Beauty company reveals targets for renewable energy and recycled packaging use

FRENCH personal care company L’Oreal has announced its sustainability initiatives which include using only renewable energy in 2020 or only using recycled or bio-based packaging by 2030.

“[The COVID-19] crisis has shown to everyone how a systemic global crisis around the world can be absolutely devastating and it has show us how also more devastating a climate crisis could be so we have to do everything to prevent it,” Jean-Paul Agon, chairman and CEO of L’Oreal, said in a digital press conference on June 26.

He added that L’Oreal, arguably the largest cosmetics company in the world, is now on the second phase of its sustainability “revolution” after making headway during the first phase between 2013 and 2020 where it introduced sustainability and responsibility to its brands.

L’Oreal’s brands include Garnier, Nyx Cosmetics, Lancome, La Roche-Posay, CeraVe, among many others.

The first phase saw the company reduce its carbon emissions by 78% in 2019, and it is expected to reach 80% by 2020, outperforming its initial 60% target, said Alexandra Palt, chief corporate responsibility officer, in the same conference.

The group has 35 “carbon-neutral sites” in 2019 which will increase to 42 in 2020. It has reduced water consumption by 51%.

“Another target which was very important for us is the improvement of the environmental and social profile of our products, because if you want to be serious about sustainability and corporate responsibility, you have to tackle the core of your business, you have to tackle the products and services yourself,” Ms. Palt said, adding that it has started to use more sustainable packaging and has employed “more than 90,000” by hiring people from underprivileged communities in 2019, a number which will increase to over 95,000 in 2020.

The second phase of the sustainability program, called L’Oreal for the Future, aims to achieve carbon neutrality and using 100% renewable energy by 2025, using only recycled or bio-based plastic by 2030, and reducing by 50% (per finished product compared to 2016 levels) its “entire greenhouse gas emissions” by 2030, according to a company release.

It will also have a new labelling system for its products where it will indicate the product’s environmental impact on a scale of A to E where A is best in class. The first brand in its portfolio to have these labels was Garnier’s hair care products in 2020.

The company will also be allocating 150 million euros “to address urgent social and environmental issues,” with 100 million euros allocated to “impact investing” to act upon key environmental challenges, while 50 million euros will be used to finance “damaged natural marine and forest ecosystems” through L’Oreal’s Fund for Nature Regeneration, according to a release.

A separate 50 million euros will be allocated to an endowment fund which will support organizations and local charities in their fight against “poverty, help women achieve social and professional integration, provide emergency assistance to refugee and disabled women, prevent violence against women, and support victims,” said the release.

“L’Oréal’s sustainable revolution is entering a new era. The challenges the planet is facing are unprecedented, and it is essential to accelerate our efforts to preserve a safe operating space for humanity. We do so in our own business operations and in our contribution to the society at large. We know that the biggest challenges remain to come and L’Oréal will stay faithful to its ambition: operate within the limits of the planet,” Mr. Agon said in the release.

Aside from its sustainability goals, L’Oreal also announced in a separate statement that it will stop using words such as “whitening” and “fair” on its products amid the ongoing anti-racism protests sparked by the death of George Floyd.

Personal care company Johnson and Johnson also announced in the same week that it discontinued its whitening products while the Indian and Bangladeshi unit of Unilever dropped the word “Fair” on its “Fair and Lovely” brand, also in response to the protests. — Zsarlene B. Chua