By Andrea Newell

In March 2010, Avon partnered with The Nature Conservancy to launch Hello Green Tomorrow, a global environmental initiative to rebuild the rapidly diminishing South American Atlantic Rainforest. Known for its women-focused philanthropic efforts, this is the first external environmental program Avon has undertaken, and it has shown amazing initial results.

Avon kickstarted the effort with a $1 million donation to plant one million trees and sounded a call to action for its customers to donate just $1 to plant a single tree. With a philanthropic army of 6.2 million Avon representatives and 40,000 Avon associates reaching more than 300 million customers in over 60 countries, Avon doubled its initial donation in just 80 days. By June 3, UN World Environment Day, Avon reported that they had reached the $2 million dollar mark. By mid-July, the tally had reached $2,050,000. Planting more than two million trees will restore approximately 5,000 acres of rainforest.

What’s at Stake

Once the size of Spain, France, and Italy combined, only 7% of the South America Atlantic Rainforest remains today. Devastation of the rainforest eliminates a crucial weapon Earth needs to combat rising carbon emissions and impending climate change. Trees and photosynthesis help remove carbon from the air, while deforestation is the second leading cause of accelerated carbon buildup in the atmosphere, after fossil fuels.

As this ecosystem vanishes, it endangers the other plants and animals that call it home and puts at risk a critical source of water and hydroelectric power for more than 120 million people. Restoration efforts create local jobs, which strengthens the local economy and supports water resource protection. If and when it regains its original size, the rainforest would remove 10 million tons of carbon dioxide from our atmosphere each year.

Representing Success for Green Campaigns

Although it’s an external philanthropic effort, Avon has made a major investment in Hello Green Tomorrow and has worked hard to incorporate its principles into its business, developing its Paper Promise program and promoting its Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rethink, Replant philosophy.

Susan Arnot Heaney, Director of Corporate Responsibility, says, “Launched internally in 2009 and externally in 2010, Hello Green Tomorrow includes fundraising as an immediate mobilization effort, but it also entails a broader focus on driving our corporate environmental stewardship and “green” processes enterprise-wide, including how we conduct our business and engage our associates, reps, and customers on “green” actions. Hello Green Tomorrow is now embedded in the Avon business and includes internal and external programs to drive awareness, education, and both individual and institutional behavior change.”

In a time where the term “greenwashing” has been flung like mud onto many organizations whose social responsibility efforts are later revealed to be all talk and no follow-through, Avon’s history of solid philanthropic service and integration of corporate social responsibility principles into its core business ensures its reputation remains clean and shiny. Through 2009, Avon has raised over $725 million for its ongoing Avon Breast Cancer Crusade and Speak Out Against Domestic Violence programs, and Arnot Heaney hints at big plans for Hello Green Tomorrow in 2011, promising that it is a long-term program for Avon.

Andrea Jung, Avon Chairman and CEO, has said, “This is just the beginning of Avon Hello Green Tomorrow and our environmental efforts. The power of Avon is the power of hundreds of millions of women joined together around the world with a common cause. Together, we are taking small steps to help save the planet for the next generation.”