‘We are a feminist company,’ says L’Oréal top official

Alexandra Palt talks to Arab News en franҫais in an exclusive interview.
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Updated 14 October 2021

‘We are a feminist company,’ says L’Oréal top official

‘We are a feminist company,’ says L’Oréal top official
  • ‘Nobody wants to be alone in fighting climate change’
  • ‘Climate change is not a local issue, it’s a global issue’

In an interview with Arab News en franҫais, Alexandra Palt takes us through L’Oréal’s business strategy and the impact of sustainability and climate change, the role of women in business, and how corporates need to involve and empower consumers to make more conscious and sustainable decisions.

The importance of sustainability to L’Oréal’s overarching business strategy

Sustainability is part of L’Oréal’s strategic orientation. In 2013, Jean-Paul Agon, CEO of L’Oréal, announced two major transformations of the 21st century, the digital transformation, and the sustainable transformation. The latter was integrated, not as an initiative or project, but rather as a transformation of the business model. A commitment to live up to challenges that humanity faces today.

L’Oréal achieved its first generation of sustainability targets by 2020. The company outperformed its initial 60 percent target for industrial activity, to record an 80 percent reduction in carbon emission, and improved the environmental footprint of 95 percent of its products, up from 85 percent in 2019.

By 2025, 100 percent of the group’s sites (factories, distribution centers, offices, and research centers) will be carbon neutral, and using 100 percent renewable energy.

By 2030, 95 percent of L’Oréal’s ingredients will come from bio-based sources, and 100 percent of the plastic used in L’Oréal’s products’ packaging will come from recycled plastic.

In May 2020, the group launched its €150 million ($173.45 million) sustainability program, “L’Oréal for the Future,” a more radical transformation toward an increasingly sustainable business model, contributing to solve some of the environmental and social challenges the world faces today. Allocating €100 million to impact investing, through L’Oréal Fund for Nature Regeneration, to finance damaged natural marine and forest ecosystems restoration projects as well as financing projects linked to the circular economy.
L’Oréal also created a €50 million charitable endowment fund, to help vulnerable women achieve social and professional integration, prevent violence, and provide emergency assistance.

A transformation, driven by the highest level of governance, “The board at L’Oréal is committed to sustainability which thrives us in the right direction.” says Alexandra Palt.

A transformation from the core of the group and its impact on supply chain

Following L’Oréal’s commitment to improve the environmental footprint of 100 percent of its products back in 2013, every new product introduced to the market, has its environmental footprint evaluated, considering the formula, packaging, fabrication, and supply chain. Every product developer and marketer, uses the SPOT tool (Sustainable Product Optimization tool) in this evaluation, to determine the product’s environmental score.

Engaging employees in the process, creating a culture geared towards improving the environmental footprint, and including it as a performance metric, enables an organic change and a change in mindsets. The transformation is happening form the core by integrating sustainability in day-to-day operations.

The change in mindsets also applies to the supply chain. On this front, L’Oréal had been doing social audits on its supply chain, conducting more than 3000 audits per year, since 2000, ensuring that the supply chain is ethical, responsible, and sustainable.

“Sustainability is in changing the way you do your job. It’s not just adding a label indicating that the product is ethically produced, or environment friendly,” said Palt. Sustainability leads to more innovations across solid cosmetics and new materials of packaging, refilleries and recharge.

L’Oréal’s relationship with suppliers starts with a mutual ethical commitment letter in line with the group’s values, ethical principles and commitment to society and the environment. Partnerships with suppliers also exist to accompany them in building a sustainability strategy and to reduce their carbon emissions. Through its solidarity sourcing program, L’Oréal also works with organizations, employing people from underprivileged communities or fair-trade communities. The various processes are analysed by independent auditors.

Women in business, expo 2020 and the role of women in the region

“At L’Oréal, we are a feminist company,” says Alexandra Palt to highlight that more than 50 percent of L’Oréal’s board members are women, more than half of its brands are led by women, and around 60 percent of managerial positions are held by women. “You can ask women to come to your building, or you can say “we build together.”

The commitment is to empower women in every field: women in science through the Fondation L’Oréal, and women in climate through the L’Oréal brand and Stand Up training sessions, the latest held at the Expo 2020 Dubai, and Burj Khalifa to help raise awareness and combat street harassment, as women will be disproportionately affected by climate change.

