EXCLUSIVE: Lancôme Unveils Global Sustainability Program

PARIS – Lancôme is launching its first global sustainability program, called “Caring Together for a Happier Tomorrow,” which emphasizes biodiversity and social inclusion.

The L’Oréal-owned brand’s initiative is built on three axes – protecting biodiversity, helping people to consume sustainably and empowering women – to span all elements of a Lancôme product’s lifecycle

“Lancôme is a brand that has long had a ‘caring’ facet,” Françoise Lehmann, Lancôme global president, told WWD. “It has always been very close to women and their concerns.”

The brand has long been sustainability-minded, too.

This new program is being launched at time of major environmental and societal upheaval driven by the coronavirus pandemic rattling the world.

May 2020 marked the launch of the Lancôme Cares initiative, which has donated more than 200,000 care packs to healthcare workers in over 30 countries.

“Care and happiness are in the DNA of the brand,” continued Lehmann.

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She noted a rise in consumers’ focus on sustainability around the world, including in Asia, where the trend is taking off quickly.

The Lancôme sustainability program’s Bring the World to Bloom component sets out to protect biodiversity, including agricultural practices, eco-conscious formula and packaging, partnerships with institutions, and using green science and biotechnology.

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“What inspired us a lot for this worldwide operation was the acquisition of the domain in Grasse,” said Lehmann, referring to the estate growing Centifolia roses and other aromatic plants in the South of France that the brand purchased last year.

“The more we dig into this domain, the more we find great things and inspiration for other initiatives,” she said. “It has all what we have in mind in terms of best practices.”

That includes organic agrarian practices. Lehmann called the domain a shelter of biodiversity, including rare bird species.

Ninety-nine percent of the roses used in Lancôme’s makeup and skin-care products are organic, and that should reach 100 percent by 2025. That same year, 70 percent of the brand’s product ingredients are to be renewable or from abundant sources, and the use of recycled glass should reach 30 percent of the total.

All of the major raw materials used by Lancôme will come from recycled or bio-based sources by 2030.

Reducing the products’ environmental footprint involves using only what’s needed. So when it comes to Lancôme’s signature rose, for instance, studies are being carried out on all parts of the plant, including the seeds and roots, for cosmetics activity.

“We are researching new extraction methods with green chemistry to create high-performing ingredients,” said Lehmann. “Thanks to biotechnology, we create nature-derived ingredients, which contribute to limiting the use of raw vegetal materials.”

Lancôme is focused on packaging innovation to reduce waste, as well. Over the past two years, it has upped the use of recycled plastics by 57 percent, and by 2030, all of the plastics the brand uses should stem from recycled or bio-based sources.

Lancôme said 100 percent of its major raw materials will be sourced in a socially responsible and sustainable way by 2030.

It is forging a three-year partnership with France’s National Museum of History to protect 24 endangered plant species.

“We need to reach out to and help institutions that are really laying the groundwork on biodiversity,” said Annie Black, Lancôme’s scientific director.

The plan is to collect seeds of endangered plants, which will then be put into seed banks and grown in labs and experimental gardens before being returned to their natural habitat.

The Live Responsibly branch of Lancôme’s sustainability program centers on helping people make sustainable consumption choices with refillable, rechargeable and recyclable options.

Lehmann said that’s been a focus for the past three years. Lancôme’s Absolue Premium brand, for instance, already has a capsule reload system.

Through the Absolue brand since 2018, Lancôme has saved 250 tons of glass, the equivalent of more than two Louvre pyramids. “Next year, we are going to extend this recharge/refill program with the launch of refillable fragrances, and other big pillars in Lancôme’s range will also be refillable,” said Lehmann.

By 2023, half of Lancôme’s products are meant to be refillable or rechargeable.

For recycling, the brand partners with local companies, such as TerraCycle in China, which has allowed for more than 2 million Lancôme product units to be recycled.

Lancôme’s retail assets are now eco-conceived, which helped the brand’s Champs-Élysées flagship be granted LEED gold certification.

The sustainability program’s women’s empowerment initiative is called Write Her Future, which has existed at Lancôme since 2017 with the NGO Care and local nonprofits.

The philanthropic work involves providing women with access to literacy, mentoring and entrepreneurship.

By 2022, 50,000 beneficiaries are expected, versus the about 23,000 in 13 countries today.

“It’s to give women self-confidence,” said Lehmann, of the program.

It is developed on a country-by-country basis, albeit with the same fundamental mission. Last Thursday, Write Her Future was launched in Germany, and China is up next.

Since sustainability is multifaceted, it must be addressed from numerous vantage points, according to Lehmann.

She said Lancôme is a brand traditionally transmitted from mother to daughter.

“There is this idea of approaching the future [with the desire] to leave something better to the next generation, which is also this idea of Happier Tomorrow and doing better with less,” said Lehmann.

She noted a shift toward sustainable luxury consumption.

“People want to be informed,” said Lehmann.

As such, in a few days Lancôme will add a section to its website that shares information on product ingredients linked to consumer concerns.

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