L’Oréal puts words into action on sustainability

By Simon Pitman

- Last updated on GMT

L’Oréal puts words into action on sustainability

Related tags Sustainability

L’Oréal might be the largest cosmetics company in the world, but one of its biggest goals is to minimize its manufacturing footprint and the impact it has on the environment.

A 60% reduction in the company’s overall environmental footprint by 2020 is a tough goal to meet, which is why the company is taking action in every area of the business.

We spoke to Jonathan Maher, who is the company’s CSR & Sustainability vice president to find out how the business measures achievements in this area, the biggest challenges it is facing and what will be the future direction of sustainability.

How do you measure up sustainability while also being the biggest cosmetics company in the world? And what is the best means to tell your sustainability story?

As the largest beauty company in the world, it is incumbent on us to have a far-sighted and comprehensive approach to sustainability, one that will ultimately transform the way beauty & personal care products are designed and manufactured worldwide.

L’Oreal has always prided itself in its ability to continuously innovate the ways we meet people’s beauty needs. We now want to incorporate sustainability into our innovation model so that we can make every single beauty category more sustainable: hair care, skincare, hair color, make-up, fine fragrances, you name it.

Can you explain how you are personally involved with the Sharing Beauty with All​ Commitment?

My role here is to co-ordinate our sustainability strategy, Sharing Beauty with All,​ in the USA, which is one of our strategic markets and innovation hubs. It’s exciting work; I collaborate with our marketing, operations and R&I teams to develop ways to streamline sustainability into our business practices and into our product development process 

How are you measuring L’Oréal’s sustainability and how much progress has been made since the plan was implemented?

At L’Oréal, we want to rely on robust metrics to corroborate our analyses and efforts to improve the environmental profile of our products. To do so,

Jonathan Meyer
Jonathan Maher, L’Oréal’s CSR & Sustainability vice president

our company has developed its own customized eco-design tool that assists our teams in the product development process. The tool helps identify pathways to improve each new product’s environmental profile and to incorporate more product features that were designed for the environment.

This tool has already been rolled out to a number of our brands, including many of our brands here in the USA, and will expand to all of our brands & products by the year 2020. In our global progress report 2014, we noted that 54% of our new or renovated products already demonstrated environmental improvement, specifically in their formulas.

What is the most challenging aspect of implementing this sustainability commitment been?

Our product design process is extremely cross-functional, involving many different departments within our company, including marketing, purchasing, packaging, our labs and our manufacturing plants. All of their contributions are necessary to ensure the strong quality of the products we manufacture and distribute across the world.

It gets challenging as we incorporate more sustainable practices into each rung of our production chain; we have to think about the impacts these will have on the other steps of the process and anticipate the other adjustments to be made, either earlier or further along in our production chain. It’s easier said than done.

Where do you see L’Oréal’s commitment to sustainability going in the future?

Our strategy does not have an end date. Our goal is for sustainability to become a permanent fixture in all of our business practices. It’s also worth mentioning that we built our initial Sharing Beauty with All​ strategy on science-based targets, to ensure that our strategy would demonstrably reduce our long-term environmental impact.

Going into the future, we have to ensure that those targets continue to reflect the current scientific findings and if not, we would need to strengthen our targets if the findings called for it. Lastly, we generally try to challenge ourselves to be more forward-looking, by paying attention to what the sustainability community is counselling and what pioneering groups are doing.

Jonathan Maher will be presenting at the forthcoming Sustainable Cosmetics Summit​, In NYC, next month. The presentation has the title: “Putting Sustainability into Action”, and will reveal the progress the company is making in this areas, as well as the challenges the company has had to overcome.

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