During her stay in Dubai for Expo 2020, Alexandra Palt met “incredible, powerful, strong, resilient women. I was impressed by my colleagues, the teams, the women I met in conferences. It is important to listen to women and understand their situation to better respond to their needs, instead of defining their needs.”

Consumer awareness about sustainability

Consumers aspire for sustainability and for sustainable products, but available options in the market can be luring. “We have a mutual responsibility. Consumers to push us to bring them more sustainable products but they also need to change their behavior,” says L’Oréal official.

“People should understand that there is no other option. Either we do this, and we come to a decarbonated economy, or COVID-19 was a small crisis compared to what is coming. The question is not how much it will cost, but how much will it cost if we don’t do it.”

The target is in reaching a safer operating space for humanity that will otherwise face social unrest, and increased disparity for the already underprivileged.

The dynamics of the industry

There is an increasing movement of the private economy towards sustainability, particularly in Europe and in the US. “Nobody wants to be alone in fighting climate change,” Palt said.

L’Oréal aims to have all its activity within the planetary boundaries by 2030. The Glasgow meeting is the next opportunity for action, not only for renewed commitments. “Climate change is not a local issue, it’s a planetary issue. We have to take necessary decisions now, individually and collectively.”

The French version of this story can be read on Arab News en Français

Desperate for employees, US businesses struggle to hire

Desperate for employees, US businesses struggle to hire
Updated 9 sec ago

Desperate for employees, US businesses struggle to hire

Desperate for employees, US businesses struggle to hire
  • More than 10 million jobs were unfilled as of the end of August, according to government data

NEW YORK: To keep the taps at his recently opened beer tasting room flowing, Peter Chekijian had no choice but to ask his main employees to come in seven days per-week.
The staffing shortage has also kept Chekijian from realizing his goal of brewing beer on site, since he can’t find contractors to finish installing tanks he requires.
“That’s been a big issue of getting people to actually finish up the job,” said Chekijian, who co-founded the small Twin Fork Beer Company in New York state.
Even as millions of Americans who lost their jobs to the Covid-19 pandemic have returned to work, companies nationwide report they’re still struggling to hire employees in recent months.
More than 10 million jobs were unfilled as of the end of August, according to government data. The labor force participation rate, which measures the US economy’s active workforce, was 61.6 percent in September, compared to 63.3 percent before the pandemic.
The causes of the short staffing are myriad, from continued fears of contracting Covid-19, particularly among people who live with elderly family or children, to early retirements and objections over work-life balance and low wages.
And while the government throughout the pandemic offered generous unemployment benefits to keep people who lost their job financially sound, their expiration last month hasn’t yet caused hiring to increase.

The employee shortages come as restaurants and entertainment venues reopen amid as more Americans get vaccinated, and ahead of the uptick in business around the holiday season.
With “so many employers trying to hire so many people at the same time, it creates that imbalance,” said Aaron Sojourner, an economist at the University of Minnesota.
Employers who spoke to AFP told of mad scrambles to attract applicants by offering higher wages and other perks.
Chekijian has put out ads looking for employees and attended job fairs with offers of time off, benefits packages and salaries as generous as he can manage, but still can’t find the people he needs.
“It’s been shockingly slow,” he said. “It’s definitely affecting what we’re trying to do in terms of growing our business.”
The biggest American retailers are hiring staff ahead of the holiday season, with Amazon and Walmart both recruiting 150,000 people, Target and UPS taking on 100,000 and FedEx 90,000.
Logistics company GXO is looking to hire 9,000 employees for the busy season over the next two months, and its head of human resources Maryclaire Hammond said “finding people has been a huge issue.”
“There is a massive competition for talent at all levels, there is an absolute war,” she said in an interview.

GXO is particularly short on material handlers and forklift operators, and has paid for billboards and social media advertisements and organized job fairs to attract applications.
It has upped its pay by $3 to $5 per-hour in the past eight months and offered hiring incentives and a benefits package including health insurance, retirement contributions and college tuition assistance.
But Hammond said getting people to stay is even trickier.
“The current workforce is pretty fickle, happy to change,” she said. If a warehouse nearby pays even slightly more, employees will move there.
The company has tried to make workers feel comfortable, even going so far as to hand out burritos at some warehouses.
“Offering very good burritos in the mornings, it sounds silly, but things like that really motivate people,” Hammond said.
It has also tried to find ways around the worker shortages by increasing automation in its warehouses by 40 percent this year.
Staci Weinsheimer is looking for a full-time administrative job and feels that the market is finally turning in her favor.
“I’m getting a lot of interviews, I’m getting a lot of great feedback from the employers,” she said after meeting with hospitality companies at a job fair in Melville, New York.
Some job seekers still struggle to find work, or question whether companies will treat them well.
“Employers could be spending more money to attract new hires, and to improve working conditions. Those who do that find it easier to hire,” Sojourner, the University of Minnesota economist, said.
He added: “But a lot of employers are reluctant to really raise wages, because that does come out of their profits, and then the incumbent employees might also want a raise.”

