Placed among the world’s 100 most sustainable company 4 years in a row, one of the company’s mottos is that “sustainable development is a driver for responsible growth and a source of inspiration for our brands”. The company states that it wants to reduce its manufacturing carbon footprint, as well as its use of natural resources with more eco-efficiency and lowered environmental impact. Since 2005, L’Oreal has targeted to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, waste and water consumptions per finished product by 50%, while doubling their business by 2015. Since 2004, the company has been publishing its annual Sustainable Development Reports, showing its commitment towards attaining these goals.

During the past years, L’Oreal has undertaken initiatives as part of its sustainability goals, and has also received acknowledgement for its achievements on this area. Its sustainability strategy has 3 main aspects:

_Incorporating the sustainability principle into innovative products and processes

_Designing a more environmental-conscious business model that can bring economic successes while meeting social responsibility

_Maintaining “intangible value drivers” such as human and intellectual capital, and stakeholder relations.

These initiatives have also been put in place at L’Oreal factories around the world. In Belgium, one of its factories is in a dairy farming area; therefore, since 2009, the company has been buying animal waste from farmers and transforming it into bio-methane to power the site. In China, L’Oreal has a factory in Suzhou, where it has installed 269,00 square feet of solar panels that are expected to produce 1.5 million KW/h of green electricity per year.

In terms of resources, since 2010, L’Oreal has been using 100% certified sustainable palm oil, and is currently working on using soya oil with similar aims. The company has been ranked as one of the top ten companies for the responsible use of palm oil by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). As Francis Quinn, the director of sustainable development, has commented:” It is about securing future resources and building our reputation”.

On the down side, the company admitted that it is much more complicated to communicate its aims to its consumers than to its investors. Consumers might still often see big companies like L’Oreal as environmental villains, since a lot of these initiatives are mostly behind-the-scene and invisible to consumers. However, the fact that L’Oreal has been acknowledged multiple times for its achievements in the area does say something about its efforts. At the end of 2010, the company has reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 27%, water use by 19% and waste by 17%. No matter what people say, the beauty giant seems like it is on its way to the ambitious 2015 sustainable development targets.


4 responses »

  1. Sarah says:

    Cheryl I am a little confused as to what the palm oil is used for? Do they use it when they are producing make-up or do they use it to power things? (is that even possible?) I definitely agree that it is hard for most of the consumer product companies to communicate their socially responsible initiatives to customers. A lot of what companies do customers either do not know is happening or don’t care about. There are of course socially responsible consumers who will pick up on L’Oreal’s initiatives and be impressed, but unfortunately I think the ill-informed or ignorant consumer outweigh the socially responsible ones. This raises the question as to whether L’Oreal should do a better job promoting and educating consumers on the various socially responsible initiatives they have. It also asks the question of who the actions are for. Does L’Oreal care if they are spending all this money on sustainable actions but consumers have no idea?

    • Cheryl says:

      The palm oil is used mainly for skin care and hair care products by most cosmetic brand. L’Oreal is recognized for their low consumption of palm oil (only 600 tonnes per year compared to the global consumption of 400 millions tonnes); and this goes with helping to preserve natural resources and protect biodiversity. The palm oil that they use is also certified to come from sustainable and well-managed plantations by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). As you said, I agree that L’Oreal might have focused more on communicating their messages to shareholders. But, in fact I do think they probably have tried to promote their corporate social responsibility to consumers like any other brands, but there are still many ignorant customers out there who tend to stereotype every big companies as being bad. I find it very ironic that some customers still blame companies for being socially irresponsible, while still using those companies’ products. I think this is an issue that not only L’Oreal has to face. Many other companies that have good initiatives but are still considered environmental villains have to face the same problem as well, especially if their productions, manufacture have something to do with bio or chemical.

  2. Connie says:

    I think another aspect of sustainability for a cosmetic company, such as L’Oreal, that you could have mentioned is whether or not they test on animals. I know that L’Oreal used to have kind of a bad reputation for it, but according to a site I found, L’Oreal has voluntarily stopped testing on animals in 1989. Obviously, we can’t say for sure if this is true, but this is what they claim. Also, I did a bit of researching, and saw that L’Oreal just recently donated $1.2 million to the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) to help improve the testing of safe chemicals. They hope that this will reduce the necessity to test on animals, and it would also lower the costs and time associated with having to test their products on animals.

  3. Jordi says:

    You know what uses less energy than their products? Not putting on make-up! Not that they would do that, of course. Just pointing out that it is a particular intersection of culture, status, gender and economic growth. As most countries develop, make-up becomes more prevalent. I have never heard of less make-up use over time except maybe among the odd PhD… 🙂

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