L’Oréal Group is the largest beauty and cosmetics company in the world. It was founded in 1909 in France, and has been growing and expanding tremendously in the world markets since. Aware of the sheer volume of its business worldwide as a major long-standing corporate, L’Oréal has been keen on playing its part in social responsibility by thoroughly incorporating social and environmental goals in its business operations.
L’Oréal has been present in the Egyptian market since 2009, and inaugurated its first factory in the country in 2015, in the 10th of Ramadan City. The subsidiary covers a variety of brands from its four main divisions, providing 14 famous brands out of its 34 global ones to Egyptian consumers. They include L’Oréal Paris, Maybelline New York, Garnier, La Roche Posay, Vichy, Lancôme, Ralph Lauren, Giorgio Armani, to name but a few.
Within the framework of its commitment to socially responsible action, L’Oréal Egypt is partnering with the AUC School of Business to engage in the ‘This is how I moved my #BusinessForward’ campaign to shed light on successful examples of sustainable, prosocial, and environmental action by companies in Egypt. Business Forward spoke to Benoit Julia, the country managing director of L’Oréal Egypt, who gave us an insight on the efforts L’Oréal Egypt has been making over the past period, its plans for a safer and healthier future, and its role in building better awareness about corporate responsibility.
How is corporate responsibility reflected in the strategic decisions of L’Oréal Group?
Sustainability is a long-standing commitment in L’Oréal with the goal to “create beauty that moves the world”. Transforming our activities to respect planetary boundaries, to promote diversity and social inclusion, to empower women and youth make up a large part of our culture and strategic decisions.
Could you give examples specific to Egypt? In what different areas is this strategy reflected?
L’Oréal Egypt is a young subsidiary that opened in Egypt in 2009. Despite the fact that it is relatively new, we have decided early on that we want to play a role in the transformation of the society when it comes to social or environmental challenges. Our CSR strategy has 2 axes: women empowerment and sustainability. Programs like “L’Oréal UNESCO for Women in Science”, “Beauty for a Better Life” or the recent anti-street harassment training “Stand up” all seek to support women in Egypt. Our program “Sharing Beauty with all”, launched in 2013, and “L’Oréal for the future”, launched in 2020, allow us to reduce our environmental impact and act as a catalyst of change for sustainability.
What drove the launch of ‘L’Oréal for the future’ program?
Sustainability in L’Oréal is a long-standing commitment that started in the 90s when we created our first environmental research laboratory. In 2009, we decided to set specific environmental targets for our factories to reduce CO2 emissions, water consumption and waste. It soon turned into the worldwide program “Sharing Beauty with all” in 2013. We paid attention to the environmental impact of our products and to fostering social inclusion through providing jobs to underprivileged people across the globe. In 2020, we kicked off a more ambitious and holistic program “L’Oréal for the future”, which aligned with the objectives of the COP21 Paris agreement. Through this program, we look at the whole value chain. We look into transforming ourselves respectful of planetary boundaries, with onboarding our partners, and we act as catalysts of change when it comes to our consumers or our societal role.
Tell us about how L’Oréal incorporates environmental action in its production and through supply chains?
As per “L’Oréal for the future” objectives, all our factories will become carbon neutral by 2025. In Egypt, our factory was only built in 2013, and already has a strong record track of -42 percent CO2 emission, -24 percent water consumption, and -45 percent waste with zero landfill. In 2020, we kicked off phase one of using solar panels in the factory.
When it comes to supply chains, we exert the same effort as we set the same objective for our distribution center to be carbon neutral by 2025. As for transportation, we are using five electric trucks in Cairo for the first time this year.
What are your views on environmental action being more expensive for the business? Is it actually economically viable for businesses to reduce their negative impact and become more sustainable?
Transforming our activities in respect of our planet’s boundaries and resources is a must. By setting strong ambitious targets for 2030, we understand that we need to move faster. Many solutions and the issue of economic viability will be solved as we go. We also understand that our consumers expect us to provide them with high-quality products, taking our planet’s resources into consideration in terms of ingredients, formulas and packaging.
Give us examples of how else L’Oréal applies social and environmental responsibility in its day-to-day operations? What have you changed in the business-as-usual operations as a reflection of higher social and environmental responsibility?
More and more of the products we produce or sell in Egypt have an environmental aspect. L’Oréal Paris Elvive is the first haircare brand that uses 100 percent recycled plastic shampoo bottles. Our sun care formulas of ‘La Roche Posay’ are safe for marine life. Our Lancôme fragrance Idôle can now be refilled in our stores. Since 2021, we have kicked off powerful programs to educate our partners, such as the first ‘Suppliers Sustainability Summit’, or the ‘Green Pro Movement’ with our hairdressers. Our employees also have a role to play. After upskilling them regularly, we empower them to become catalysts of change themselves.
L’Oréal’s corporate responsibility initiatives go beyond ‘do no harm’ to ‘do good for better future’, especially when it comes to women empowerment and social impact.
How has L’Oréal’s global CSR approach been tailored to the Egyptian context?
We understand that in Egypt, companies have an important role to play when it comes to CSR, in partnership with authorities and NGOs. Our programs, such as “For Women in Science” or “Beauty for a better life”, are global, but our CSR strategy is local: choosing the right program, the right time to launch, and building the right partnership, depending on the local context and needs. Women empowerment, for example, answers to the aspirations of Egyptian women. It is the same with supporting the underprivileged with the ‘Beauty for a better life’ initiative.