As is probably the case for many women of my generation, my perception of the Avon cosmetics company was shaped by memories of the glamorous neighbour who called regularly and handed my mother enticingly packaged pots and tubes. She trailed in her wake a heady cloud of scent and left behind a glossy catalogue that was later poured over by my mum who diligently ticked tiny boxes in eager anticipation of her next delivery of frosted pink lipstick and royal blue eye shadow.
Growing up I gravitated towards the vibrant teen-baiting hues of the Rimmel stand in my local chemist. As I exchanged my pocket money for the glossy veneer of adulthood the Avon brand seemed irrelevant and soon disappeared from my mind entirely.
That remained the case for thirty years until earlier this week a tweet arrived directing me to the Clinton Global Initiative website. So what’s the connection between the two? Well, the Clinton Global Citizen Awards, established to recognize extraordinary individuals who have demonstrated visionary leadership in solving pressing global challenges, has honoured Andrea Jung, Chairman and CEO of Avon Products, for showing leadership in the corporate sector and for significantly improving the lives of women worldwide.
There are two distinct strands to the work that Avon undertakes to empower and aid women globally. Firstly, as part of its core business, the company provides earning opportunities to more than 6.2 million independent Avon Sales Representatives worldwide. Thus the potential to secure an independently earned income is realised by women who would otherwise sink into poverty. Secondly, the Avon Foundation for Women, founded in 1955, has emerged as the leading corporate philanthropy organisation for women globally. Who knew?
the Avon Foundation, founded in 1955, has emerged as the leading corporate philanthropy organisation for women globally
The Foundation has adopted the dual mission of supporting research aimed at eradicating breast cancer and of tackling domestic and gender violence directed against women. Last year more than $725 million (€540 million) was raised and directed towards grassroots programs in more than 50 countries. According to the Avon website, funds raised to fight breast cancer are directed towards improving “awareness and education; screening and diagnosis; access to treatment; support services; and scientific research”. The beneficiaries of the Avon Breast Cancer Crusade “range from leading cancer research and clinical centers to community-based, non-profit breast health education programs”.
In 2004 the Avon Foundation launched “Speak Out Against Domestic Violence” to raise awareness and funds and, crucially, to advocate for the more effective implementation of laws aimed at curbing violence towards women. Last year Avon awarded more than $12 million (€8.9 million) to domestic violence organizations to help fund awareness, education, direct services and prevention programs.
It seems that there is more than meets the eye to this “lipstick, powder & paint” and the current product range is pretty funky too. Is anyone else amazed to learn of the philanthropic achievements of Avon?