Dominique Conseil, President of Aveda When Conseil joined Aveda, it was with a purpose in mind to improve the brand's organic content, to source ingredients that benefit indigenous growers

Dominque Conseil became Aveda’s president in 2000, following roles as a cosmetics executive for Proctor & Gamble and L”Oreal. But when Conseil joined Aveda, it was with a purpose in mind—to improve the brand’s organic content, to source ingredients that benefit indigenous growers and to maintain transparency for shoppers.

E Magazine: What is involved in Aveda’s botanical research?

Dominque Conseil: Our labs find highly active botanical ingredients in order for us to be able to fulfill our first promise, which is a promise of performance. There is this completely wrong idea that if it’s natural it doesn’t perform. It’s from decades of communications by petro-chemical groups. Actually nature works very, very well.

E: How do you find unusual ingredients across the globe?

DC: Some of the most powerful ingredients that we have are also fantastic stories of social responsibility, and we owe them to [advisor] David Hircock. We launched a very high-performance skin-care line called Green Science, which has the ingredient argan. Argan is a tree from Morocco. And the women there have these cooperatives trying to harvest sustainably this natural resource. David saw the opportunity to give Aveda a great ingredient—the argan oil—but also to have these cooperatives earn a better living.

E: What does it mean when your company calls a place a “center of excellence”?

DC: A center of excellence is a place that produces a raw material that is very high quality but is also exploited in a way that is environmentally sustainable and socially helpful.

E: How do Aveda’s high green standards impact the company’s bottom line?

DC: If you go on our website, we have the Green Ingredient Policy. That was a massive undertaking, screening 600 ingredients and raw materials. But the biggest financial resource is to live up to our standards. If you take essential oils, 90% or more are certified organic, our other botanicals, 89% are certified organic. And yet you will probably not find one product that claims to be organic. We are not looking to set the standard for our product based on whether they will or will not be organic. We provide products that must perform and we make them as natural and botanical as we can.

E: Tell me about the company’s commitment to farmers.

DC: Usually companies treat farmers who produce the raw materials as just agents in the market. But as we talked to the farmers we realized most of them really valued becoming an organic farmer, but they had some difficulties. It’s a three-year process to convert. They asked: Who’s going to support me? And who’s going to agree to pay a premium? Aveda was the one to answer yes. We even started to support farmers by three- and five-year contracts, which is unheard of. There is a cost to doing this, there is a cost to sourcing ingredients that are traceable, but…when you can trace it, when you have transparency, it’s better.