Green chemistry, a catalyst for more sustainable innovation

For over a decade, green chemistry has become a catalyst for L’Oreal’s sustainable innovation policy.

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02/2015 • Updated 19/04/2018

The challenge for our chemists is to invent new molecules that are both efficient and eco-friendly.

Invented in 1998 by two American chemists, Paul Anastas and John Warner, green chemistry is a soft and clean chemistry, aiming at a minimal environmental impact. L’Oréal was the first player in the cosmetics industry to integrate this concept in its innovation model. The challenge for our chemists is to invent new high-performance molecules that are environment-friendly.
 

An approach based on three pillars
 

L’Oréal’s approach is built upon three pillars:

  • Using primarily botanical, and therefore renewable, raw materials
  • Developing eco-friendly processes. To this end, L’Oréal’s researchers are committed to reducing the number of synthesis steps as well as solvent and energy consumption.
  • Developing ingredients with favourable environmental profiles. Eco-design helps improve the formulas’ environmental profiles,  particularly by increasing their biodegradability and reducing the water footprint.

To track progress in its application of green chemistry, L’Oréal has developed a set of indicators that the Group uses to calculate the atom economy, the amount of waste per kilogramme of manufactured product, the  created ingredient’s renewable carbon content and the environmental risk generated by the final compound. 
 

The challenge for our chemists is to invent new molecules that are both efficient and eco-friendly.

New active ingredients
 

By using green chemistry, L’Oréal has developed new active ingredients that would not have been made possible with traditional chemistry. After developing Pro-Xylane, an anti-ageing ingredient obtained from a sawdust-derived sugar, in 2006, the chemists at L’Oréal continued to explore the realm of sugar chemistry. This is how they subsequently developed Rhamnose, carrageenans and the family of C-glycosides.

48% of products created or renovated by L’Oréal in 2017 have an improved environmental profile thanks to a new formula that uses renewable raw materials that are sustainably sourced or derived from green chemistry.

And 25% (in terms of volume) of the raw materials used in 2017 are obtained according to the principles of green chemistry.

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Reducing the environmental footprint of our formulas

By 2020, 100% of our products will have an improved environmental or social profile. One way for researchers to achieve this is by measuring and improving our formulas’ biodegradability and water footprint.