB London 2013 Conference).

In terms of packaging, the pouch is used worldwide in several product categories but with cosmetics it’s solely used as a refill. With SOU, Natura offers a variety of products focusing on essential care (liquid soap, moisturizing cream, shampoo, curls conditioner, etc) all manufactured in the same stand-up pouches as primary packaging, with lively different colors.

It uses 70 percent less plastic and emits 60 percent less carbon than the other lines from Natura. It is lighter and requires less space for storage and transportation. And because of this smooth package, there is no product waste: the product can be used to the very last drop.

The process has been optimized, too: A single machine is able to cut the film, seal the shape of the package and bottle the product.

The formulation does not contain artificial colorants or scents, is on average 80 percent plant derived and contains only the number of ingredients that is necessary. And there’s a single fragrance for the entire line.

Last but not least, because waste-pickers supply nearly the only form of solid waste collection in Brazil, Natura is building a reverse waste logistic with waste-pickers cooperatives, to upcycle the disposal package.

High sensorial impacts

The SOU pouches are eco-friendly and affordable but it does not mean the products are of lower quality. The formulation “contains a small number of ingredients, only what is necessary, but of course delivering performance and sensory,” Alves insists. The message is clear in the TV ad: “SOU is maximum pleasure,” “SOU is a delicious fragrance from Natura,” “SOU is to the last drop.”

In the end, SOU has Natura’s performance that consumers love with “everything that is good and essential.”

The pouch was designed by two Brazilian firms: QuesttoNó and Tátil Design. Frederico Gelli, one of the designers, explains that they wanted “to reconcile low environmental impact with high sensorial impact,” to flee “from those eco-bores solutions” and search “for eco-sexy ones” (in this video, in Portuguese). With their peculiar water drop shape and vivid colors, these stand-up pouches are different, soft and nice to use. They have been very well received by the Brazilian consumers.

A new kind of consumption

On top of that, the SOU brand “invites a new kind of consumption,” states José Vicente Marino, Executive Vice President of Natura (in this video). It brings a new concept and a new value proposal to the Brazilian people: to consume with pleasure and put aside the excess.

The SOU brand is a great example of green marketing. Natura demonstrates that there is room to create sustainable brands, both relevant to the company’s CSR strategy and to consumers’ values. To conclude, you will notice the play on words on packaging: when the pouch is turned upside down to pour the product, the brand “SOU” becomes “NÓS”; “I am” becomes “We.” 


Mathieu Jahnich is a strategic communications and marketing consultant based in Paris, France.

After earning a PhD in science and environmental communication, he spent ten years within various research institutes and the French ministry of ecology, first as a researcher then as… [Read more about Mathieu Jahnich]