In 2017, when the brand Vichy wanted to update its Aqualia Thermal cream, teams were able to rely on a tool developed by parent company L'Oréal, to improve its impact on society and the environment. For example, the formula’s rate of biodegradability has increased from 71% to 97% and the proportion of renewable ingredients has increased from 55% to 95%, thanks to the integration of shea butter from the group’s solidarity sourcing sector. The recyclability of packaging has also been improved by incorporating more recycled glass into the jars’ composition and removing film coating from its casing.
This tool is called SPOT (Sustainable Product Optimisation Tool). It is the result of a two-year collaborative effort between L'Oréal's internal teams and a panel of international experts. Its methodology is based on 14 sustainability criteria, ranging from greenhouse gas emissions to the working conditions of employees and their relationship with local communities.
A benchmark tool
The entire life cycle, from the production of raw materials to the end of lifecycle, is screened through these indicators. These elements are then cross-checked using a multitude of databases measuring the environmental, social and societal risks of materials or geographical areas.
"This requires very good knowledge of the value chain and the most reliable data possible. This has been possible due to the quality of our sourcing, our audits and our relationships with our suppliers," says Alexandra Palt, Chief Corporate Responsibility (CSR) Officer at L'Oréal.
To date, the group prides itself on being the only company to have such a powerful tool, but they are ready to share their experience: "The idea is to encourage others to do the same so that, ultimately, the consumer can compare products with one another," says Alexandra Palt. The methodology is, thus, shared with other manufacturers, specifically as part of a working group on packaging.
Beyond the technical result, the Chief CSR Officer sees SPOT as a powerful tool for company transformation. By systematically using this tool from the design stage or before product renovation, "we change the paradigm by completely transforming our way of thinking and doing," says Palt, "before we had two criteria: consumer satisfaction and economic benefit. Now the CSR dimension is added to all products created or renovated, which means that other services such as R&D or marketing, for example, must fully integrate CSR in their approach...".
Last year, 100% of new products, more than 2,300 inputs, were evaluated thanks to SPOT. This puts the group one step closer to their goal: by 2020, 100% of L'Oréal products must demonstrate an improved environmental and/or social profile.
A communication challenge
Currently, the only setback to the tool is communication: it needs to better communicate with consumers on product sustainability. In recent months, the group has conducted several focus groups with consumers to find out how they want to be informed about the environmental and social impact of products.
"What is very clear is that they do not want this information at the time of purchase,” says Palt, “so we are going to make more data available through our websites. We firmly believe that things will change. And when that day comes, we will be ready!"
Béatrice Héraud @beatriceheraud