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green@work : Magazine : Back Issues : Mar/Apr 2004 : Cover Story

Cover Story


In November 2003, Aveda announced the discontinuation of its Indigenous product line as well as its intention to abandon the Indigenous trademark. The Indigenous collection contained three SKUs (a hair and body cleanser, massage oil and aroma candle), which ceased production immediately. The decision was reached following a meeting among
representatives of several indigenous nations of the Americas and Australia and
representatives of Aveda.

“We are discontinuing the Indigenous product line to demonstrate our ongoing support and respect for indigenous peoples in their efforts to protect their traditional knowledge and resources,” explained Conseil. “Aveda will discontinue marketing any products under the Indigenous trademark and, to emphasize its respect, will begin the formalities necessary to abandon any rights it may have in this trademark.”

With this action, Aveda hopes to stand in solidarity with indigenous peoples in their quest for recognition of intellectual property rights in their traditional wisdom. Indigenous peoples are considered the stewards of much of the world’s biodiversity.

“It was an emotional decision,” Conseil acknowledged. “It was an emotion that was in
sympathy with indigenous people. And it was emotional as a manufacturer to discontinue a beautiful line that people liked and was growing nicely. But when we met with indigenous
leaders, they made me realize how important respect is, how important intellectual property rights are for their future. I didn’t think in my mind how many millions of dollars this business represents because it was bigger than that.

“The problem of sustainability cannot be solved so much by governments signing protocols, but it can be changed by people individually changing their way of thinking and becoming emotionally connected to nature,” Conseil added. “We have a place in nature—it’s an equilibrium. Yes, the universe wants us to grow, to feed more people who need food, etc., and it’s perfectly in line with the universe as it intends, but not at the expense of other species and destroying what sustains us in the first place.”

The Aveda Indigenous line was originally introduced to connect the modern consumer to the timeless wisdom and values of indigenous peoples. Aveda’s intent was to raise awareness about the beauty of their sustainable lifestyles, and to generate funding for key indigenous programs through sales of these products.

Aveda remains committed to its indigenous partnerships, says Conseil, and will continue
to seek the guidance and knowledge of these wisdom-keepers.


Approximately 60 million Americans believe in the power of herbs to promote well-being and currently use some form of medicinal plant to prevent or treat a variety of physical or emotional conditions ranging from a weak immune system to depression to weight loss. But at the root of these healing plants is a consequence often imperceptible to consumers. According to the International World Conservation Union, one out of every eight known plant species on Earth is threatened with extinction. In the U.S. alone, about 29 percent of the medicinal plant species currently used by Americans are at risk.

Concern for this threat brought Native American elders to partner with international conservationists and government agencies last October in Philadelphia, PA, for the second annual Industrial Leadership for the Preservation of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants Symposium. The gathering signaled the second time in U.S. history that pharmaceutical, beauty, vitamin and herbal manufacturers along with Native Americans, conservationists, botanists, farmers and government officials met to discuss the survival of wild plants used in popular herbal remedies and perfumes. The two-day symposium, hosted by the Medicinal Plants Working Group (MPWG) and the Plant Conservation Alliance (PCA), facilitates the sharing of information about this critical conservation issue and open lines of communication throughout industry and public and private sectors.

Founded in 2002, the symposium is supported by groups such as American Botanical Council, American Herbal Products Association (AHPA), USAID, the Steven Foster Group and Aveda.

“Aveda stakes its long-term business plan on the lifecycle of plants,” says Conseil. “To ensure the success of Aveda and other companies using plant materials, a new paradigm for sustainability must be developed.

“Some people wonder how Aveda can strive for natural products and also be
environmentally sensitive—sometimes that doesn’t go hand-in-hand. Let’s be very honest. If everyone started to make products like us, without a concern for sustainability, we’re going to harm plants like never before. Many plants are in danger in America because of industries that use plants—food supplements, plant products and people like us, which is why we recognize our responsibility to preserve plants—because we use them.”

Recognizing the need for guidance from indigenous elders is also a main focus of the
symposium. Historically, Native Americans have used nearly 3,000 different plants as medicine. Their knowledge of these plants helped early Appalachian settlers survive in a strange new land and now American ginseng, goldenseal root and echinacea along with many others, have become best-selling commodities in the marketplace.

“The loss of our native medicinal plants is a tragedy we live with daily,” says Tis Mal Crow, Cherokee, Hitchiti Elder and root doctor. “Plants that our grandfathers’ grandfathers respected and protected for future generations are no longer available to us. Until we see industry treating the plant kingdom with respect can we as indigenous healers treat industry with respect—and work to heal the wounds that have occurred over centuries.”


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