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Creating a Beautiful Future Together with Dutjahn Sandalwood Oils

ELC’s commitment to responsible sourcing is showcased this week as its long-term supplier, DSO, visits NYC to accept prestigious UNDP Equator Prize

Nancy Mahon spoke at the United Nations Equator Prize Award Ceremony. Photo: UNDP Equator Initiative/Mike Arrison
Nancy Mahon spoke at the United Nations Equator Prize Award Ceremony. Photo: UNDP Equator Initiative/Mike Arrison

At The Estée Lauder Companies Inc. (ELC), we are embedding sustainable practices along our value chain that uphold our long heritage of responsibility. Partnerships are a core element of our efforts, and it is through these collaborative relationships that the company can affect meaningful change.

Dutjahn Sandalwood Oils (DSO), one of our long-term partners and suppliers, was named a recipient of the United Nations Development Programme’s distinguished Equator Prize. This award recognizes outstanding local community and indigenous initiatives that advance nature-based solutions for climate change and local sustainable development.

DSO, along with 21 other local communities from across the globe who also won the award, were celebrated in an awards ceremony at New York’s Town Hall Theatre. Nancy Mahon, Senior Vice President, Global Corporate Citizenship and Sustainability represented ELC and spoke during the ceremony’s New Economy segment. “We at The Estée Lauder Companies believe the answers to complex community issues that exist within global supply chains usually lie within the communities themselves and if we don’t stop, listen and learn, we are missing an opportunity to make change that is truly meaningful and sustainable.”

Kutkabubba Aboriginal Community

More than fifteen years ago, ELC’s Aveda brand developed a strategic relationship with the Kutkabubba Aboriginal Community of Western Australia to ensure the sustainable and equitable wild harvest of Australian sandalwood trees for essential oil production. In recent years, the community formed DSO, a 50% aboriginal-owned sandalwood oil-processing venture with a 100% aboriginal-controlled nonprofit foundation.

DSO has worked to maintain its innovative partnership with the Kutkabubba Aboriginal Community by promoting cultural identity and supporting local livelihoods through the sustainable harvest of sandalwood oil for the global luxury perfume industry, including for ELC. Its mission is to improve and broaden the indigenous community’s benefit share in the natural resource supply chain and to build a nature-based cultural economy, by working with the local government to grant a license to sustainably harvest indigenous flora from their desert homelands under fair and equitable terms.

Sourcing Natural Ingredients

To create high quality beauty products, ELC not only requires great ingredients, it also strives to operate with integrity and ethics when it comes to sourcing ingredients. The stronger the company’s connection to an ingredient’s source, the more meaningful it is to ELC’s operations. “With essential oils, it’s like having a millennia of sunrises and sunsets trapped within one drop,” says Guy Vincent, Fellow, Senior Perfumer, Research & Development, “All of that complexity and that naturalness is a real connection to the land.”

The Estée Lauder Companies is mindful of the communities it works with in its value chain. David Hircock, Executive Director, Global Corporate Affairs, who has worked on sensitive ingredient supply chains at both the brand and corporate level throughout his tenure in the company, said, “I believe that the sandalwood business can really be transformative to the other communities that need this hope. This is the ultimate nature-based economy. It’s not just expanding a quality product, but it’s an expansion of what can happen to the local communities.”

Creating a Beautiful Future Together

ELC’s partnership with DSO not only represents the company’s core values, but also underscores its commitment to relevant United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. A recent film the company produced called “Creating a Beautiful Future Together” highlights this commitment. Mindi DeLeary, Executive Director, Responsible Sourcing, along with David Hircock and Guy Vincent, had the opportunity to travel to the Central Deserts of Western Australia to meet with members of DSO and the Kutkabubba Aboriginal Community.  Together they experienced DSO’s work with the local communities and learn firsthand about the process of sustainably harvesting sandalwood trees for essential oil.

“These communities, in many cases, have been stewards of the land for generations, for hundreds, if not thousands, of years ... So really by creating an open dialogue with these communities, we can work together to make sure that, going forward, it’s economically viable for them to continue to farm for generations to come and to continue to care for the land,” said Mindi DeLeary, who spearheads the company’s efforts to source responsibly.

As part of the film’s launch, ELC hosted a series of screenings for its employees across its campuses in New York City, Melville, NY, and Blaine, MN, which included Q&A sessions with DSO members. Greg Polcer, Executive Vice President, Global Supply Chain, said, “Partnerships have to be genuine in order for them to work, and taking the time to understand and listen is doable. This is what’s important as we continue to develop new business models.” 

The full film can be viewed here.

Dutjahn Sandalwood Oils x The Estée Lauder Companies: Creating a Beautiful Future Together:

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