Strategy

How sustainability is reshaping the work of L’Oréal’s brands

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Charlotte de Tilly

The Sharing Beauty With All sustainability programme created in 2013 has set engagement and responsibility goals for L’Oréal to meet by 2020. Charlotte de Tilly, Deputy Head of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) at L’Oréal, explains how the Group and its brands are taking on these new issues.

A programme that is transforming the entire value chain

When Sharing Beauty With All was launched back in 2013, L’Oréal set itself the ambitious objectives of innovating and producing sustainably, enabling consumers to consume more sustainably, whilst sharing the fruits of its growth globally. “The new paradigm affects the Group’s entire value chain and has lastingly changed our approach to designing, producing, communicating and distributing products”, says Charlotte de Tilly.

On the innovation front, Research & Innovation teams have been hard at work for several years on improvements to enhance environmental or social performances of all new products by 2020. “Whenever researchers invent or renew a product, they ensure that its formula is enhanced by improving biodegradability, reducing the water footprint or using renewable or responsibly sourced raw materials. Development teams, meanwhile, are constantly looking for ways to improve packaging”. As a result, “more and more of the Group’s brands are taking bold initiatives. New arrivals in 2016 included products that are over 98% biodegradable, such as Kérastase’s Aura Botanica essential concentrate, shampoos and conditioners from the new Biolage R.A.W range and Garnier’s Five Plants Ultra Doux shampoo”.

Brand marketing teams have taken the new paradigm on board as well. “A product’s environmental and social impact now gets the same attention as other factors in the design and creation process. Sustainable development even has its own performance metric: in 2016, criteria linked to Sharing Beauty With All outcomes were factored in when determining the bonuses paid to brand directors”, explains Charlotte de Tilly.

Assessing product footprints and raising consumer awareness

These new priorities in the Sharing Beauty With All programme have led to deep-seated changes in how the brands work. “Group brands now have two key requirements: assess and improve product footprints, while at the same time raising consumer awareness about sustainable consumption and development”.

Up until 2020, all the brands will be working with the Sustainable Product Optimisation Tool (SPOT) to measure the environmental and social performance of their products. “SPOT, which is currently being rolled out, can be used to simulate options, identify potential areas for improvement and measure impact reductions according to a methodology that is in line with European standards.” To give one example, La Roche Posay used SPOT during the 2016 revamp of its Gommage Surfin facial scrub and achieved a 10% improvement in biodegradability. More than 120 products have been optimised using SPOT so far.

And that’s not all: brands are also working to identify specific causes that they can align with and conduct campaigns to increase customer awareness about certain environmental and social issues. “It is vital to get consumers on board with us, as we believe our brands can play a positive role in society”, says Charlotte de Tilly. With this in mind, Garnier made a commitment last March 2017 to support UNICEF in aiding children facing humanitarian emergencies, natural disasters, war or epidemics, for whom proper hygiene is essential. “Garnier will help to fund child-friendly spaces where children can receive psychological support, medical attention, nutritional guidance and also take part in educational activities. With Garnier’s support, UNICEF will be able to distribute up to 5,600 emergency supply kits, which will be used to help some 300,000 children”.

82% of products improved by end-2016, an encouraging trend for 2020

The Group’s work is bearing fruit, and the Sharing Beauty With All programme is gaining ground. Four years ahead of the 2020 deadline, the initial results are encouraging: “By the end of 2016, 46% of brands had already taken steps to build consumer awareness,  compared to 34% in the previous year”. Better yet, 82% of products launched in 2016 boast improved environmental or social performances. Charlotte de Tilly concludes that: “If we keep this up, we will be on course to achieve the goals set for 2020”.

Is the green revolution coming?

The biggest challenge that L’Oréal faces is to ensure that this revolution for sustainability spreads beyond the Group’s actions. “The most important thing for us is to make sure that consumers take up our initiatives over the coming years. For that to happen, we need a better understanding of how to guide people from merely thinking about going green to actually buying sustainable products. Only then will we see a broader-based green revolution that transcends the measures that we feel duty-bound to take”.

 

CSR | April 2017