Wouldn’t it be nice to look good on the outside while feeling good on the inside because you did something that’s good for the planet? Then look for sustainability in beauty products.

While we love our skincare and makeup, our conscience also urges us to choose products that are made using sustainably-sourced ingredients and cruelty-free processes, and that don’t contain ingredients harmful to the environment.

Well, there are certainly enough choices out there to satisfy today’s savvier, more demanding and conscience-driven consumers nowadays – but therein lies the problem, because with the deluge of brands, ingredients and gimmicks in the market, making a green choice is difficult.

To help us understand what it really means for beauty products to utilise sustainably sourced ingredients, Alexandra Palt, chief sustainability officer at L’Oreal, gives an insight into the French company’s sustainability programme called “Sharing Beauty With All”.

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Oil palm fruits and their derivatives are one of the raw materials used in beauty products. By 2020, Alexandra Palt says L’Oreal aims to source 100 of their raw materials, sustainably.

“One of the main commitments of ‘Sharing Beauty With All’ is to improve the environmental and social profile of 100% of our products by 2020,” says Palt in an e-mail interview.

“This means that each time we develop or renew a product, we consider not only the product’s performance and profitability but also its contribution to sustainable development,” she explains.

For instance, by 2020 L’Oreal aims to get all of their raw materials from sustainable sources.

In The L’Oreal Sustainability Commitment 2015 Progress Report, the beauty brand’s sustainability commitment shows progress in four key areas: innovating, producing, living, and developing sustainably.

Environmental Footprints

In innovating sustainably, L’Oreal looks look at (a) reducing the environmental footprint of formulas, (b) respecting biodiversity, (c) optimising packaging, and (d) achieving zero deforestation.

(A) To achieve a water-footprint reduction of more than 80% compared with the average for shampoos, the brand launched two silicone-free anti-dandruff shampoo formulas in China.

(B) Quinoa husk was previously considered waste but L’Oreal researchers found that the saponins and polyphenols contained in the husk have exfoliating properties. In 2015 they created a partnership in Bolivia for a sustainable source of the husk that respects biodiversity.

(C) In Brazil in late 2015, L’Oreal’s haircare brand Matrix revamped its Biolage range by using bioplastic (ie, biodegradable plastic) containers made locally with a sugarcane derivative. This is the group’s first bioplastic bottle.

(D) To achieve zero deforestation, L’Oreal said in 2014 that by 2020 at the latest, none of its products will be linked in any way to deforestation, according to Palt.

The link to deforestation is forged partially by the need for palm oil. Palt explains that palm oil is a raw material used in the manufacture of many everyday products. In cosmetics, it has been used for many years for its emollient and foaming properties in hair and body care products.

Currently, L’Oreal sources more than 97% of the palm oil derivatives it needs from Indonesia and Malaysia, Palt says.

Supporting Smallholders

“At L’Oreal the consumption of palm oil remains low. Our ‘palm footprint’ is 0.1% of global palm production. However, even though we are a minor player in the market in terms of volume, we want to be among the most responsible companies in the world and to lead by example on this issue,” Palt says.

In Malaysia, L’Oreal supports SPOTS (Sustainable Palm Oil and Traceability with Sabah small producers), a pioneer project in the market for palm oil derivatives.

Through the project, L’Oreal purchases RSPO-certified (Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil) product from 500 smallholders over five years. This gives the small growers fairer long-term access to the international market, and helps them improve their agricultural practices and living conditions while also preventing deforestation.

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Through L’Oreal’s sustainability programme in Malaysia, growing palm oil enables a family to overcome poverty.

Palt points out that 40% of worldwide palm oil production relies on smallholders, who usually suffer low yields and have difficulty accessing sustainable practices knowledge and the global market.

“In Malaysia growing oil palm can enable a family to overcome poverty in one generation. We consider it our responsibility to develop sustainable palm oil sourcing projects that ensure forests are protected and local development supported.”

In 2015, Palt says L’Oreal launched its first pilot project in Malaysia aiming to support 500 smallholders by 2020 in the Beluran district in Sabah.

Turn to Page 2 to read about RSPO certification and L’Oreal’s production footprint.