Natura y Matilde:

Friendly Neighbors  



FEA-USP Sao Paulo

Published in


This case describes the development of an alliance forged among a business company, a school and an NGO, offering insights to discuss and understand several forms of social engagement. The case focuses primarily on partners’ roles, the changes in their interactions, and the learning that may be drawn from reviewing their relationships. Case analysis should zero in on the relationship that links all three organizations in this alliance. It should be noted that each partner comes from a different sector –business, public administration, and civil society. As such, they all have very specific organizational cultures. This is key to understanding how their relationship starts and how it evolves, changing the roles adopted by partners. The time comes for the partners to determine whether they should continue their alliance or not.

Natura is Brazil’s second largest cosmetic and personal care company; its operations are conducted by direct sales, relying on a team of 270,000 beauty consultants across the nation. Natura was founded in 1969 and has become renowned as a successful business that builds long-lasting ties with its officials and the community.

Natura’s social work started in 1990 and grew more organized in 1992, with a philanthropic approach that quickly shifted towards more engaging schemes that encompassed their partners and beneficiaries. In its innovative, successful social initiatives, the company has partnered with business, governmental and civil society organizations, learning sound lessons and devising a replicable methodology that Natura uses in its many social programs.

Natura’s role in the development of Matilde Maria Cremm public school since the early 1990s provides a well-rounded example of mutual learning and the joint construction of an engaging social work scheme, with the alliance and the association adopting a key role in the school’s strategy and autonomy formulation, effectively making a difference in Brazil’s public education.

The Matilde Maria Cremm school is located outside a São Paulo State city, and, like any other Brazilian public school, it is besieged by infrastructure problems that jeopardize its performance. Against all odds, the alliance built by the school with Natura and an NGO called CENPEC (Center for Studies and Research on Education, Culture and Community Action) made it possible for the school to stand out among public schools in the State.

The alliance forged by these three organizations changed over time, undergoing several development stages that led to revised roles for the partners, the estrangement of CENPEC and the school’s emancipation. The case focuses on the moment Natura officials need to elaborate a new plan for the alliance and the school’s head must prepare to put what they learned during the partnership to work.

This case proves useful to:

  • Show students the paths taken by a philanthropic partnership and a collaborative alliance.
  • Discuss the roles played by partners in social alliances.
  • Discuss the consistency between the partnership’s work and its goals.