Director of corporate communications, public affairs, sustainability and consumer advisory
David Attenborough famously said that someone who believes one can have infinite growth on a planet with finite resources “is either a madman or an economist”. He’s not wrong – but L’Oreal is bucking that trend. Since 2005, it has reduced carbon emissions by 78 per cent even though its production volume has increased by 37 per cent.
The company didn’t stop there. In 2013, it launched Sharing Beauty With All, its global corporate sustainability programme. Today, L’Oreal has 35 carbon-neutral sites, including 14 factories, and has helped over 90,600 people from disadvantaged communities to find employment.
The key, according to Isabelle Lim, director of corporate communications, public affairs, sustainability and consumer advisory at L’Oreal Singapore, is research and innovation – towards which the company has invested a whopping 5,925 million Euros in the past seven years.
In Singapore, it has an advanced research laboratory in Biopolis that works on multiple projects, including identifying raw materials to be used as ingredients and working with government organisations and start-ups on innovation and sustainability.
One of its biggest campaigns is the L’Oreal Innovation Runway. The company partners Enterprise Singapore to present this during the latter’s annual Slingshot event that’s powered by Startup SG. To participate, start-ups must submit proposals for a chance to win cash prizes, financial grants and access to L’Oreal’s research and innovation team. Lim remembers a winner from Indonesia that harvests seaweed to turn into packaging that she found incredibly fascinating.
She emphasises that sustainability is core to L’Oreal’s production. “When we conceptualise and develop a product, sustainability is already one of the key factors in the equation. We don’t tag it at the end when the product is already made,” she shares. Neither does L’Oreal increase product prices in the name of sustainability; it’s built into the company’s research and innovation practices.
L’Oreal has already set its sustainability targets for the next decade. “By 2030, we want 100 per cent of the plastic in our packaging to either be recycled or from bio-based sources, and the ingredients in our formulas to either be bio-based or derived from abundant minerals or circular processes. We also want all our sites to achieve carbon neutrality and use 100 per cent renewable energy by 2025,” says Lim.
She admits that these targets are extremely ambitious but she’s confident L’Oreal can achieve them on the back of the unstinting efforts of its research and innovation department. “Corporate sustainability has to be at the core of everything you do. It must become part of the company’s DNA and not be seen as an afterthought. That’s how you can achieve the goals you set.”
Glenn van Zutphen from Money FM 89.3 interviewed Isabelle Lim and The Peak’s editor-in-chief Farhan Shah regarding the Power List 2020 and corporate sustainability. Listen to the interview below.
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