L’oréal just made new commitments through the sharing beauty with all programme. What’s their significance?
Jean-Paul Agon : The programme’s very name reflects both what has driven us for more than a century and our approach for the years to come. L’Oréal is a company that has always been centred on a single business: beauty. It is a business with profound meaning, because it helps each person feel better with himself and with others. It is our awareness of this social utility and the way in which we perceive our business that we wanted to express and amplify in a comprehensive, ambitious social and environmental responsibility programme. Sharing Beauty with All is therefore entirely consistent with who we are, with our ethical principles and commitments – we support and implement the Principles of the United Nations Global Compact, a commitment renewed in 2013 –, but also with the conviction we share with many others: that businesses’ ability to serve the public interest is what will make all the difference in the years to come.
Why make these new commitments now?
J.P. - A. : They are part of a transformation process begun at L’Oréal several years ago. We first redefined our mission: beauty for all. To accomplish this mission, we chose a new strategy that we call universalisation, which is globalisation that respects differences. To implement this strategy, we set an ambitious target: to attract and win the loyalty of a billion new consumers. However, more consumers, more growth, also means more responsibility. So we want to reduce the impact of our activity on the planet while increasing our positive socio-economic impact on the lives of communities around us. With the commitments we are making today, we are continuing our transition towards a new development model, which is constantly becoming more responsible. And we are clearly placing our non-financial challenges at the same level as our financial targets, and so expressing our vision of the global performance of our company.
Why do you say these commitments are ambitious?
J.P. - A. : First, because they address our entire value chain. Sharing Beauty with All covers innovating sustainably, producing sustainably and living sustainably. We also want to do whatever it takes for all our partners to share in our success: our employees, of course, but also our suppliers – who we are fully involving in this approach – and the communities around us. Second, because these commitments will guide us in completely rethinking the way we design, manufacture and advertise our products. For example, we have made the commitment that, by 2020, 100% of our products will have an environmental or social benefit, meaning a demonstrable, improved impact over today’s performance, one that is quantifiable, measurable and verifiable. This is a major change for our brands, an entirely new paradigm. Our goal is to encourage more responsible consumption, not only by reducing the impact of our products, but also by involving consumers in this movement. We believe it is our responsibility to make sustainable development desirable.
What sustainable development advances did the group achieve in 2013?
J.P. - A. : We continued to apply our strategy of reducing environmental impact by both producing and innovating sustainably. We also went further with our initiatives and experiments in sustainable consumption and responsible communication. A clear highlight of the year was the ongoing dialogue with stakeholders, which unquestionably determined and enriched our Sharing Beauty with All programme. For the past two years, we have been brainstorming with our external stakeholders on how best to exercise our responsibilities. We hold stakeholder forums around the world with NGOs, associations, experts and government representatives to engage in fruitful dialogue. This has helped us gain a clearer understanding of the expectations and needs such entities have with respect to a company like ours and address those needs in our strategy. Furthermore, L’Oréal is committed to ensuring that, by 2020, all its renewable raw materials come from sustainable sources. This is a reaffirmation of our ambition to reach “zero deforestation”. This will be the final outcome of action plans we’ve had in place since 2007 for sustainable sourcing of soya oil, palm oil and wood-fibre products, to be certain none of our products contribute to deforestation. Lastly, 2013 was the year in which we launched a programme I care about deeply and that is the quintessential reflection of L’Oréal’s culture and values, a company that has always been deeply committed to a humanist and socially responsible project. This worldwide programme for employees, called Share & Care, will give them access, wherever they live in the world, to a level of health care and social protection coverage which will put us amongst the top companies in all the countries in which we operate. For example, we want every woman employee to have the possibility of enjoying 14 weeks of maternity leave. This is a highly original project, which is going to lead to important social advances in some countries. I see it as a true laboratory of social innovation at world level.
We know that much remains to be done, but we are determined to forge ahead via the 2020 Commitments we have made. This is a vast challenge, which means a profound cultural change for our Group and the way it interacts with society. We are opening another thrilling phase in the great L’Oréal adventure.