Ten years ago, Hélène Menu was clicking through the website of Brazilian cosmetics company Natura when its new line of skin and hair care products caught her eye. The line, called Ekos, uses the roots, leaves, fruits, and nuts that Brazil’s indigenous communities have long harvested for food and remedies.

“I want that,” Menu thought. A Brazil-based agronomist, she has long admired Natura for its environmental and social practices. In Menu’s fieldwork in Madagascar and southern...

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