Sustainable cosmetics from the Amazon

Project description

Title: Sustainable use and environmental regulation compliance in three regions in the Amazon
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Countries: Brazil
Partners: Natura, Symrise 
Overall term: 2017 to 2020


The Amazon region covers over half of Brazil’s surface area and is known for its great biological diversity. The lack of economic incentives to use land sustainably has led to the clearance of vast areas of forest in the Amazon. To reduce this deforestation, all processes that are necessary for the sustainable production of goods need to become competitive. 

Although the cooperatives produce sustainable products, they focus primarily on individual product lines instead of harnessing the diversity of potentially profitable products. Cultivation and processing are usually performed manually, so smallholders can earn only very little in the cooperatives. Until now, they have lacked the knowledge to meet the strict requirements of environmental legislation. Companies that source the sustainably produced raw materials they require from the Amazon are dependent on reliable supply chains. The smallholders must meet sustainability criteria and adhere to quality standards.


Sustainable use and regeneration of natural resources is ensured in cooperation with the private sector. Smallholders and traditional communities in the Amazon preserve the rainforests and supply renewable raw materials to industry. 


The Brazilian cosmetics manufacturer Natura, the German producer of fragrances and raw materials Symrise and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH have formed a partnership to make cultivation and production processes more sustainable. 

The cooperation partners are supporting cooperatives in diversifying their products and increasing their profitability. The project promotes technological innovations to improve the quality of products. The cooperatives are also using the waste generated during the processing of plant-based raw materials to develop new products, thus harnessing the full economic potential of a given plant species. 

The project is using organisational development and staff training to improve the skills of the cooperatives. It is assisting smallholders and cooperatives in meeting the environmental regulations, for example by registering their land in the environmental register or improving degraded areas of land. In the field, the advisory team is helping farmers to improve processes and ensuring close cooperation between the institutions involved. 

Natura provides advice on technical issues and processing. The cosmetics manufacturer is introducing quality standards for each of the products and promoting better cultivation, harvesting and production methods. The company is supporting production processes based on plant species that have not previously been used. Symrise is helping to develop new methods and technologies to improve processing techniques. Production waste is being examined to establish whether it is suitable for creating by-products and establishing new value chains. 

The project is being financed as part of the develoPPP programme launched by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). 


To date, the project has achieved the following results:

  • The financial viability of babassu oil production is currently being analysed by means of tests and potential analyses that also take into account the use of by-products from oil production. The project is supporting implementation of a marketing strategy and direct contact between the cooperatives and the potential buyers. 
  • Four technical options for increasing the effectiveness of drying facilities for andiroba seeds have been identified and tested during the 2019 harvest season. Drying times have been reduced by adapting the drying techniques, resulting in more effective processing at cooperative level. 
  • An extensive training and advisory programme has been developed and implemented to promote the management skills of the cooperatives’ management boards. Twenty-five board members from five cooperatives in the Trans-Amazonian region have already received training. At present, 50 participants from ten other cooperatives are taking part in training.
  • The project combines modern drone technology and participatory methods to strengthen the producers’ ability to manage their production units, for example using inventory analyses and creating maps. 
  • To date, nine cooperatives have been advised on environmental legislation, and 82 families have been registered in the land register through the project.

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