Some leading environmental experts, like Bill Gates, exude optimism about the ability of the world to tackle climate change — until the conversation turns to manufacturing. About 35% of CO2 emissions are generated by manufacturers of the world’s goods, and innovations in green technology for manufacturing lag far behind reductions in the carbon footprint for transportation, home heating and cooling, and power generation. But new CEO Nicolas Hieronimus says that not only is a reduction in CO2 emissions important to beauty products giant L’Oreal and its plans for future growth and development, but green sciences are also the key to L’Oreal’s future.
The French cosmetics giant has invested €1 billion into its sustainability roadmap since April 2019, hiring 4,000 scientists in seven internal sustainability panels to research the best ways to reach its environmental goals. Achieving those sustainability goals is next.
What are L’Oreal’s sustainability goals?
As CEO Nicolas Hieronimus emphasizes, goals are only meaningful if they are time-bound and measurable. The overarching sustainability goal for the company is to reduce carbon emissions in line with the +1.5 °C scenario by reducing carbon emissions generated by each unit of product by 50%. When growth in production is taken into account, the net carbon footprint attributable to making all L’Oreal products will be reduced 25% by the year 2030. Reaching this goal requires meeting four goals.
- L’Oreal will make manufacturing carbon neutral. The company will adopt renewable energy sources and enact energy efficiencies so it achieves carbon neutrality at all of its manufacturing sites by 2025.
- L’Oreal will help salons and beauty professionals achieve reductions in the release of greenhouse gases. By 2030, the company will empower its consumers (salons and beauty professionals) to achieve 25% reduction in greenhouse emissions from the use of L’Oreal products, with 2016 as a baseline.
- By 2030, L’Oreal will achieve a 50% reduction in the production of greenhouse gases related to the transportation of its products.
- And by 2020, L’Oreal’s suppliers will also achieve a 50% reduction in the production of greenhouse gases relative to a 2016 baseline.
L’Oreal is committed to managing water sustainability. By 2030, the company’s sustainability panels will confirm that the company treats all communities of aquatic organisms with respect. Changes in the formulation of products will enable the salons and beauty professionals who use L’Oreal products to reduce water consumption by 25%.
By 2030, L’Oreal will recycle 100% of the water used by its facilities. Its suppliers will use water in sustainable ways.
The most damaging environmental impacts of the production of beauty products derive from their ingredients and formulation, followed by packaging, according to Founder and President of research firm Ecovia Intelligence Amarjit Sahota.
In considering this challenge, L’Oreal sustainability director Laurent Gilbert says that petroleum-based hair dyes, UV blocking agents, and silicone additives for texture and sensory features are proving to be a challenge to eliminate.
However, the company has a target of sourcing 95% of its inputs from plants, abundant minerals, or circular processes by 2030. The company will produce 50% of its packaging materials from recycled materials by 2025, and 100% from recyclables by 2030.
Also by 2025, the company promises that 100% of its plastic packaging will be reusable, refillable, recyclable, or compostable. By 2025, 100% of product displays will be environmentally friendly, and 100% of the company’s freestanding stores will follow the company’s sustainability guidelines.
But L’Oreal’s commitment to sustainability does not stop with its objective measures of CO2 reduction and sustainable inputs. The company is also committed to the creation of a sustainable culture.
Says L’Oreal CEO Nicolas Hieronimus:
“We strongly believe that fairness and inclusivity are part of building a more sustainable world. Striving to be an exemplary leader, L’Oreal has been recognized as a best performer for its progressive social policies. But our sense of responsibility goes beyond. We are actively working with our business partners to help them improve their sustainable development performance and ensure their policies are as demanding as L’Oreal’s. We are also joining forces with our suppliers to develop our social inclusion programs, including our Solidarity Sourcing program, through which we direct a proportion of the Group’s global purchases to suppliers who give people who are typically excluded from the job market access to work and a sustainable income. This includes companies that employ people from underprivileged communities, firms that may not typically be able Empowering our business ecosystem to access major international calls for tenders, or micro-enterprises, across all the regions where L’Oreal operates.”
To operationalize these goals, L’Oreal is committed to making sure that all employees of all of its suppliers are paid a living wage. The company is committed to helping 100,000 people from disadvantaged communities gain access to employment. And L’Oreal is committed to helping 3 million people through its brands’ social engagement programs.
Finally, L’Oreal is committed to transparency in recruiting the public to participate in sustaining our planet. The company has hired an independent research team to provide Environmental and Social Impact Labeling, rating each product from A to E, A products being most beneficial to the environment and society and E products the least. The score will rate every L’Oreal on 14 factors, including greenhouse gas emissions, sustainable water use, impact on biodiversity and ocean acidification, and social responsibility, measured at every stage from sourcing to the product’s use in a salon.
The company has also invested €50 million in a fund for a carbon sequestration project that will capture between 10 and 20 million tons of CO2 by 2030.
Since 2013, L’Oreal has been formally committed to an ethos of “Sharing Beauty for All.” L’Oreal strives to create a circular economy that empowers beauty in all of its forms, not just cosmetic beauty but the beauty of secure individuals, secure families, and a sustainable, survivable planet.