The French cosmetics company pledges to help 10 cities mobilise women to lead the fight on climate change at Women4Climate conference in New York
The cosmetics industry endeavors to make its customers feel beautiful and healthy. But what if customers could in turn make cosmetic choices that improve the beauty and health of the world and its citizens, especially women?
French cosmetics conglomerate L’Oréal has been banking on the profitability of such an approach. And now, midway through its Sharing Beauty with All sustainability programme, the company has added another dimension: this week it became the first corporate partner to support the C40 Women4Climate initiative.
C40, a network of the world's cities committed to addressing climate change, hosted the inaugural Women4Climate conference in New York. It brought together some of the 15 women mayors in C40 cities, along with business and NGO leaders, to highlight the critical role of women and women leaders in the fight against climate change and air pollution.
“The private sector is a key partner in the effort to empower women and fight climate change,” Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo, who is chair of the C40, told the conference.
L’Oréal has committed to mentor some 500 women who are developing solutions to limit the impacts of climate change in 10 C40 cities during 2017. The company will also mobilise leading women from its own teams to support future leaders and to strengthen their leadership capabilities.
“This commitment reflects two of L’Oréal’s major orientations: gender equality and climate protection,” said Alexandra Palt, L’Oréal’s chief sustainability officer. Indeed, 46% of the board and 58% of L’Oréal’s brands are headed by women; with women also core in communities that produce the raw materials used by the 105-year-old company, which employs some 89,000 people.
Through the Women4Climate partnership, L'Oréal will fund university chairs to support research on gender-specific consequences of climate change, and, alongside C40, L’Oréal will contribute to select and finance projects that respond to gender-specific challenges in fighting climate change.
Since 2013, L’Oréal already has taken a comprehensive approach to sustainability with its Sharing Beauty with All campaign, setting 2020 deadline for a host of goals, including a 60% reduction in water consumption, waste and carbon emissions from its plants. Beyond environmental improvements, the campaign also includes social commitments like access to work for 100,000 underprivileged people by 2020, 100% of strategic suppliers participating in sustainability programmes, 100% access to health care, social protection and training globally for L’Oréal employees, and more.
L’Oreal and Unilever are the only two companies to achieve the CDP (formerly Carbon Disclosure Project) Triple A rating for their sustainability results. Currently L’Oréal is four years ahead of schedule in reducing carbon emissions (down 67% from 2005 levels).
Palt told the conference that sustainability has been fully integrated into every level of the company. “Sustainability is not something we do – it’s who we want to be,” she said.
But in an interview Palt said sustainability is not the industry’s new black. In fact, early market research borne of the Beauty for All campaign has shown that consumers do not want to be too educated about sustainability “by us, and probably by nobody”.
“That’s part of the reason why we don’t succeed in making it the new normal,” she said. “What they [consumers] want are companies that they trust are giving back to the community.”
In the end, sustainability is not about charity, she noted. The company could not be profitable without being able to access the raw materials it needs and consumers to buy its products, she said. Empowering women is also part of the profitability equation.
Palt said that consumption choices of women – who are also primary caretakers of families – have huge impacts on markets and the environment. Beyond statistics and carbon emissions reductions and resources saved and managed, it’s about saving and improving lives: alleviating air pollution so children don’t get ill; helping young girls get educations, providing women with fair incomes to support families and gain autonomy.
As Palt told the conference, sustainability “is about preparing our company to meet the world’s environmental and social challenges”.
L’Oréal cosmetics climate change gender equality CSR