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Like Other Cosmetic Giants, L’Oreal Chases ‘Circular Economy,’ Improved Water/Carbon Footprint

L’Oreal will be striving toward a neutral or positive water footprint for some sites by improving treatment and reuse processes, as well as increasing reuse and recycling of waste by boosting material recovery at all L’Oreal sites. The beauty company is working with Suez, a company that provides solutions for the sustainable management of resources, to create processes that will improve resource management throughout its industrial, administrative and research centers, both in France and worldwide, L’Oreal says.

L’Oreal will also be working with Suez to measure, monitor and optimize energy and water consumption at its sites, and will be looking at implementing energy solutions based on options like generating biomass from waste streams.

The beauty company says that, in the long-term, it will be focusing on becoming a “circular economy” by focusing on biodiversity, ecodesign, digitalization, and material reuse and recovery.

The partnership with Suez will allow L’Oreal to take its environmental work “even further,” by using technology to improve performance, the company says.

‘Circular Cosmetics’

The circular economy has been an increasingly popular phrase in the cosmetics industry. Results from a Pure Strategies survey last December found that top-performing companies, including beauty companies like Unilever and others in the personal care and cosmetics industry, generate twice as much value from circular economy and resource efficiency initiatives compared to their peers. Unilever reported 30% faster growth for its brands with a sustainability purpose, compared to the rest of its business, with these more sustainable products contributing nearly half of the firm’s total growth in 2015. In January, Unilever pledged 100% of its plastic packaging will be fully reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025. And Procter & Gamble, with recycling and environmental management companies TerraCycle as well as Suez, developed the world’s first recyclable shampoo bottle made from up to 25 percent recycled beach plastic.

A slew of recent “sustainable brand” acquisitions by multinationals also appeared to indicate the profitability of these brands and their ability to help the purchasing companies meet their own internal environmental goals. Last year, Unilever bought sustainable household products manufacturer Seventh Generation and SC Johnson purchased the plant-based home and personal care products brand Babyganics.

Some Consumers Think a Circular Cosmetics Economy Isn’t Enough

Despite the significant environmental moves the beauty industry is making, there are other areas within the areas of environment, health and safety that must be addressed, according to some public interest groups. This week, Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, Safer Chemicals Healthy Families, and the US Public Interest Research Group delivered more than 150,000 petition signatures calling on L’Oreal to eliminate “cancer causing chemicals” and to disclose its “secret fragrance chemicals.” Earlier this year, Unilever announced that it would disclose most of its fragrance ingredients by 2018.

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