18 June 2024

An interview with Alexandra Palt, CEO of the L’Oréal Foundation

| The European |

In this exciting interview with Alexandra Palt, CEO of the Foundation L’Oréal, discover how the cosmetics giant puts the planet first through several sustainable strategies and policies. The former sustainability officer has dedicated her career to corporate transformation through innovative climate solutions, a commitment that resulted in Alexandra being listed in the Top 12 ESG Speakers on Sustainable Investing.

What does your role as the CEO of the Foundation L’Oréal entail?

“I have two roles at L’Oréal. So, one is to lead the transition to a new business model with all my colleagues and internal partners, which is this internal transformation. I’m also in charge of the outside contribution to society.

“Historically, the Anglo-Saxon world, especially the US, was much more engaged in philanthropy with higher amounts of money, less working on the internal transformation, and the Europeans were a little bit the other way around. We do everything internally, but it is the welfare state who takes care of difficulties that society faces.

“So nowadays, I think we need to approach this. We need- of course we cannot continue to do business as usual, so we need this internal transformation. We also have to contribute to solve some of the most pressing challenges the world is facing.

“So, in my role, I lead the entire philanthropic commitment to society, and I lead the foundations’ work. We also have a charitable endowment fund for women where we support grassroots and community organisations all around the world. Also, each and every brand that L’Oréal has, has a commitment to contribute to society. I try to give the best strategic orientations to these causes.”

What did your Sharing Beauty with All commitment achieve?

“So, Sharing Beauty with All finished in 2020, and we achieved most of our targets. We outperformed on some of them, like our carbon footprint. We reduced the carbon footprint of our industrial activity by 80% since 2005, so that was really a huge, huge achievement

“Some other goals were more difficult, and, you know, environmental science is always moving. So, at times we discovered that our approach was not the right way to tackle [climate change] and we had to reformulate and redefine our targets.

“On the whole, it was very, very successful. And so, in 2020 we announced the next generation of sustainability targets, our L’Oréal For the Future strategy. The interesting thing about L’Oréal For the Future is that we didn’t work anymore based on, what is our impact and by how much can we reduce it?

“We looked at it in a different way, we asked, what does the world need from us? So, we took the scientific basis and the planetary boundaries, and we looked at what we had to do so L’Oréal, in 2030, can operate within the planetary boundaries. Meaning that we do not take more from this planet than the planet can take.

“Our whole programme was created on this scientific basis and that leads to very, very ambitious targets, of course, because it means 100% recycled plastic, 95% of our ingredient’s bio based or from biotech, and so on. There is a whole transformation ongoing.

“What allowed us to be so ambitious is that we started early, we saw that a lot of things are possible with the right mindset, that people are very mature on sustainability issues and very aware. So, in the whole company, there is a lot of awareness, which allows us to be a lot more ambitious.”

What sustainable changes can we expect from brands like L’Oréal in the future?

“I think every brand, not just L’Oréal, but the future of brands is… sustainability is not going to be on the side. Sustainability is going to be central to everything companies and brands will do.

“So, the step we have to take now is to bring the right innovations to the market. That means refills for a cosmetic company, solid shampoos, it’s a lot of different things. We have to bring this innovation; we have to raise awareness.

“Then as a last step, we need definitely to do choice editing, altogether. So, at one point we will have to stop bringing to the market products that are not having an improved environmental footprint. That means choice editing, so that there are more sustainable products available, more sustainable offers.

“It really is the next level of maturity that companies will have to reach, in the next few years, if we choose to survive as a human species.”

This exclusive interview with Alexandra Palt was conducted by Jack Hayes, courtesy of The Sustainability Speakers Agency.

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