We recently caught up with Al Iannuzzi, Vice President, Sustainability at The Estée Lauder Companies, at last month's Member Meeting and CMO Summit in New York City.
During the event's dinner, sponsored by Estée Lauder Companies, Al shared the progress they've made on their greenhouse gas emissions and climate and energy goals.
Keep reading to learn what Al’s excited about now and how he made the transition from potential forest ranger to leading sustainability strategy at a prestige beauty company.
SB: What project are you most excited about right now?
Al: I’m excited about our new, comprehensive sustainability goals that we released last March and sharing the progress we’ve made in our recently released sustainability report. I’m particularly happy to share the goals regarding our greenhouse gas emissions and climate and energy program.
Most recently, we announced that we are the first prestige beauty company to sign a virtual power purchase agreement for the Ponderosa wind farm in Beaver County, Oklahoma. The VPPA is our largest renewable energy contract globally and will cover more than half of our company’s global electricity footprint with renewable energy technologies, putting us on target to meet our global 2020 RE100 commitment.
Last March, we set a goal to develop science-based targets for our Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions. We’re working with a large cross-section of different functions within the company to develop these targets, including folks from Procurement, Environmental Affairs and Safety, R&D and more. We’re very excited about this commitment and the collaboration it has promoted across the organization.
I’m happy to share that, through the renewable energy solutions in our portfolio, The Estée Lauder Companies has achieved our 2020 commitment to source 100% renewable electricity (RE100) in the U.S. and Canada ahead of schedule.
Our global goal is to reach net-zero carbon emissions and 100 percent renewable energy for our electricity by 2020. To that end, we are about to install solar arrays in our large manufacturing and innovation center in Long Island, New York, and in our Aveda brand headquarters in Blaine, Minnesota. These are in addition to other locations where solar energy has already been implemented.
Since my college years, solar energy has always been an interesting topic for me. After college, I aspired to work in that field. Even though that did not exactly pan out, I’m grateful that it didn’t. Now, I have a much broader sustainability role, which also allows me to oversee the climate and energy programs that I enjoy.
SB: How is social or environmental innovation driving value for your business?
Al: Embedding sustainability into the entire enterprise drives value because there is a strong demand for it from our stakeholders—consumers are requesting sustainable products and packaging, shareholders want to ensure that our organization acts as a good citizen, and strong sustainability performance is necessary to be included in ESG funds. Everyone has an interest in sustainability topics, including our Generation Z employees.
For these reasons and more, we, as a corporation, made sustainability a strategic objective. The competition for talent is very high, and one of the main drivers in selecting an employer is whether or not the organization puts sustainability at its core.
Regarding sustainability in our products, last March we set a goal to make our packaging more sustainable without compromising the prestige and luxury feel that our brand inspires. It has been an exciting challenge to find the right solution for sustainable and recyclable packaging.
SB: What inspires and drives you to work on sustainability?
Al: I grew up in northeast New Jersey, which is probably one of the most densely populated parts of the country, but would escape to my family’s summer home in the Pocono Mountains.
My love for the outdoors and the desire to protect the environment influenced my decision to pursue an undergraduate degree in environmental science
I enjoy being surrounded by mountains, lakes and streams, and I’m inspired by their natural beauty. This is really why I got involved in the field and is what motivates me to this day.
SB: Can you share something about yourself that would surprise us? Any hidden talents?
Al: When I started college, I wanted to become a forest ranger. My dream was to live in the forest, and I didn’t care if there wasn’t a lot of money in that.
I still remember speaking with a career counselor at the beginning of my college years and being made aware of the fact that there weren’t a lot of jobs in forestry. Instead, he suggested I pursue pollution control. That sounded like a good plan, and without thinking too much about it, I set off on that course. It ultimately led me to where I am today.
After working for many years in corporate sustainability, including my last job of 23 years at Johnson & Johnson, it dawned on me just how important sustainability is becoming to businesses. That’s something I never would have imagined when I first started. In addition to focusing on regulatory compliance, sustainability is just as critical to business success. And look at where we are today!
SB: If you had unlimited time and resources, on what type of work would you want to collaborate with fellow SB Members?
Al: I value attending SB conferences and Member Meetings and learning about what other companies are working on. It gives me an opportunity to validate our own internal approach at The Estée Lauder Companies and to get inspired.
Specifically, I would like to learn what other companies are doing around innovative product and packaging design. I wrote a book, Greener Products, highlighting case studies of what leading companies are doing to make their products more sustainable. I'm always very interested in hearing about different design innovation approaches and am inspired by what others are doing.
SB: Anything else you'd like to share with fellow SB Members?
Al: I just appreciate being able to learn from one another. This is a constantly moving, fast-paced field. There's always something new and staying ahead of emerging issues is critical to our team’s success. Always hearing something new from other leaders is invaluable to me.