L'Oreal's sustainability is not 'cosmetic'

“For L’Oreal, sustainability is our road map to grow the company,” said Francis Quinn, director of sustainable development at the world’s largest cosmetic group by sales. “It’s also the ultimate goal we set L’Oreal.

“And as a leader in the beauty industry, L’Oreal leverages 100 years of experience and success to extend its global commitment to excellence in China. L’Oreal China has always regarded sustainability as a core value,” added Quinn.

The director told China Daily that L’Oreal’s strategy for sustainable growth is based on integrating sustainable development principles into innovation, products and processes. “We put much effort into sustainable innovation for sustainable consumption, then for sustainable growth,” he said.

Quinn said he believes that equitable and sustainable businesses have to respect the environment and deliver economic performance while, at the same time, meeting social responsibility. Also, a commitment to optimizing intangible value drivers, particularly human and intellectual capital, and stakeholder relations, are equally crucial.

“Sustainable development is a driver for responsible growth and a source of inspiration for our brands. It means growing responsibly as we progress in our ambition to win the trust and confidence of a billion new consumers in the next 10 years,” said Quinn.

China is now the French group’s third-largest market and strategically very important, given that the company has continuously achieved double-digit growth in China for the past 10 years.

Production units will increase from 140 million in 2005 to 780 million in 2015, which is 5.5 times larger than at present and represents an average compound growth rate of 18.6 percent.

“The rapid business growth brings the biggest challenge for us to fulfill our sustainability strategy in China,” said Quinn.

By dedicating itself to sustainable innovation, minimizing its impact on the environment, establishing transparent communication with consumers and consistently investing in its corporate social responsibility, L’Oreal China has achieved rapid growth and increased significance, Quinn said.

Statistics from L’Oreal China show that in 2010, for each finished product, water consumption decreased by 42 percent compared with the figures for 2005.

Its waste recycling and utilization rate will reach 97.1 percent in 2011, up from 40 percent in 2005.

“A high degree of corporate social responsibility has contributed to an outstanding performance by L’Oreal China. From original innovation to green products, security procedures to environmental protection, we will continue to integrate sustainable development concepts throughout our business development model,” said Quinn.

By 2015, on the basis of what the company had achieved in 2005, L’Oreal China will reach its goal of reducing total greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent, reducing 50 percent of the water consumption of the unit-finished products and a reduction of 50 percent of waste generated from the unit-finished product.

“That means that our environmental performance will be further enhanced,” said Quinn.
The basis of L’Oreal’s sustainable development strategy is, firstly, to sustainably invest in research potential by improving the research and innovation infrastructure and strengthening human capacity. Developing eco-friendly ingredients, products and production is also essential.

“For L’Oreal, 40 percent of ingredients in our products come from natural resources, and 500 ingredients received certification from Ecocert SA, an organic certification organization in France,” said Quinn.

“We believe that nature can provide anything. For the remaining ingredients (out of the 40 percent from nature), 26 percent of them are made through green chemistry,” he added.

According to Quinn, for example, Pro-Xylane, a major ingredient for anti-aging products, is made from sugar through green chemistry. However, it has no environmental impact at all.
For the China market, “sustainable innovation is much more important,” said Quinn.

The company inaugurated the L’Oreal Research and Innovation Center in Shanghai last year. It has been awarded the internationally-recognized Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design golden certification.

“It is specifically for China because the Chinese have different skin and hair (from Caucasians),” said Quinn. “We also put Chinese herbal research into our sustainable innovation in Shanghai.”

Quinn also said that L’Oreal always works with environmental experts at its China plant sites to develop eco-friendly processes and apply green sourcing principles to its suppliers.

Green production reflects L’Oreal’s sustainable concept at the business level. In 2009, L’Oreal Group published environmental objectives it hopes to attain by 2015. As a result, L’Oreal has been improving the ways it utilizes resources across all its business processes.

For production from the manufacturing facilities, it has further reduced its impact on the natural environment by transforming methods and using renewable energy. For logistics distribution, it employs the world’s leading computing tools to measure and reduce the environmental impact while optimizing its local logistics distribution network.

For transparent communication, L’Oreal recently set up a new Consumer Caring Center with more than 90 employees in Shanghai to allow consumers to easily access advice and information they need about their products.

“Acceptability is fundamental to a sustainable business,” said Quinn. “And sustainability has been our core competitiveness in the industry.”

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