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L’Oréal supports its suppliers as part of its sustainable development programme

End of 2013, the L’Oréal Group unveiled its commitments to sustainable development with the announcement of the programme “Sharing beauty with all” aimed at reducing its environmental impact while achieving its ambition for growth. Laurent Gilbert, Advanced Research International Development Director at L’Oréal, is steering the action around sustainable innovation within the group, he details for Premium Beauty News this wide-ranging plan and its implications for the suppliers concerned.

Laurent Gilbert, L'Oréal

Laurent Gilbert, L’Oréal

Premium Beauty News - What are the foundations of this unprecedented CSR policy?

Laurent Gilbert - The program is called “Sharing beauty with all”, the objective is clearly to place the consumer at the heart of our commitment to sustainable development and enable him to make responsible choices. We intend to make this subject very tangible and easily accessible for him. We are committed to make available, information on the social and environmental characteristics of our products, and we are working with our brands to enable them to take up this subject and engage in a dialogue with their customers. The aim is also to work on the entire value chain, starting with our innovations, from production to distribution. The last, extremely important point, is that everything is done as part of an objective of the group, namely to conquer a billion consumers by 2020. It is essential that this development benefits to all our employees, our suppliers, but also to the most disadvantaged communities.

Premium Beauty News - You anticipate that by 2020, 100% of your strategic suppliers will be taking part to the sustainable development program, what does that involve in terms of procurement?

Laurent Gilbert - We work with several hundreds of suppliers worldwide, with whom we have privileged relationships. We selected them on their ability to innovate, to deliver service and a host of other criteria, including the criticality of ingredients they supply us.

These commitments are the result of a work conducted internally with them for several years. Concerning for example the sourcing of renewably-sourced raw materials, L’Oréal is engaged since 2005 in developing its raw materials according to the principles from the Convention on Biological Diversity and to no longer reference products with an unfavourable environmental profile. Consequently, a number of actions were implemented to make sure that our partners fulfilled all these principles. We provided them with the type of information we wanted to have on the environmental profile of the purchased raw materials.

The approach is the same with perfume or packaging suppliers with requirements also on the composition.

Premium Beauty News - How will this be implemented?

Laurent Gilbert - It is difficult to tackle everything at the same time, so we proceed along two main priorities. On the one hand volume, we started with the largest suppliers in terms of volume or turnover. And raw materials and issues on their sourcing, on the other.

Premium Beauty News - Does this mean you will stop doing business with some suppliers?

Laurent Gilbert - It is not our policy. We much prefer working with them to make them understand what we want and then have them adopt these practices. Of course, if after a great deal of efforts this turns out impossible, we might find ourselves in a position to make decisions but it really isn’t the goal.

Premium Beauty News - It really is more a matter of support?

Laurent Gilbert - Yes, we really intend to share all our tools when the size of our suppliers does not allow them to develop their own tools. Particularly educational tools to really share the same notions. For example, semantics are very important, to ensure that behind words we put the same definitions. When we speak of renewably-sourced raw materials or of sustainable development issues, to make sure that we understand the same thing, and this, at the global level. And also regarding the working tools, the way we conduct audits or evaluate a channel. We are really in this kind of support.

Premium Beauty News - The group has set itself a ‘zero deforestation’ goal, thus guaranteeing that none of its products would be associated with deforestation by 2020. End of 2012, the overall supply of L’Oréal in palm oil was already complying with the standards and procedures of the RSPO (Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil), what remains to be done?

Laurent Gilbert - This roundtable for the sustainable sourcing palm is based on different standards that will be used depending on the complexity of the supply chain. We are following the SG (Segregated) standard, one of the most demanding, which requires a full traceability, from the mill that produces the palm oil to our factories. This guarantees a supply which is managed according to the sustainable development principles of the RSPO.

For derivatives, the supply chains are very complex, which makes complete traceability difficult. We want to ensure full traceability even for derivatives, to be consistent with our commitment, and we are going to work with the most innovative suppliers on these issues. This is the reason for the 2020 deadline, it demands time because there is still a lot to do with all the stakeholders in the chain.

Premium Beauty News - Do you think consumers are aware of these issues and that they will appreciate your commitment?

Laurent Gilbert - Our consumers feel quite concerned, there is a real expectation. Each year, we sponsor the Biodiversity Barometer delivered by the UEBT (Union for Ethical Bio Trade), which measures consumer expectations and their level of understanding on these issues. We can see, in China in particular, that about 94% of people are aware of biodiversity, 69% have a knowledge of biodiversity, and therefore Chinese people are very much aware of these issues. This is also true for Brazil. Our consumers are fully aware of these issues, what they lack in fact are the tools to make responsible choices.

Our challenge is to make this information accessible. As the program rolls out, we will develop the means to communicate with them. Brands need to take up the subject and put it in tune with their products and their DNA to generate awareness among their customers. It is important to not scramble the message, everyone is involved and we are working on the implementation of future actions. By 2020, there will be things clearly visible to the consumer.

Premium Beauty News - Will you be able to meet the 2020 deadline for the entire program?

Laurent Gilbert - We set up a panel of Critical Friends whose will follow our progress with an outside view and with whom we will regularly take stock. We will also communicate through our sustainability reports and during other events enabling us to give an update on our progress. Will we meet the 2020 deadline? All the teams are mobilized for that and we have a very comprehensive agenda for the years to come.

Interview by Kristel Milet

© 2014 - Premium Beauty News -
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