Solidarity sourcing: purchasing as a lever for social inclusion


The objective of the worldwide purchasing programme Solidarity Sourcing is to convert L’Oréal’s purchasing power into a lever for social inclusion. Introduced in 2010, it helps the Group build fair, long-lasting, value-creating business partnerships in the countries in which it operates, thereby making social and societal issues integral components of its business model.

Responsible sourcing

The greatest impact generated by the Solidarity Sourcing programme is through the purchase of plant-based raw materials that L’Oréal uses to manufacture its products. This entails a threefold challenge: ensuring availability of the raw materials, preserving biodiversity and providing producers with an equitable income. Four years after the programme’s introduction, the vast majority of its 22,000 beneficiaries are the members of the local communities that joined the Group’s responsible supply chains. In 2013, 100% of L’Oréal’s shea supply came from a 100% solidarity-based supply chain. More than 20,000 women brought together in organisations of producers can benefit from the programme.

Inspiring projects

The Group’s intent to include vulnerable persons in its value chain inspires it to explore other paths for Solidarity Sourcing. Each year, projects are born that address new societal issues. Through these projects, minority-owned companies, small and mid-size businesses or associations specialising in inclusion of people with disabilities and broader social inclusion find their place on L’Oréal’s list of suppliers worldwide. The programme thereby helps integrate vulnerable persons into the working world and effectively combat the weakening of social bonds (see insets).

Gaining momentum

The new L’Oréal commitment, Sharing Beauty with All, means this trend will continue to gain momentum. By 2020, the Group’s objective is to have associated 20% of its strategic suppliers with its Solidarity Sourcing programme. It also intends to have enabled 100,000 people from underprivileged communities to access work and long-term income. Responsible purchasing will be crucial to achieving this goal and therefore will continue to gain prominence.

  • As part of the Solidarity Sourcing programme, South Africa has chosen to engage with the Soweto Workshop for the Blind. This centre, located in the country’s largest township (1 million inhabitants) where the unemployment rate exceeds 50%, provides work for approximately thirty blind and visually impaired persons. In April 2013, after first appraising the working conditions in the workshop, L’Oréal began outsourcing plastic shrink-wrapping of its products to the site. Between April and October 2013, nearly 500,000 colouring products were shipped to the workshop for processing, generating revenue of some 12,000 euros and labour on average for 4 employees. “It’s a small contribution in providing work opportunities for people with disabilities, but we’re nonetheless proud of it. We intend to expand this project in 2014, with increased turnover and additional employment of people,” says Lebogang Tlale, Purchasing Manager for L’Oréal South Africa.

  • L’Oréal’s Solidarity Sourcing initiative was largely inspired by The Body Shop’s community fair trade programme introduced 25 years ago. “When we joined the Group in 2006, we presented this programme and its positive impacts on the communities with which we work, but also our employees and our consumers,” explains Jérôme Courtaigne, International Sourcing Director at The Body Shop. Progressively, L’Oréal’s Solidarity Sourcing took shape and fair trade became one of the Group’s five dimensions. For example, the Nicaraguan sesame-oil supplier that initially collaborated with The Body Shop now supplies a dozen L’Oréal brands. “Today, we’re coming full circle. In 2013, we officially introduced our Solidarity Sourcing approach to broaden the scope of our impact in all our purchasing categories,” emphasises Jérôme Courtaigne. The Body Shop has already invited thirty of its suppliers to join the programme and is preparing to launch four major projects with the objective of having one hundred beneficiaries by the end of 2014.

  • In 2013, L’Oréal’s research centre in Chevilly-Larue in the Val-de-Marne renewed its partnership with Ares, a company specialising in social integration, as part of the Solidarity Sourcing programme. Since 2011, the cleaning of laboratory equipment has been entrusted to employees recruited by Ares through insertion contracts. It is one way to help people who have been away from the working world to prepare to return to the labour market. “The contracts are for an average of 14 months,” explains Ares CEO Thibaut Guilluy. “An ad hoc organisation was needed for the contracts to serve as effective catalysts for inclusion and for L’Oréal to be satisfied with our employees’ service.” The company therefore formalised the cleaning procedures, created learning support tools, developed customised training and implemented assessment and continuous improvement systems. “Professionalism is essential for us and, since L’Oréal has very high standards, this partnership has helped us make major advances,” adds Thibaut Guilluy. And it has generated excellent results: in 2013, 12 out of the 15 people in the programme were able to leave it, with 80% of them having job recruitment or skills training prospects on the horizon. The results were equally positive at the research centre: “They’re providing quality services and these contracts add a valuable human element,” says site Director Didier Bouche.

22,000 people benefited from the Solidarity Sourcing programme in 2013, 7,000 more than in 2012.