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People are increasingly asking for sustainable options in all areas of life—beauty being no exception. As a leading player in this field, L’Oréal is constantly challenging themselves to answer the consumer’s high expectations. PR & Corporate Communications Manager for L'Oréal Sweden Susanne Carpenter shares L’Oréal’s sustainability vision—including the 2020 commitment.

L’Oréal aims to offer the best of beauty to all women and men in the world, which implies meeting an infinite diversity of beauty needs and desires. What are the major differences in the attitude towards natural-origin products—and questions of sustainability—in different markets?

– All over the world, we see people asking for more and more natural and sustainable products. Beyond naturality in itself, they also want products respecting biodiversity, with a lower impact on water and with a more positive impact on society. For sure, there are differences by countries and regions. Chinese people, for example, are very exposed to climate change today trough pollution, making their interest in environment friendly solutions more and more important. Brazilian people, on their side, are very interested in ingredients that come from local biodiversity or that are fairly traded. French people, in another area of sustainability that relates to products, are more and more sensitive to recycling.

The natural beauty market is a growing one, rapidly developing in the whole world. How important is this for L’Oréal—now and in the future?

– The natural beauty market is of course very important to L’Oréal, now and in the future. As you said, L’Oréal wants to meet an infinite diversity of beauty needs and desires, meaning answering our consumer’s expectations—and they are both diverse and changing over time.

What part of the L’Oréal 2020 commitments makes you the most excited, and why?

– I am truly excited about the fact that L’Oréal has understood the difference in acting sustainable and being sustainable. They walk the talk by having integrated sustainability into the entire business model, value chain and product life cycle. This has resulted in 360 degrees sustainable adaptations, solutions and innovations—still and always delivering the desired effect, which is important. One of our commitments is to improve the environmental and social profile across 100% of our products by 2020. This means that each time we invent, develop or revamp a product, we think not only about its efficiency and profitability, but also about its contribution to sustainable development across all areas. This is a major paradigm shift. Our sustainability plan is a huge opportunity in terms of employee engagement—especially in our young teams, where they believe it makes great sense in their daily work. They are especially proud of the contributions we make.

Traditionally, L’Oréal has not been known for communicating loudly about aspects of sustainability, but this is now changing. Why is this important for a player like L’Oréal? 

– It is part of our culture to take our job seriously and to communicate it. Since the launch of Sharing Beauty With All in 2013—setting industry-high sustainability targets for 2020—we have worked hard to achieve tangible results. In 2016, L’Oréal was one of the two companies in the world recognized by CDP—the international not-for-profit that drives sustainable economies—as a global leader for our actions and strategies for sustainable water and forest management, and our fight against climate change. We will be more and more vocal on this subject to engage others in committing to sustainability, as we feel it is a part of our responsibility as leaders to drive change for the better.

Working with sustainability has a lot to do with innovation and finding new ways. What are the major innovations when it comes to Biolage R.A.W, and L’Oréal in general? 

– Sustainability is for sure a key innovation driver for the Group, and we look to improve 100% of our products in many levels by 2020. Biolage R.A.W, as an example, is in that regard very iconic. All the formulas were developed from a short list of ingredients and exclude sulfates, silicones and parabens. Some R.A.W. products have 100% natural ingredients, like the Replenish Oil mist. The formulas of all the shampoos and conditioners are 98-99% biodegradable, and the Recover shampoo also has a water footprint that is at least 75% lower than the average in the category of shampoos for sensitive or very sensitive hair. All the shampoos and conditioners are 98, or even 99% biodegradable, and the bottles are all made of 100% recycled plastic. Improving formulas and packaging is a really big part of our global strategy, in all our brands. In 2016, 74% of our new or renovated products put on the market had improved their environmental and social profile.

What are the major challenges when developing natural products on a big scale? 

– One of the major challenge is to ensure the availability of natural ingredients. As a responsible company, we need to take care of their sourcing—respecting biodiversity and the communities impacted. This is a major part of our sustainable sourcing policy today, and something our teams are working on specifically and thoroughly.

This article is part of a collaboration with Biolage. 

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