Multinational companies enjoy rosy opportunities for sustainable development in China

By Sheng Chuyi (People's Daily Online) 15:09, November 02, 2023

Beauty is an essential human need. However, the pursuit of beauty has had adverse effects on the environment due to the beauty industry's heavy reliance on plastics and use of chemical ingredients.

As green development emerges as a prevailing theme of the era, beauty and the pursuit of it has taken on a new definition. Amid this trend, the beauty industry in China is making real efforts to reduce its ecological footprint, driving the shift towards green production and green consumption.

L'Oréal is a case in point. Entering Chinese Mainland in 1997, this influential beauty giant is striving to be a part of China's carbon reduction efforts by engaging the whole industrial chain in sustainable consumption. In China, many multinational companies have followed L'Oréal's suit, making a solemn commitment to safeguarding the earth's beauty.

Integrating sustainability with the whole industrial chain

Fabrice Megarbane, the President of L'Oréal North Asia and CEO of L'Oréal China, told People's Daily online in an exclusive interview that the key to sustainability lies in the joint efforts of the upstream and downstream of industrial chains.

“Upstream is all about ourselves,” said Fabrice. Starting its first transformation journey as early as in 2013, L'Oréal highly values making a positive and green footprint part of the brand's innovation process. For instance, its Water Saver can save up to 69% of water through the use of patented water fragmentation technology, which goes a long way to preserving water resources.

Meanwhile, L'Oréal has extended its sustainability practice to the downstream part and invited its global and local partners, retailers and consumers to join this effort. With parcel delivery in e-commerce now becoming a major global polluter, L'Oréal is piloting new initiatives with Alibaba's Cainiao with an eye to encouraging consumers to use circular parcels.

The role of consumers shouldn't be underestimated. Last year, L'Oréal launched a Product Impact Labelling system. “It enlightens consumers on each product’s environmental and social impact with a ABCDE rating, it gives an accurate vision of the impact of a L'Oréal product by taking into account 14 planetary impact factors such as greenhouse gas emissions, water scarcity, ocean acidification or impact on biodiversity, measured at every stage of a product's life cycle,” Fabrice explained. It is considered a milestone event in L'Oréal’s transformation efforts, and reminds consumers how their choices can make a difference to the environment.

Joining in China's carbon reduction drive

China's “dual carbon” goals of reaching carbon emissions peak by 2030 and achieving carbon neutrality by 2060 have further catalyzed multinational companies to pursue green production and development.

There is no doubt that L'Oréal is a trailblazer in this regard. “The China market was the first market from the group to be carbon neutral back in June 2019. Today, the zone that I'm in charge of, North Asia, was carbon neutral in summer 2022,” Fabrice noted. This remarkable progress is inseparable from the support of the Chinese government. For instance, in Suzhou, L'Oréal is supported by local authorities to adopt biogas as a renewable energy and to utilize solar panels.

Just as Fabrice said, “it's a lot of partnership to bring us to this level.” Partnership is a keyword in L'Oréal’s decarbonization campaign. A.P. Label was one of the first suppliers to join L'Oréal’s pilot decarbonization project and its Suzhou factory successfully became carbon neutral. This April, L'Oréal signed a memorandum of understanding with Alibaba to promote a circular economy in China's beauty industry.

Riding the ESG wave

The concept of ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) was raised in 2005 to strengthen companies' social and environmental responsibilities, and has gained increasing weight in today's business world. Amid the ESG trend, multinational companies, which have greater influence across the globe, stand willing to contribute their fair share to sustainable development.

L'Oréal reacted positively to the call by launching the Solidarity Sourcing program in 2010, a social and inclusive purchasing program. From offering opportunities to people from vulnerable communities to promoting women’s economic empowerment, this program has set a model for other multinational companies to shoulder social responsibilities.

“I think that it's also a co-development world in that you can't make it alone. So multinationals have to open up to cooperate and collaborate further,” said Fabrice. Standing at the crossroads of the times, multinational companies are expected to seek more possibilities for sustainable development in China, and create the beauty that moves the world.

(Guo Siqi, as an intern, also contributed to this article.)

(Web editor: Sheng Chuyi, Wu Chengliang)


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