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Fighting Poverty with Profit – Community Enterprises in Nepal Collaborate with Aveda

2008 Aveda Holiday Gift Sets Wrapped in Lokta Paper

Since 2007, Aveda has featured handmade Lokta bark paper from Nepal in its Holiday Line. While beautifully showcasing the Aveda products, this exceptionally durable and attractive paper, harvested in a sustainable manner in the Himalayas, is helping marginalized community groups successfully fight poverty and improve their standard of living.

Aveda Corporation, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Estee Lauder Companies Inc. is a worldwide beauty company that manufactures plant-based hair care, skin care, makeup, and lifestyle products with a commitment to protecting the environment, conserving resources and supporting indigenous communities. Founded in 1978, Aveda has long been a leader in conducting business in a socially and environmentally responsible manner.

The successful collaboration between Aveda and the Himalayan Bio Trade Private Limited (HBTL)—the community-based natural products processing and trading company that the paper was sourced from—is the culmination of years’ worth of work that dates back to 2003 and efforts made by EnterpriseWorks/VITA (EWV) and its local partner in Nepal, ANSAB, to facilitate a private-public partnership that could successfully market Nepal’s unique natural products. The partnership includes local Nepali Non Governmental Organizations, Community Forest Users Groups, local forest products companies, The Rainforest Alliance, and Aveda.

Initially supported by USAID, the partnership allowed the Federation of Community Forestry Users Nepal (FECOFUN) to be awarded the first community based non-timber forest products (NTFP) Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification in Asia. The FSC certification is a tremendous achievement, but certification alone was not going to allow Nepal to place products with high value international markets. The capacity building, enterprise development and product supply chain development championed by ANSAB and EWV in partnership with Aveda were just as important if not more so.

Lokta Bark Paper in Nepal

“The average buyer looking at the Aveda packaging and buying the products has no idea how much expertise is needed to bring a product up to international standards, comply with all export and import regulations, and develop a local community’s basic business skills to profitably manage an enterprise that meets the highest environmental and social standards” says Ann Koontz, Senior Program Advisor for EWV. “Aveda has provided invaluable advice on a myriad of details needed to successfully export natural products from Nepal, has made investments in HBTL to help them improve efficiency and quality consistency, but most importantly has taken the time to understand the local context and earn the people’s trust. Having a private sector company of Aveda’s caliber involved in this effort really helped the Nepali groups to understand what export markets require and distinguish their products in the marketplace.”

EWV thanks Aveda for taking the long-term view that is needed to build sustainable supply chains that result in real change. Since 2003 when the public-private alliance was launched product sales from the community forest enterprises have grown on average of 60% per annum and the number of people benefiting has grown on average of 28% per annum.