L’Oreal commits to zero deforestation by 2020

L’Oreal is the latest in a growing list of global companies that aims to eliminate forest destruction from all its supply chains; environmental groups welcome the move but call for deadline to be brought forward

L'Oreal and sustainable palm oil
The world's largest cosmetics company, L'Oreal, has committed to achieve zero deforestation in all its supply chains by 2020, which is a step towards their bigger goal of manufacturing beauty items while preserving the planet. Image: © Greenpeace / Daniel Beltrá

Global beauty and cosmetics firm L’Oreal announced on Thursday its commitment to end deforestation from all its supply chains by 2020 – a move that builds on its pledge towards greater corporate social responsibility made in October last year. 

Called the ‘Sharing Beauty With All’ sustainability commitment, the company behind brands like Garnier, Maybelline and Yves Saint Laurent Beauté, plans to attract one billion new customers while making a positive impact on the world by 2020.

The new no forest destruction policy confirms this ambition, said the company. This means they will work on improving the traceability of its raw materials and ensure that their products are made without any links to any environmental and social harm. L’Oreal specifically aims to ensure that palm oil, soya oil and wood fibre-based products are sustainably sourced.

Deforestation is inextricably tied to the palm oil and paper and pulp industries, particularly the former which is “the greatest single cause of deforestation in Indonesia”, according to Greenpeace International. Some 620,000 hectares of rainforest, or a size bigger than Brunei, is lost every year, noted Greenpeace.

The clearing of forests not only adds to greenhouse gas emissions and causes transboundary haze for the surrounding region, but also affects the conservation of the endangered Sumatran Tigers.

Bustar Maitar, head of the Indonesia forest campaign at Greenpeace International, called the latest commitment “a win for consumers around the world”, but at the same time called for the firm to bring forward the deadline.

“While L’Oreal and Unilever’s No Deforestation commitments send a strong signal to the sector, they still allow their suppliers six more years to clear forests. With global warming and rapid biodiversity loss, we urge these companies to guarantee consumers that their products will be free from forest destruction before their 2020 deadline,” he said.

The environmental NGO said they expect other companies to make the same commitment but with more “ambitious timelines”.

One of Greenpeace’s campaigns, called the Tiger Challenge, urges eight multinational companies such as Procter & Gamble, Colgate Palmolive, Reckitt Benckiser and L’Oreal to implement a no deforestation policy. The challenge is for them to guarantee that the palm oil used in their consumer products are tiger-friendly.

L’Oreal is the newest addition to a growing list of companies that have cleaned up their act to support deforestation-free palm oil use. The company follows Mondelēz International, one of the firms also named in the Tiger Challenge, plus Unilever, Nestle, Ferrero, and Wilmar International.

Wilmar International, the world’s largest palm oil trader, is one of the more recent additions, announcing their committment at the end of 2013. It was largely seen as a landmark move that can improve the industry.

Greenpeace told Eco-Business that L’Oreal’s new CSR policy was the result of sustained campaigning and engagement with the company’s headquarters in France and with their other offices around the world.

While L’Oreal and Unilever’s No Deforestation commitments send a strong signal to the sector, they still allow their suppliers six more years to clear forests. With global warming and rapid biodiversity loss, we urge these companies to guarantee consumers that their products will be free from forest destruction before their 2020 deadline

Bustar Maitar, Greenpeace head of the Indonesia forest campaign

According to the beauty firm, 100 per cent palm oil and major palm derivatives should come from known sources by 2015, and by 2020, 100 per cent of palm supply should be free from forest destruction.

L’Oreal, an existing member of the voluntary industry alliance Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), uses about 270 tonnes of palm oil per year for its skincare and haircare products. It also uses palm oil derivatives, or chemically processed compounds, for its shampoos to give it a foaming quality.

Since 2010, they have directly purchased palm oil based on the RSPO Segregated model, one of the supply chain methods that entails keeping the palm oil from certified mills away from conventional palm oil.

On the other hand, they have been using the Book and Claim model for palm oil derivatives since 2012, that is, certified palm oil is not segregated but instead suppliers sell certificates of certified palm oil which is later matched to claimed volumes. The company explained that this is a working solution until there is more “critical mass of certified materials” accessible in the market. Currently, sourcing sustainable derivatives is complex and as such, they plan to directly engage with suppliers.  

L’Oreal, for their new policy, wants to go beyond the RSPO-based initiatives. All suppliers now should comply to four guidelines:

  • full compliance with the local laws of the country they operate in, including land tenure rights and anti-corruption legislations;
  • a comprehensive and formal free prior and informed consent (FPIC) from indigenous and local communities potentially impacted by new plantations development;
  • conservation and restoration of High Conservation Value and High Carbon Stock areas when expanding palm oil plantations; and,
  • the renouncement to peat clearance for new plantations and the adoption of a responsible maintenance system of peatlands in existing plantations.

The company is likewise looking into bettering the sourcing of wood fibre-based products used for its packaging and soya oil for its skincare items.

Part of the zero deforestation CSR commitment is to be able to trace soya oil direct to its origins and to have 100 per cent certified board and paper for packaging and point-of-sale materials by 2020. In 2012, they were at 97 per cent usage of certified board.

“Thousands of people in Indonesia and around the world who have signed up demanding forest-friendly products will be turning their eyes to companies such as P&G, the producer of Heads & Shoulders, and Colgate Palmolive to guarantee that they too are not peddling dirty palm oil from forest destruction,” Maitar noted.

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