Capgemini discusses sustainability with L’Oréal leader Alexandra Palt

Capgemini discusses sustainability with L’Oréal leader Alexandra Palt

 June 15, 2023

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Capgemini is a great company to join. This prime employer often explores the latest thought leadership, ideas, and insights on issues shaping the future of business and society.

One of these important issues is sustainability. In the race to save the planet, Capgemini brings insights on how to go beyond corporate responsibility to make sustainability a source of value.

Capgemini Research Institute, the company's number one ranked think-tank, discussed sustainability with Alexandra Palt, Corporate Responsibility Officer of L’Oréal and CEO of the Foundation L’Oréal.

Meet L’Oréal leader Alexandra Palt

Capgemini Alexandra Palt

A lawyer by training, specializing in human rights, Alexandra joined L’Oréal in 2012 as Chief Sustainability Officer, and was instrumental in launching the Women4Climate initiative.

Read below Alexandra's views on key sustainability topics, including L’Oréal’s collaborative sustainability journey, via her interview with the Capgemini Research Institute.

Explaining her sustainability role at L’Oréal

As Chief Corporate Responsibility Officer of L’Oréal and CEO of the L’Oréal foundation, Alexandra is responsible for internal business-model transformation, making sure that the company develops a circular economy within the planetary boundaries model. As CEO of the L’Oréal Foundation, Alexandra is in charge of the organizational contribution to tackling the greatest environmental and societal challenges society faces today.

"These two functions present complementary targets. We cannot continue to follow conventional, profit-driven business models; we need an approach that combines two essential elements: internal transformation and mobilization of economic resources for impact investing," explained Alexandra.

Setting ambitious sustainability goals 

When asked about L’Oréal's sustainability journey, Alexandra said: "L’Oréal’s sustainability journey started way back in 2013. We set ambitious sustainability goals throughout our value chain, which focused on reducing the environmental footprint of our products and increasing our social impact. This led to a profound shift in mindset, which prompted all our employees to begin to address these issues. As part of a virtuous circle, this helped us develop our next generation of sustainability targets. By 2020, we had reduced our carbon emissions by 78% from 2005 levels."

"We had reduced the carbon footprint of more than 90% of our products. In 2020, L’Oréal launched L’Oréal for the future program, a strategy that included pledging to respect planetary boundaries. The strategy is based on setting quantifiable, measurable goals to minimize the impact of business operations on the climate, security of water supply, biodiversity, and natural resources, while addressing some of the most urgent social and environmental challenges facing the world. We aim to improve energy efficiency by transitioning to 100% renewable energy by 2025," commented Alexandra.

"And we intend that, by 2030, 100% of our packaging will be either from recycled or bio-based sources. In defining and setting our new targets, we not only focused on reducing emissions and carbon footprints; rather, we went about designing an entirely new, scientifically based business model that will assist us in maintaining our operations within the planetary boundaries. This won’t be easy; it’s a completely circular model that will oblige us to make difficult choices. Sharing responsibility and helping consumers make the right choices," added Alexandra.

Encouraging shared responsibility for sustainability

As a global organization, L’Oréal engages consumers on sustainability by advocating an approach based on shared responsibility.

"We believe it is our responsibility to produce the most environmentally sustainable products. We have started sharing information with consumers on the carbon footprint of our products and their material impact on the environment," said Alexandra.

"We also encourage the consumer to make sustainable choices; they might not be prepared for a major shift in their consumption behavior, such as refilling or recharging, rather than buying new every time. So, the onus is on us to help them make these choices. There are various strategies that can help us do this; for instance, by making refilling and recharging available in the most impactful categories; by encouraging specific behaviors through price discounts; and through nudges [using environmental factors such as in-store signage and advertising to subtly influence behaviors]."

Collaborating on forging a sustainable planet 

Alexandra also explained how the company balances the pros and cons of the collective approach initiated by L’Oréal through the EBS Consortium in a highly competitive industry. 

"As we strive for global sustainability, some things belong to a non-competitive space. There will be no business to compete for in a world where consumption is no longer possible. The challenge for us is not to occupy the leadership position, but how we can facilitate shared progress in a limited timeframe. Through the EBS, we can hold discussions across the industry about how to achieve sustainability and protect the environment without curbing our commercial ambition," described Alexandra.

Alexandra lays out the key success factors in fruitful collaboration: "There must be a shared vision, and a willingness to look for common ground. We need to understand the realities of the climate crisis and align targets to maximum effect. By doing this, we can preserve our industry and continue to operate, create, and grow within the planetary boundaries."

Pursuing scientifically based innovation 

When asked whether innovation or behavioral change will be the greater driver of the transition, Alexandra said: "In order to overcome the challenges we face, we will need to pursue scientifically based innovation. It is the responsibility of organizational leaders to foster this approach. For the past half-century or so, since the climate became a topic of concern, people have reassured themselves by saying, “We will find a technological solution, we will find a scientific solution.” But, to date, one hasn’t been found. Even when someone does come up with a viable solution, that will only be half the battle, because we will need to find the financing to realize it."

"Technology will be part of the solution, but only if we start to innovate with sustainability as the goal. Likewise, science will help us, but we will also have to change our consumption behaviors. Businesses need to accept that they are not just carrying on with business as usual, with a few green tweaks; they are looking at wholesale change of the business model. It doesn’t matter how much it costs to do it, either; the cost of not acting will be infinitely greater," commented Alexandra.

Making the transition fair for everyone  

Alexandra shared more about the just transition concept.

"We still operate in a system that only works for a minority. Most of the global population lives in poverty and suffers from a lack of decent living conditions. As long as this situation persists, the environmental transition is going to be uneven. We have to work together as a global society to provide populations with basic living essentials, so that they can then become invested in environmental issues. One of the most important issues is fair pay – it’s not just about our employees but also our value chain. Our suppliers have to pay a living wage," said Alexandra.

"But what is a living wage? A living wage is a salary that allows a person working in the value chain to cover their basic needs and the basic needs of their dependents. Unfortunately, a lot of companies don’t consider this their responsibility. So, L’Oréal has decided not only to pay a living wage to our employees, but also to work with suppliers, where necessary, to help them do the same. By 2030, all our strategic suppliers will be paying living wages to employees in their value chain if they want to continue to work with us. Climate change is not a local issue, it’s a planetary issue. We have to take vital decisions now, both individually and collectively," added Alexandra.

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