Link­ing Prod­ucts to Val­ues

Sus­tain­able Prod­uct Op­ti­miza­tion Tool L’oréal

Fast Company - - World-Changing Ideas -

The words are em­bla­zoned on prod­ucts up and down the beauty aisle: all-nat­u­ral,

sus­tain­able, or­ganic. But when it comes to an item’s ac­tual en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact, what do these terms re­ally mean? And what can they tell us about a com­pany’s ac­tual com­mit­ment to en­vi­ron­men­tal stew­ard­ship?

L’oréal, the largest and most prof­itable cor­po­ra­tion in the beauty in­dus­try, has over­hauled its en­tire sup­ply chain over the past five years. Its Shar­ing Beauty With All ini­tia­tive, launched in 2013, aimed to ad­vance sus­tain­able prac­tices across all as­pects of the busi­ness— em­brac­ing re­new­able re­sources, short­en­ing tran­sit routes, repack­ag­ing prod­ucts in biodegrad­able ma­te­ri­als, and con­vert­ing its man­u­fac­tur­ing fa­cil­i­ties to run on re­new­able en­ergy.

Last year, the com­pany went a step fur­ther, rolling out its Sus­tain­able Prod­uct Op­ti­miza­tion Tool (SPOT) across all 150 prod­uct cat­e­gories among L’oréal’s 53 brands. De­vel­oped with the help of sus­tain­abil­ity and life-cy­cle anal­y­sis ex­perts from dozens of uni­ver­si­ties and non­prof­its, SPOT pro­vides both L’oréal and its thou­sands of sup­pli­ers world­wide with a strin­gent set of cri­te­ria that all prod­ucts must meet across eight dif­fer­ent cat­e­gories: car­bon foot­print, wa­ter scarcity, wa­ter qual­ity, bio­di­ver­sity, acid­i­fi­ca­tion, re­source de­ple­tion, air qual­ity, and ozone de­ple­tion. More than 120 prod­ucts have been op­ti­mized us­ing SPOT so far. La Roche-posay, one of L’oréal’s higher-end brands, used the tool when re­vamp­ing its Gom­mage Surfin fa­cial scrub and re­placed the ex­fo­li­at­ing plas­tic mi­crobeads with perilite, a nat­u­ral min­eral, im­prov­ing the biodegrad­abil­ity of the prod­uct by 10%. Since then, all L’oréal ex­fo­lia­tors have moved away from plas­tic in the in­gre­di­ents list. The Vichy brand, mean­while, used SPOT to re­de­velop its Aqualia Ther­mal skin­care treat­ment: The pro­por­tion of re­new­able in­gre­di­ents in the prod­uct in­creased from 55% to 95%, and the brand be­gan sourc­ing its shea but­ter from a sus­tain­able, women-owned co­op­er­a­tive in Burk­ina Faso. “SPOT is now fully in­te­grated in the con­cep­tion process and launch of new prod­ucts,” says L’oréal’s chief sus­tain­abil­ity of­fi­cer, Alexan­dra Palt, adding that her team is ex­pand­ing the tool so that by 2020 con­sumers will be able to ac­cess SPOT for more ex­ten­sive prod­uct in­for­ma­tion. Palt’s ef­forts have sup­port from the very top of the or­ga­ni­za­tion. “I love hav­ing an ac­tivist within to drive change in­ter­nally,” says L’oréal chair­man and CEO Jean-paul Agon.

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