By ISABELLA OLIVARES
Beauty. It’s the big B word that everyone wants to hear and the characteristic that everyone wants to have.
More often than not, the word “beauty” is used to describe physical appearance. And who wouldn’t want to be considered beautiful? Every morning, we dress ourselves up, put on makeup and fix our hair in hopes of looking our very best throughout the day. At night, we go through the multiple stages of our skincare routines and try to catch some shut eye to keep ourselves looking fresh the next day.
In L’Oréal—one of the world’s largest cosmetics company—beauty takes on a meaning that runs deeper than our skin. For the company, it is something that encompasses how the world looks, lives and feels, and is something that should be shared with everyone. That is why its sustainability program is aptly called “Sharing Beauty With All.” With a target date of 2020, the program aims to promote sustainability in the environment, lifestyle and livelihood within the company and amongst their customers.
In line with the latter part of the advocacy is Beauty for a Better Life, a livelihood program that aims to train people from underprivileged communities and help them develop professional skills—from hairstyling to make-up—that gives them access to employment in the beauty industry. It was launched in Marikina just last year, making the Philippines the 26th country to be part of the program. The first batch of 15 students graduated on July 25 after three months worth of lessons, and the second graduated in November.
But there’s much more in store for the Philippines, so we had a short chat with Carmel Valencia, L’Oréal’s head of Corporate Communication, Public Affairs and Sustainability, about the company’s next steps in its fight for sustainability.
Do you have news on the progress of the Filipino graduates of Beauty for a Better Life in the professional world? Does L’Oréal Philippines keep track of them after graduation?
Beauty For a Better Life is a strong commitment and output of the positive social impact that beauty can bring to communities.
We measure impact and see progress in several key areas. For our graduates and their families, the biggest impact of the program has been an increase in financial capacity. What once was a household with one breadwinner is now a family of two parents earning for the household. Another progress we see is the emotional shift for the graduates: the program has been a real chance at self respect, dignity, and motivation. Progress in these two areas for us represents a major change in the graduates and in turn their families, allowing them all to live better lives.
The graduates of our first batch have gone on to one of two paths: as salon employees or as micro entrepreneurs (owners of their own home service business). Both paths allow these graduates to earn additional income for their families. It has given them pride and a sense of accomplishment by bringing in money to support their family’s needs.
One of the program’s ambitions is to ensure that beauty education opens new doors to a better and more sustainable future for the graduates and their families. For many of them, this means long-term employment and financial stability. We continue to track the development of our students within two years after their graduation from the program to evaluate at which critical stages support is required.
The assistance and support we provide come in different ways—identifying employment opportunities with our partner salons (some of them have also accepted our girls for internship prior to graduation), assisting them with their requirements, or enabling them to get a professional government certification when they complete their training.
In other countries where Beauty For a Better Life has been running for several years, graduates often return back to the program as teachers. We are also open to this possibility as we expand our training centers across other regions, and cover more communities in need.
One of the four key areas of Sharing Beauty with All is sustainable living, which aims to promote sustainable consumption choices amongst the consumers. How is this being communicated to the Filipino audience, considering that the Philippines is a huge consumer of plastic products and for lacks in proper waste management of plastic (it’s one of the biggest contributors to water pollution in the country)?
Our global Sharing Beauty With All commitment is consciously communicated and shared to stakeholders so we can collectively achieve our sustainability ambitions.
Consumption habits take time to influence, but we believe it is not impossible to change. It will take an effort from actors across the entire value chain to rethink plastic production, reduce plastic consumption, and finally, ensure proper waste management.
At a global level, we are already working on key actions to affect change in the way consumers understand their role in the consumption process. Since 2013, L’Oréal has been conducting quantitative and qualitative studies to gain a better understanding of the expectations of consumers and identify the most engaging way of getting them involved in sustainable development issues. At the end of 2016, a consumer advisory committee was set up, consisting of three consumer sustainability panels and bringing together around ten people with a variety of social and cultural profiles, who met in France, in Paris, Lyon and Bordeaux. In addition, a quantitative survey of 1,000 people was carried out. Their perspectives and suggestions within this framework have madeit possible to adapt the action plan for 2017 onwards.
What are the challenges that you face in trying to promote the idea of sustainable and consciously ethical consumer choices in the Philippines?
Filipinos generally have a high awareness of their choices as consumers, and today the market is allowing these options to be available and accessible. Sustainability means looking at an entire value chain and consciously making choices in each step of the process. It can start with a singular action, but it will take the cooperation of multiple stakeholders in order for the entire value chain to be sustainable – and this collaboration and understanding across all actors is where challenges can occur.
What are the other issues specific to the Philippines does L’Oreal wish to tackle in their CSR programs?
In our role as a great corporate citizen, we ensure that our sustainability ambitions and actions align itself with key issues identified by our nation. We have prioritiezed livelihood programs, as we know the impact this can have on marginalized individuals and the overall change it can bring to Filipino families.
From an environmental standpoint, waste management is a key issue that we will be addressing—we have implemented efforts with partners to reduce waste and any harmful environmental impact. Over the last few years, we have been working closely with Holcim to reduce our overall impact on waste generation. Using their cement kiln co-processing (process of thermal treatment of qualified waste materials and the production of clinker—the main ingredient in the manufacture of cement) we ensure complete destruction of acceptable waste and compliance to regulatory requirements.
L’Oreal Philippines is collaborating with other groups such as Haribon Foundation, Habitat for Humanity, Virlanie Foundation and Life Project 4 Youth. What types of projects can we expect from these collaborations?
Every year L’Oreal teams across the world celebrate Citizen Day, which is an opportunity for employees to contribute back to communities. L’Oreal Philippines is one of the many countries that have expanded this tradition by introducing Citizen Time, covering not just a day of volunteering but allowing access for employees throughout the year to give back in different ways and with different communities.
Through Citizen Time, we collaborate with organizations such as Virlanie, ACAY, Life Project 4 Youth, etc. and allow employees a chance to give back in a way that means the most to them. Employees can decide which organization to collaborate with during the year, and have a half-day of volunteering every month (equivalent to up to six days within a year).
Some example of our projects: we are partners with Life Project 4 Youth in hosting their two-day Company Visits. It is beneficial for both teams—as their beneficiaries visit and experience the corporate environment, our employees share their time during the visit by teaching them how to make resumes, conducting job interviews or sharing their career story. In our partnership with Haribon and Habitat for Humanity, employees have access to environmental activities and building houses depending on the priorities of our partner organizations.
Our projects with these organizations cover some of the key advocacies that L’Oreal globally supports, such as intergenerational solidarity, access to employment, environment, disability and fight against exclusion.