L’Oreal, the world’s largest beauty company, has begun an initiative to focus its research and innovation on creating renewable alternatives to petroleum-based ingredients in its products. By 2030, L’Oreal expects that 95 percent of the ingredients it uses will be derived from abundant minerals, circular processes, or renewable plant sources. It also has set the goal of 100 percent of its formulas “doing no harm” to coastal or freshwater ecosystems.
L’Oreal already is recognized as one of the world’s most sustainable companies by Calvert Research & Management. About 80 percent of its raw materials are easily biodegradable, 59 percent are renewable, 34 percent are natural or of natural origin, and 29 percent were developed according to Green Chemistry principles.
“The Green Sciences allow us to take up this ambitious scientific and technical challenge,” says Barbara Lavernos, chief research, innovation, and technology officer says, “The circular economy-based approach will allow us to discover unprecedented cosmetic benefits without compromising on quality or safety. We will be able to make products in the service of beauty while also respecting the planet.”
The highest environmental impact of beauty products is the formulation and ingredients. L’Oreal’s more than 4,000 researchers will use recent advances in agronomics, biotechnology, green chemistry, formulation science, and modeling tools to achieve its goals to make its formulations Green. L’Oreal also plans to partner with its raw material suppliers, and universities, and start-ups.
L’Oreal calls its goal to derive 95 percent of its ingredients from plant sources, circular process, or abundant materials “ambitious.” In 2020, it designated 3.4 percent of its sales or €964 million towards achieving the goal. L’Oreal chose 95 percent rather than 100 percent because some materials are harder to replace, such as hair dyes, UV filters, and polymers needed for long wear, says Laurent Gilbert, director of sustainable innovation.
L’Oreal already has developed a scoring system, ranking products from “A” to “E” based on effects on the environment. The system is based on 14 planetary impact factors, including greenhouse gas emissions, water scarcity, ocean acidification, and impact on biodiversity. L’Oreal will apply this system to all rinse-off products by 2022 and to products in other categories after that. Under the system, which independent scientists have approved, both “A” and “E” grades are fixed to account for the 10 percent of products with the lowest and highest footprints, respectively. The “B,” “C,” and “D” scores have fixed product impact values. L’Oréal will redesign any products ranked “D” or “E,” and consumers viewing those products online will be redirected to higher-scoring alternatives.
The Human Impact
Environmental health is critical to humans’ ability to live longer and have an excellent quality of life. According to the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, 23 percent of all adult deaths in the world can be attributed to preventable environmental factors. Poor environmental quality disproportionately affects those whose health is already at risk, the ODPHP says.
L’Oréal also will launch a €50 million Fund for Nature Regeneration. The fund will restore one million hectares of degraded ecosystems and capture up to 20 million tons of carbon dioxide. Since 2005, L’Oréal has reduced the carbon dioxide emissions of its plants and distribution centers by 78 percent, despite its production volume increasing by 37 percent in the same period. L’Oreal also was one of the first cosmetic companies to develop alternatives to animal testing, stopping this practice in 1989. It has taken the opportunity to raise awareness of alternative methods such as reconstructed skin models, in China where animal testing was banned for domestically produced “non-functional” cosmetics in 2014.
L’Oreal also has begun a transparency campaign to engage in a dialogue with consumers about their products and the environment. In March, L’Oreal held its first Transparency Summit. Leaders from the c-suite and the research and innovation department made presentations about the areas of emphasis that will guide its green sciences and sustainability campaigns. “ Consumers expect transparency from brands, and it is our role to allow consumers to make educated decisions,” said Deputy CEO Nicolas Hieronimus, who will take over as CEO in May when Jean-Paul Agon steps down.
As part of the transparency effort, L’Oreal also has launched a website, Inside Our Products, that provides information on the ingredients in its cosmetics. The platform is available in 45 countries and in eight languages. Content is being rolled out incrementally across the websites of its leading brands, which include Essie, Garnier, Kérastase, La Roche-Posay, L’Oreal Paris, Maybelline, Redken, and Yves Saint Laurent. L’Oreal has announced this new website through social media, including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and LinkedIn, taking time to interact with consumers on each platform. Consumers can ask questions and receive answers about the product ingredients on the site.
L’Oreal has 35 brands, €28 billion in sales, and 1.2 billion annual consumers around the world.