PARIS — L’Oréal is expanding its mandate to develop eco-friendly products by adopting a “green sciences” approach to research and innovation, while broadening its transparency program linked to formula ingredients.
The world’s largest beauty company on Thursday said that by 2030, 95 percent of the ingredients it uses in products are to come from renewable plant sources, minerals or circular processes. All of the formulas will be conceived to respect aquatic environments by then, too.
L’Oréal said the further shift toward renewable alternatives to petroleum-based ingredients is taking place when protecting the planet is paramount and the coronavirus pandemic is stoking demand for products that are beneficial to health and safe for the environment.
Nicolas Hieronimus, deputy chief executive officer in charge of divisions at L’Oréal, considers that with green sciences the group is starting a new chapter in its research and innovation, a key driving force for the company since its start 112 years ago.
Sustainable innovation, according to Barbara Lavernos, L’Oréal chief research, innovation and technology officer, combines scientific progress with respect for the Earth.
“Indeed, green sciences are profoundly revolutionizing the world,” she said during a press conference. “This opens a fascinating perspective — a new field of possibilities for innovation and, at the same time, a new approach to the circularity of resources.
“We open up this new chapter in research with green sciences, relying on the tremendous progress and innovation brought about by the natural sciences, agronomy, biotechnology, eco-extraction, green chemistry or physical chemistry,” she continued. “This is how we will revisit and reinvent our portfolio of raw materials and formulation, and integrating the principle of circularity will enable us to penetrate new areas of innovation.”
The group will use green sciences for the sustainable cultivation of its product ingredients and the latest technology to extract the natural raw materials.
“We need to consider innovative and sustainable agricultural practices at the very beginning [of the production process], to produce the basic ingredients,” Laurent Gilbert, sustainable innovation director at L’Oréal, told WWD.
Then, most of the basic ingredients will need to be transformed through eco-extractions, bio-fermentation or green chemistry, to be more performing with the least negative impact to the environment.
Developing expertise in green sciences comes with some challenges in regard to formulation.
“The one big challenge for us is to meet consumer expectations,” said Gilbert. “Moving to green sciences and more plant-based ingredients really has to be fully consistent with the type of performance qualities that our consumers are used to having. And even to add more performance.
“There is a lot of progress in biotech, but we need also to work quite a lot with our suppliers, the many start-ups in that field and our internal research in a very open way to be able to do that,” he continued.
In 2020, 80 percent of L’Oréal’s raw materials were easily biodegradable, 59 percent renewable, 34 percent natural or of natural origin, while 29 percent of formula ingredients were made following the principles of green chemistry.
The new product pipeline includes a natural-based mascara, as opposed to classic mascara made with petrochemical polymers and waxes, for instance.
“It’s a huge challenge,” said Gilbert. “Our formulators really had to rediscover everything — how to have this creamy, soft way of applying the mascara” and attaining extended wear without traditional ingredients, which was achieved by using a natural-based polymer made through biotech.
Concurrently, L’Oréal is on a drive to be ever more transparent about its products so that people can make responsible purchases.
As part of this, in March 2019, the group launched the website Inside Our Products to answer questions from the public about ingredients in its formulations and products’ composition. Now accessible in 45 countries, in eight languages, it covers about 1,000 listed ingredients.
The site’s content is being rolled out across the websites of some of L’Oréal’s brands, and this month there will be activations on social media platforms in 20 countries so that consumers can talk to researchers.
Some brands already taking initiatives include L’Oréal Paris, which launched its Other Side transparency program. La Roche-Posay has developed augmented products, with QR codes on packaging enabling consumers to access information on formulas’ ingredients.
In 2013, L’Oréal launched its worldwide sustainability program dubbed Sharing Beauty With All, with goals set for 2020. Those included increasing the use of sustainably sourced and manufactured ingredients.
In June, the group unveiled its new goals for 2030, called L’Oréal for the Future, to bolster sustainability and inclusion commitments.
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