Linking Products to Values
Sustainable Product Optimization Tool L’oréal
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.