Exclusive Interview

How L’Oréal is leading on sustainability for the beauty industry

By Lucy Whitehouse

- Last updated on GMT

How L’Oréal is leading on sustainability for the beauty industry
L'Oréal's head of environmental safety on the public perception of environmental protection, and how the company is responding.

Veronique Poulsen, L'Oréal, spoke at this week’s Cosmetics Europe Annual Conference, and this is the first part of the interview connected to her presentation. The second can be found here​​.

The Cosmetics EurEuropean ope Annual Conference, 13-14 June 2018, is a leading event in the beauty industry calendar, and gathers expert speakers and industry professionals for a crucial knowledge-sharing opportunity.

Full details of the conference and how you can register can be found here​​​.

Why do you think we’re seeing such a big rising consumer interest and concern about ethical and sustainable products?

The public perception of environmental protection has increased during the last years.

People are more informed, regulations are developed at worldwide level, increasing the feeling of individual responsibility for environmental impacts of human activities and their effects on ecosystems.

In parallel, awareness of ingredients’ sourcing increased, thanks to information and social networks.

These concerns address both the sustainable biological source (e.g. for vegetal extract compounds) and human rights (e.g. absence of child labour, fair incomes for the producers).

The major change I could have observed during the last couple of years is that people realised that we could all (industry and individual consumers) play a role in the development and use of ethical and sustainable products.  

What steps can brands and companies within the industry take to meet this demand?

As we are all actors, industry has a responsibility to play. We are responsible for the products we put on the market, and we should propose to our consumers products that fulfil both their expectations and our own ethical requirements.

It is something that companies should include in their development strategy.

In 1995, in anticipation to these expectations, L’Oréal created its own environmental research laboratory, in order to screen the raw materials in a framework of selection of more environmental friendly compounds to be used in our formulations and in 2005 committed to use its plant based raw materials according to the principle of the convention on Biodiversity.

How is L’Oréal responding to the rising demand for sustainability?

Very early, L’Oréal took decisions to ban some raw materials in its formulations (e.g. CFC in sprays in 1986, D4 in 2005, DEP and triclosan in 2007) and developed dedicated laboratories within its Research and Innovation Directorate (Biotechnologies in 1990, Ecotox in 1995) in support of ingredient selection.

Additionally, L’Oréal adopted the principles of the green chemistry in 1999.

In order to expand a global environmental approach, L’Oréal’s CEO developed in 2013 two parallel actions within a program called Sharing Beauty With All (SBWA).

One for the use of environmental friendly raw materials in our formulations, and one for ethical and sustainable sourcing of ingredients.

For the first action, L’Oréal flags raw materials that are non-readily biodegradable and toxic for aquatic organisms.

The objective is first to reduce their use, and finally replace them in the formulations. Several compounds have already been withdrawn from our raw material portfolio.

For the second action, L’Oréal developed a worldwide program based on a methodology ensuring traceability, socio economic development of producer and ensuring the sustainable environmental production of plant based derivative.

Simultaneously, we use fair trade supply chains, which guarantee sufficient incomes to the producers, and therefore avoid child labour.

In parallel, our factories have the objective to significantly reduce their water consumption and release, as well as their CO2 release before 2020.

These objectives have been set by our CEO, and several factories have already reached them.

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