L’Oréal – the largest cosmetic company in the world – has revealed its efforts to become fully sustainable by 2030, an announcement that could signal a move towards greater environmental accountability for the whole beauty industry.
Dubbed 'L’Oréal For The Future', the company's new sustainability programme is integral to its plans for evolution over the next decade and applies to all of the brands currently owned by the group, including Lancôme, Armani and Garnier.
Focusing on respecting "planetary boundaries", the scheme is part of L’Oréal's transition to operating its entire business within the limits of the planet's resources. As such, it has pledged not only to transform itself as a company, with specific targets for reducing water use and waste, but it has also confirmed that it will be helping its suppliers and even customers to reduce their impact on the environment.
According to L’Oréal, the decision has been partially triggered by the coronavirus pandemic, which has meant beauty brands of all sizes have had to evaluate not only how they can recover economically, but how they operate in general.
Customers too have had the time to reassess. Research by the company has revealed that 70 per cent of those surveyed considered climate change as serious a crisis as Covid-19, while 79 per cent were willing to seek out products which are better for the environment. This has triggered L’Oréal's focus on 'a green recovery'.
"In the context of growing environmental and social challenges, L’Oréal is planning to transform to respect the planet’s limits," said the company. "L’Oréal’s economic bounce-back plan to deal with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic has to be a green recovery. The plan states it is essential that we respect planetary boundaries across the entire product lifecycle."
L’Oréal has already taken great steps towards sustainability over the past few years. For example, it is the only company in the world to have achieved an “A” score in all three CDP rankings – climate protection, water management, and forest preservation – for four years in a row. It also utilises a tool known as SPOT (the Sustainable Product Optimization Tool), to assess the environmental and social performances of all products across the company's brand portfolio to guide their sustainability efforts.
However, this new pledge is a commitment to go one step further:
"L’Oréal’s sustainable revolution is entering a new era," explains the chairman and CEO of L’Oréal, Jean-Paul Agon. "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: to operate within the limits of the planet."
"Over the past decade, we have profoundly transformed our company, putting sustainability at the very core of our business model," confirms L’Oréal's chief corporate responsibility officer, Alexandra Palt. "With our new commitments, we are entering a new phase of acceleration of that transformation: going beyond our direct environmental impact, helping consumers to make more sustainable choices, as well as generating positive social and environmental contribution. As an industry leader, we consider that it is our role to contribute to building an inclusive and sustainable society."
What the pledge means
Plastic waste is one of the biggest focuses when it comes to sustainability in the beauty industry and L’Oréal has made great commitments to reduce its own consumption. By 2025, 100 per cent of its brands will be made with 100 per cent recycled plastic, saving 18,000 tonnes of virgin plastic each year, while all UK gift sets will become plastic free too, saving an additional 160 tonnes of plastic.
The #passonplastic campaign is also fuelling exciting innovation for packaging: the launch of paper-based tubes for La Roche Posay's sunscreens first among them for 2021.
In-salon habits will also be changing, with refillable Source Essentielle shampoo bottles at the backwash and plastic hygiene kits being replaced by bamboo alternatives, making such an important feature of the post-coronavirus salon experience more sustainable.
For product labelling
L’Oréal has committed to making it easier to shop for sustainable products, with the launch of its Product Environmental & Social Impact Labelling scheme that will be available across the brands' websites. Endorsed by independent scientific experts, the system is a world-first, which rates products from A (world class for sustainability) to E based on their environmental impact, for areas including carbon footprint and manufacturing processes. Garnier is the first brand to implement this methodology for its haircare products.
For water use
Alongside limiting their own water use, the company is focusing on innovations that enable the customer to use less water themselves, with a lot of research currently being undertaken in this area.
As well as reducing its packaging use in general, by 2030, 100 per cent of the plastics used for L’Oréal’s products will be either from recycled or bio-based sources.
There are also plans for make-up recycling programmes to be introduced into 1,000 UK stores in the autumn, which follows the success of Garnier's schools' recycling programme in collaboration with Terracycle and Tesco last year.
L’Oréal has made great strides already in its attempts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and its carbon footprints, meaning by 2025, all of L’Oréal’s production sites should be carbon neutral through the use of 100 per cent renewable energy. Then, by 2030, it has pledged to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50 per cent compared to 2016.
L’Oréal has also been championing causes that support social and environmental issues. For example, the L’Oréal Fund for Nature Regeneration was set up in May 2020, with $100 million assigned to protect marine and forest ecosystems.
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