L’Oréal’s biggest challenge is making ‘sustainability desirable’

L'Oréal's biggest challenge is getting consumers to come on board with sustainability, according to the cosmetics and beauty company's director of corporate social responsibility and sustainability Alexandra Palt.

Talking to delegates at the Smarter Sustainability Reporting conference in London, Palt said like most companies, L’Oréal has make progress to make in sustainable consumption.

Palt asked: “This is still our biggest challenge – how are we going to market products that have less impact on the environment but that are still bought by consumers?

“It is about making it desirable to consumers and getting them all involved.

“Today, consumers say that they are very interested in sustainability, and that they will buy a product with a higher price if it is responsible, but when they do go to buy [a product] they don’t do it.”

Palt suggested this was a big problem for companies because if CEOs were aware of the consumers’ likelihood to agree in principle but not to act on it, sustainable consumption surveys would hold little sway with the finance side of the company.

“I can honestly tell you that our challenge is to make sustainability desirable.”

“If it’s about making sustainability desirable, reporting will be very useful – it is absolutely necessary,” she said.

The company, which has more than 70,000 staff in 130 countries, recorded a €20.3bn (£17.6bn) turnover in 201. Palt pointed out that L’Oréal’s ambition to attract one billion new consumers worldwide was a considerable challenge to the company in terms of sustainability.

One way of assessing progress and setting targets was the company’s initiative of visiting different countries and hosting 30 to 40 NGO representatives simultaneously.

Palt explained how her team would present them with the challenges they faced and would in turn receive questioning from big NGOs as well as grass roots organisations.

She reassured delegates at the conference organised by Sustainable Business magazine and edie, that L’Oréal was committed and well on way to meeting its targets of reducing CO2 emissions by 50% by 2015 and achieving zero net deforestation by 2020.

Conor McGlone

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