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Product Social Footprinting | L’Oréal’s Charles Duclaux on Measuring the Social Impacts of Products

PRé has gathered industry leaders from L’Oréal, Marks & Spencer, Steelcase, BASF, BMW Group, DSM, Goodyear, Philips, AkzoNobel, Corbion, Ahold and Reckitt Benckiser for the Roundtable for Product Social Metrics, a pioneering endeavour that aims to bring together principles and metrics for social impact assessment. We spoke to Charles Duclaux, Head of Corporate Responsibility Reporting and Environmental Innovation at L'Oréal, about the Roundtable's Handbook and L'Oréal's sustainability efforts at large.

By Alba Espinosa van de Bunt on September 17, 2014

What can you tell us about L’Oréal’s sustainability strategy?

L’Oréal has a strong legacy in sustainability. With this in mind, L’Oréal announced in October 2013 new sustainability commitments, through the SHARING BEAUTY WITH ALL program. Part of the Group’s growth strategy, these commitments to produce more but with less impact and to engage consumers, are at the heart of its business.


To make sure we deliver against our vision, we have created a framework with four clear commitments all along our value chain, which will help us to measure our progress: Innovating Sustainably, Producing Sustainably, Living Sustainably, and Developing Sustainably.

 

Targets support these commitments, as an example: by 2020, we will enable more than 100,000 people from underprivileged communities, equivalent to the size of our global workforce, to access work.


What motivated L’Oréal to begin focusing on the social aspects of sustainability?

L’Oréal has always put the human dimension at the center of the Company. The Group already developed a lot of initiatives regarding socials aspects of sustainability (in the supply chain with the Solidarity Sourcing program and social audits, in Diversity , Ethics,… and more recently through our Share and Care program which is a social performance program for L’Oréal employees), so it is not something new.

We strengthened them through the SHARING BEAUTY WITH ALL program making sure we addressed all our stakeholders (employees, suppliers and communities). We want to go a step further in being able to assess our product on social aspects.


What motivated L’Oréal to join the Roundtable for Product Social Metrics?

L’Oréal has committed to improve the environmental and social profile of 100 percent of its new products by 2020 and make this information available to allow consumers to make sustainable lifestyle choices.

 

To achieve that goal we need to be able to assess the social impact of our products, and we were keen to participate in this new and innovative initiative. This is the reason why we were interested in the roundtable’s reflection on the methodology – we wanted to be part of the journey in order to develop a pragmatic and feasible framework that could be applicable within an international, industrial organization.


The Roundtable released a new methodology to assess the social impacts of products. Can you tell us, briefly, why the product-level approach is important for L’Oréal?

The product-level approach is key for two reasons.

 

We have to make sure our products are environmentally but also socially responsible. If we want to assess them, identify the hotspots and improve their profile, we need a methodology that enables us to measure and differentiate products one from another on this particular aspect.

 

Consumers are more and more interested in knowing about the impact of the products they buy, not only on environmental aspects but also on social aspects. Only a product level approach enables to differentiate products from each other and then help purchasing decision making.

 

How will the Handbook contribute to the measuring of Product Social Footprint?

The Handbook is the first stepping stone towards a harmonized way of measuring the social footprint of products.

 

Is the Handbook ready-to-use for any company that would want to? Or do companies still need assistance/guidance if they want to apply the methodology?

The Handbook is ready, written in such a way that people with interest should understand. Companies may find that some data may not currently exist and processes may need to be developed to collect the necessary information. We and the Roundtable partners would be pleased to explain further.


 

In your opinion, what are the next steps that need to be set in the social sustainability arena?

Evaluating what companies and their suppliers do in terms of good practices is something that can be easily measured because it’s mostly under control. More difficult is what happens far from the organisation and especially on the user side.

 

Involving consumers in sustainability is a real challenge. As well as measuring well-being, i.e. how they feel when using the product, is something that still calls for scientific approaches.

 

You’re participating in both a plenary and a breakout session on Product Social Footprinting with PRé Sustainability’s João Fontes at this month’s NewMetrics conference – what can we expect to learn from the sessions?

Yes, we are representing The Roundtable for Product Social Metrics at NewMetrics in both sessions. We want to share our insights, and learnings while developing the methodology and Handbook; so we are working very hard for an insightful plenary and an interactive breakout. We will share business cases in which we applied the Product Social Impact Assessment Methodology and I also want to explain how Product Social Footprinting fits into L’Oréal’s sustainability strategy. But most importantly, we want to create an open discussion and listen to other industry companies so we can take Product Social Footprint to the next level. So I encourage interested companies to attend our Breakout session. At the end, our only goal is that companies get to implement social metrics as part of their sustainability strategies.

 

This interview was published first at Sustainable Brands, on September the 15th, 2014.

Image credits" L'Oréal and Sustainable Brands

Contact the author

‘I believe that sustainability is changing busines­ses and people’s mindset. It’s here to stay. You can see the same trend in the way people are communicating nowadays through online channels, such as social media. The Internet allows people to keep in touch on a personal level, even when doing business.’

Contact Alba Espinosa van de Bunt
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