This Company Helps 100 Million People Look Good and Do Good — in the Cloud

Renata Federizzi, a manager in a large corporation with a hectic schedule, realized with a sinking heart that it was her father-in-law’s birthday, and she had no gift to take to the family dinner that evening.

“I was going to go shopping at lunch time, but had to squeeze in another meeting. I quickly sent a message to a Natura rep asking if she had his favorite aftershave. She didn’t, but she put the word out in her network and soon enough someone replied that I could pick it up on my way home,” Renata explained.

Social and Sustainable

Natura, Brazil’s leading cosmetics manufacturer and one of the largest certified B Corps in the world, is a  direct sales company that relies on relationships and social networks.

“We’re a mix of Google, Amazon, and Facebook,” said Natura’s CEO, João Paulo Ferreira, recently at Latin America’s largest technology event, the SAP Forum in São Paulo.

When asked about Natura’s plans for digitizing the sales force, he replied, “We are digitizing, but that’s the wrong way of looking at it. Our reps are anywhere from 20 to 70 years old, from all social backgrounds, and they’re doing business in every corner of the country using WhatsApp. They’re already digital. The question is, are we going to be relevant enough to be included in their business.”

A Company with Purpose

B Corps is a community of companies and individuals that envision a global economy that uses business as a force for good. B Corps certification assesses the overall positive impact of the company that stands behind it. And increasingly, that’s something people really care about!

Natura committed to ethical and sustainable business practices back in 1969 when it was founded, long before such practices became fashionable. The company takes responsibility for the environmental impact of every activity along its complex supply chain, which includes collecting and harvesting a diverse range of plants and natural ingredients from Brazil’s jungles and rainforests, in close alliance with local communities.

“We want everyone in our organization to live the values that represent our reason for being,” says Ferreira. “True beauty doesn’t come from anti-aging lotions; it’s comes from feeling good about yourself. Knowing we’re protecting our planet also makes us feel good. If someone is developing a new lipstick, he has to figure out its carbon impact before it’s accepted for production.”

It’s this kind of thinking that helped Natura win a U.N. Champions of the Earth award in 2015.

Enabling Direct Sales

With almost 100 million consumers, 80,000 products, and nearly 1.8 million sales reps, the company deals with vast volumes of data. Add a number of global expansion projects and acquisitions like The Body Shop, Natura’s British soulmate in terms of purpose and values, and you get an extremely complex data landscape.

Direct sales models like Natura’s require the sales reps to first buy their own stock and then resell it to their network, which is often built on word-of-mouth. Companies using this model face two major challenges. First, they don’t have any insight into the stock held by the reps, so they can’t forecast accurately what needs to be produced. Second, there’s the problem of logistics.

Natura delivers to every corner of the fifth largest country in the world, in all kinds of terrain from the pantanal, Brazil’s tropical wetlands, to mega cities with 10 to 20 million inhabitants. “Some deliveries are made by bike, some by boat and some by vans,” says Ferreira.

Powerful Messages

Last year Natura made a strategic decision to implement SAP Cloud Platform, an open platform-as-a-service (PaaS) that delivers in-memory capabilities, core platform services, and unique microservices for building and extending intelligent, mobile-enabled cloud applications. Natura is using the platform’s geospatial capabilities to track orders from the factory to the home, its development capabilities to create APIs for supplier management, and its data management capabilities to simplify the company’s complex data landscape.

The company, already hugely successful, is poised for further growth.

Keeping millions of customers like Renata Federizzi happy requires technology that is simple, fast, integrated, and flexible. Natura is providing its 120,000 sales managers with dashboards that give them a full view of their data and using blockchain to manage supply and governance from forest to production. All this is done for two reasons: to empower people and to have a positive impact on the planet.

“We have the power to influence consumers to buy products that don’t have a negative impact on the environment,” says Ferreira.

What a powerful place to be!

Follow me on Twitter: @magyarj

This story originally appeared on SAP BrandVoice on Forbes.