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L’Oréal For the Future Summit: Sustainability milestones and commitments set out by company’s leaders

DUBAI: As governments, policymakers, and activists gathered at the UN Climate Change Conference in Egypt to address environmental challenges, L’Oréal Middle East held its first L’Oréal For the Future Summit addressing questions around the same topic.

In an interview with Arab News en franҫais, Laurent Duffier, managing director of L’Oréal Middle East, and Rohini Behl, the firm’s head of sustainability for South Asia Pacific, Middle East, and North Africa, shared their insights on industry trends affecting the region, and the group’s sustainability milestones and commitments.

The group is committed to achieve 100 percent carbon neutrality on all industrial sites by 2025, recycling and reusing 100 percent of industrial water and waste generated on sites by 2030 and driving initiatives supporting sustainability efforts and discussions in line with COP27.

Key trends influencing the beauty industry

The beauty industry is constantly evolving with a change in consumer behavior and preferences, and a shift towards more sustainable products. The post-COVID-19 period witnessed a rise in demand for certain categories of products, such as skincare, and dermo-cosmetics.

The pandemic also triggered an acceleration of the shift towards health focused consumption. “People want to take care of themselves, and skin care is one of the categories which enables you to do so,” declared Duffier.

The attention to well-being and ways of achieving it is influencing supply in an increasingly sophisticated market, one also driven by the boom of ecommerce in the region, giving consumers access to a wider range of brands.

The advent of new digital services is another element fueled by the pandemic. “You can assess your makeup on your smartphone before you buy it, and receive an immediate diagnosis,” added Duffier.

The final macro trend observed in the market is “that consumers increasingly want brands that have a purpose, brands that are here to give back to the society and help with the environmental challenge, having a stance on all these issues become the criteria of choice,” said the managing director.

On a regional level, ecommerce – accounting for about 30 percent of L’Oréal business around the world – and the dermo-cosmetics market are growing in line with the global trend. “In Saudi Arabia, L’Oréal is witnessing an acceleration of the online market. Fragrances and hair treatments have been very dynamic particularly over the past few months, and on the rise since 2021,” he added.

Sustainability initiatives

The L’Oréal For the Future Summit stems from the group’s continued efforts towards sustainability, which started with a program called Sharing Beauty with all. Ending in 2020, the program gave way to another called L’Oréal for the future.

“We need to act, we need to act fast altogether — companies, governments, individuals — to do our best to reduce global warming,” declared the managing director.

While the first focused on the reduction in carbon emissions and monitoring the group’s footprint while growing the business  — L’Oréal increased the number of units produced by around 30 percent, while decreasing the carbon emissions by 80 percent — L’Oréal for the future is a comprehensive program that goes across the whole life cycle of the product from the formulation and production to the consumption and followed by recycling.

In addition to achieving carbon neutrality across sites by 2025, the group implemented a technology called “waterloop factories” enabling factories to recycle water indefinitely during the production process.

Several initiatives are being deployed locally. One focuses on water management, aimed at reducing by 60 percent the volume of water used in the hair salons in the region, with the technology implementation in Saudi Arabia and the region expected for January 2023.

The second initiative is about woman empowerment: a project with the hairdressing industry in the Kingdom. “Historically it relied on expats. With the Vision 2030 and the focus on increasing women participation and access to employment across industries there is a need to train thousands of Saudi hairdressers over the coming years,” highlighted Duffier.

L’Oréal partnered with the Princess Nora University to create a training program for hairdressers for Saudi women. “A six-months program which caters to the whole métier of hairdressers and 80 percent of the graduates got immediately a job,” he added.

The third initiative involves recycling 92 tons of plastic to celebrate the 92nd anniversary of Saudi, a project led by Garnier, in partnership with a Saudi plastic recycling company.

Plastic recycling is expected to be amplified to reach the Group’s 2030 target whereby 100 percent of the plastic used should be recycled or biobased.

“It’s our duty to help the ecosystem to recycle more plastic, because one of the challenges we have today is that there is not enough recycled plastic on the market,” added Duffier.

Providing innovative products, raising awareness, and communicating with consumers is essential in the transition towards more sustainable behavior.

Solidarity sourcing and the regeneration of nature

Another program called solidarity sourcing works with communities and growers. “The objective is to move our ingredients from sourcing to regeneration, part of that is also a social inclusion program and the impact that it has on communities,” declared Rohini Behl.

The SAP-MENA region is significant for the group, especially with the shift in global supply chains and the necessity to find alternative sourcing sites. The zone, extending from Morocco to Melbourne, is strategic in terms of growth and consumer base. “We must make sure that we are growing in a responsible way in these markets which have multicultural and different footprints,” she added.

This year, L’Oréal had an exceptional growth of 13.5 percent year on year in comparable sales and 20.9 percent increase in reported sales.

Investment in research and development is key in the green transition. Historically, the offering was based on chemicals, but today, consumer’s preferences are shifting towards more natural products, driving the group’s commitment to produce 95 percent from its formula from abundant minerals or bio-based ingredients by 2030.

“As consumers are still going to want to consume, we have to limit emissions and to make investments in nature regeneration,” added Rohini.

To this end, and to give back to the community, L’Oréal dedicated a fund for the regeneration of nature with a €50 million ($51.45 million) fund, which looks to preserve a million hectares of land. These will be the carbon sinks for the future.

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