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Can the world’s largest cosmetics company reach carbon-neutrality by 2025?

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Alexandra Palt at Dubai Expo 2020
Alexandra Palt at Dubai Expo 2020   -   Copyright  Euronews Green
By Ben Anthony Horton

Alexandra Palt was a human rights lawyer before joining L’Oréal as Chief Sustainability Officer in 2012.

Perhaps this explains her motivation to change the direction of the world’s largest cosmetics company.

“Climate change, environmental damage and biodiversity are causing a lot of human suffering already,” says Palt, who spoke to Euronews Green while visiting the Dubai Expo 2020.

“This environmental transformation is having a huge impact on people’s access to rights, on women’s access to rights, on the access to food, on the access to water,” continues Palt.

“So this is not just about keeping the planet. It’s about guaranteeing a safe operating space for humanity.”

These noble ambitions led her to be promoted to Chief Corporate Responsibility Officer of L’Oréal in 2017.

In addition, she was named Executive Vice President of the L’Oréal Foundation, a group “formed to empower women to shape their future and make a difference in society.”

Since then, Palt has announced sweeping changes within the company aimed at reducing the environmental impact of its industrial practices.

Most notably, the ‘Sharing Beauty With All’ campaign addressed L’Oréal’s production processes, and set a target for 100 per cent of its products to have an environmental or social benefit by 2020.

While somewhat vague targets like these are difficult to measure, Palt believes the results far exceeded the company’s lofty expectations.

“We reduced our carbon emission by 80 per cent while our production went up by almost 40 per cent, so we succeeded in decoupling our carbon emission from our production in our industrial activity, which is of course a huge success.”

This was partly achieved by developing 72 carbon-neutral production sites, all of which now run on 100 per cent renewable energy.

And Palt doesn’t plan to stop there.

The next decade

With the conclusion of L’Oréal’s ‘Sharing Beauty With All’ campaign, the company - which owns Garnier, Maybelline New York and Redken - has announced a similarly ambitious project entitled ‘L’Oréal for the future’.

This social and environmental solidarity programme intends to meet a new set of targets by 2030:

  • Reaching 100 per cent carbon neutrality at all L’Oréal sites by 2025.
  • Producing 100 per cent of the plastics used in L’Oréal packaging from recycled or bio-based sources by 2030.
  • Reducing L’Oréal’s entire greenhouse gas emissions by 50 per cent per finished product, compared to 2016.

The company is also allocating €150 million to address urgent social and environmental issues, such as helping women achieve social and professional integration in developing countries.

“We know that the next 20 to 30 years are bringing huge transformations, so people’s expectations for the role of companies have profoundly changed,” says Palt.

“The whole economic system is based on the idea of infinite resources, consumption and infinite waste. But that is not the reality anymore. So we all have to learn how to change.”

Only time will tell if the company can live up to its ambitious targets, but one thing is for sure: Palt is a breath of fresh air in an era of overt corporate greenwashing.

Unlike many of her business cohorts, the former lawyer seems to genuinely care.

“This is not a photo. This is a film. We are all evolving together, and we have to improve.”

Watch the video above to find out more.

Video editor • Ben Anthony Horton