World leaders, environmentalists welcome Saudi Green Initiative

World leaders, environmentalists welcome Saudi Green Initiative
Updated 24 October 2021

World leaders, environmentalists welcome Saudi Green Initiative

World leaders, environmentalists welcome Saudi Green Initiative

CAIRO: The Saudi Green Initiative launched by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was widely welcomed by world leaders and leading environmentalists.
The SGI aims to eliminate 278 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year by 2030, up from a previous target of 130 million tons. The crown prince said the SGI initiative would involve investments of over SR700 billion ($190 billion) in that time period.

In a video message played at the forum on Saturday, Prince Charles said: “We have already seen great progress, which Saudi and Middle East green initiatives will accelerate.” 
“We now have a dangerously narrow window of opportunity to accelerate climate change action,” the prince of Wales added. 
Boris Johnson tweeted: “Saudi Arabia’s landmark pledge to reach net zero emissions by 2060 is a major step forward.”

Marco Lambertini, director general of WWF International stressed the need to agree on a global goal for nature as “we have for climate — we need to talk about net positive biodiversity.”
“Only 20 percent of the companies within the G20 countries have climate targets,” said Sanda Ojiambo, CEO and executive director of the UN. 
“We are all committed to lowering carbon emissions — each country with its own implementation program,” Tarek El-Molla, Egypt’s minister of petroleum and mineral resources said. 
US climate envoy John Kerry is due to attend a wider Middle East green summit in Riyadh on Monday.

“An initiative of the (Saudi) crown prince, the summit is the first of its kind in the Middle East region,” the Pakistan’s Prime Minister Office said in a statement said.
Imran Khan is visiting Saudi Arabia to attend the launch of “the Middle East Green Initiative Summit” in Riyadh.

SABIC announces carbon neutrality strategy at inaugural Saudi Green Initiative forum

SABIC announces carbon neutrality strategy at inaugural Saudi Green Initiative forum
Updated 23 October 2021

SABIC announces carbon neutrality strategy at inaugural Saudi Green Initiative forum

SABIC announces carbon neutrality strategy at inaugural Saudi Green Initiative forum
  • SABIC and 10 peer companies will work together to share early-stage risks and co-invest in developing and upscaling LCETs

RIYADH: SABIC unveiled its global strategy towards carbon neutrality at the inaugural Saudi Green Initiative in Riyadh on Saturday.

The event was attended by a high-level delegation from the company who joined international heads of state and global leaders of business, finance, and civil society to discuss Saudi Arabia’s vision for tackling environmental challenges.

SABIC chairman, Khalid Hashim Al-Dabbagh, said: “The SGI provides an ambitious framework aimed towards the shared goal of achieving a green future. SABIC is an active contributor to several strategic initiatives announced today, including those geared towards the production of hydrogen, reusing captured carbon, and recycling plastics.”
He added: “At SABIC, we recognize the power of collaboration to improve and protect the quality of life for the next generations. Sustainability is in our DNA and we’re pleased to contribute innovative technologies that will accelerate our journey towards carbon neutrality.”

SABIC’s Vice Chairman and CEO Yousef Al-Benyan joined an industry panel at the event to discuss the scaling up of new technologies and reasserted the company’s global commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and pursue carbon neutrality. 

He said that “SABIC is uniquely contributing to the SGI goals and taking bold actions that support the Kingdom’s ambitions for the circular carbon economy. Our global carbon neutrality strategy reaffirms our commitment to the Paris Agreement goals and the continuous pursuit of solutions that can reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

He added: “Many countries are competing for position as the world looks to broaden its energy mix and reduce carbon emissions. The foresight of Vision 2030, our abundant renewable resources and the innovative advances made by Saudi Arabian companies are making circularity a reality, placing the Kingdom in pole position to lead the new energy revolution.”

During the session, he outlined SABIC’s key circular innovations and collaborative efforts to transform energy intensive industry towards renewables, and being a founding member of the Low Carbon Emitting Technologies (LCET) initiative with the World Economic Forum. 

In this collaboration, SABIC and 10 peer companies will work together to share early-stage risks and co-invest in developing and upscaling LCETs.

SABIC is also partnering in the development of the world’s first large-scale chemical site to operate on 100 percent renewable power and, in a different project, developing solutions for electrically heated steam cracker furnaces which could reduce emissions by up to 90 percent.

Al-Benyan also highlighted some of the company’s accomplishments including the demonstration of the blue ammonia supply chain and the development of the world’s largest CO2 capture and purification plant. Based in Jubail and operational from 2015, the pioneering facility can process up to 500,000 megatons of CO2 per year into feedstock for industrial processes.

The company’s range of certified renewable polymers are providing an important bridge for the value chain to evolve from a linear to a circular economy and its landmark plastic chemical recycling processes contribute to CO2 reduction by preventing the incineration of plastic waste.

SGI offers immense opportunities in recycling, waste management sectors

SGI offers immense opportunities in recycling, waste management sectors
Updated 23 October 2021

SGI offers immense opportunities in recycling, waste management sectors

SGI offers immense opportunities in recycling, waste management sectors

RIYADH: The Saudi Green Initiative is a great opportunity to create new ways of managing our industries, said Mohammed Alibrahim, Saudi Arabia’s assistant minister for oil and gas.

Speaking at a panel discussed titled “Carbon-intensive industries: Transitioning fast, at scale” held in Riyadh on Saturday, he said the circular carbon economy is at the heart of the initiative.

He said before the launch of the green initiative, the Kingdom already embarked on an ambitious drive to improve energy efficiency in its industrial sector and achieved encouraging results. He said the chemicals, steel, and cement industries in the Kingdom have reduced emissions by about 4 million tonnes per annum.

The assistant minister said the new initiative offers several investment opportunities in recycling and waste management.

For example, he added, SABIC has already built a plant to capture 500,000 tons of carbon dioxide per annum, the gas is then purified and used to produce more chemicals and for many other purposes in different sectors, Alibrahim said.

He said the Saudi Green Initiative and the circle of carbon economy allow us to utilize carbon as a resource rather than looking at it as a problem.

“We have targets to product green hydrogen and blue hydrogen to convert it into blue ammonia, we already shipped ammonia to Japan last year and and we have a plan to expand on that.”

“We don’t want to focus on a certain type of technology.”

Paddy Padmanathan, CEO of ACWA Power, said: “The pathway is ultimately green hydrogen, the real need is energy and even that will be needing electricity, basic ingredient is already available.” 

He called on all stakeholders to create a supporting ecosystem.

“We can really transform industrial consumption when we bring hydrogen costs down to below $2 per kilo and it is achievable.”

Jasper Graf von Hardenberg, co-founder and group CEO of Daystar, US, said: “Saudi Arabia has bigger responsibility, it can become the world No.1 producer of green hydrogen.”

Morten Dyrholm, GSVP for MarCom, Sustainability and Public Affairs, Vestas Wind Systems A/S, Denmark, said: “With this plan Saudi Arabia is placing itself at the center and we want to be part of this journey.”

“As companies we need to take responsibilities with targets of net zero emissions through production.”

“Now with all policies coming up in Saudi Arabia there are signals that the Kingdom is heading to become more sustainable.”

NEOM will be ready to welcome tourists and investors by 2024: CEO

NEOM will be ready to welcome tourists and investors by 2024: CEO
Updated 24 October 2021

NEOM will be ready to welcome tourists and investors by 2024: CEO

NEOM will be ready to welcome tourists and investors by 2024: CEO

The city of NEOM will be ready by 2024 to receive tourists and investors, the CEO of the project has announced.

“We spent two years transforming the vision into a strategy, as this strategy concerns all sectors of NEOM,” Nadhmi Al-nasr said in an interview with Asharq.

"We finished last year with strategies, then moved on to planning and implementation and now we have entered the implementation phase,” Al-Nasr added.

NEOM is set to is located on the Red Sea coast in the northwest of Saudi Arabia, and is set to be totally powered by renewable energy sources.