Organizational Change
How to Use Internal Competition to Drive Sustainability Engagement, Innovation Across a Company

As part of L’Oréal’s global sustainability program called Sharing Beauty With All, the company has pledged that by the year 2020, 100 percent of its products will have an environmental or social benefit.

To help make that commitment a reality, L’Oréal is calling on its employees, at every level and across every function, to contribute their own innovative solutions. The L’Oréal Beauty Shaker Awards is the company’s annual internal innovation competition, and in 2014 — the program’s fifth year — sustainability was the name of the game.

The Beauty Shaker Awards aim to recognize employee excellence while fostering the growth of intrapreneurs at every professional level. The Sustainability category, introduced in 2014, encourages employee to submit ideas that will help L’Oréal reach its sustainable development goals, whether by designing more sustainable packaging, finding a new way of helping customers to make sustainable choices or by empowering employees internally to create positive social impact.

We spoke with Assistant Vice President of Corporate Social Responsibility & Sustainability for L’Oréal USA, Jonathan Maher, to learn more about Beauty Shakers and the impact the program has on the business.

What prompted L’Oréal USA to add a sustainability category to the Awards last year?

JM: Each year the category is chosen based on L’Oréal USA’s business priorities. Last year, as part of our company-wide sustainability strategy, Sharing Beauty with All, we felt it was vital to prioritize this area of the business and to place sustainability at the center of this competition that celebrates creativity and excellence. It was so successful that sustainability will now be incorporated as one of the criteria in all award categories.

How big are the Beauty Shakers Awards?

JM: L’Oréal holds the Beauty Shakers Awards program in 12 countries, including all of our biggest markets such as the U.S., France, Canada and Brazil. In each continent it generates great success every year. Empowering our teams to become entrepreneurs in this fun and original format has proven to be a huge win-win for both the individuals and the company, as it enables us to implement employee ideas that are driving business and improving our bottom line.

The teams submit ideas that are inspired and imaginative, and our company supports and works with them to enhance the strongest submissions. In 2014 we received 731 ideas from 1,104 participants spanning across all divisions.

What is the incentive for employees to participate?

JM: There are financial prizes: $20,000 for the Winner, $10,000 for 1st Runner-Up, $5,000 for 2nd Runner-Up, $1,000 for Finalists and $500 for Semi-Finalists. Apart from the financial incentive, finalists and semi-finalists also get the chance to present their ideas to L’Oréal’s executive leadership team; this is a great opportunity for the participants to gain exposure and distinguish themselves. The program presents a unique opportunity for even entry-level employees to present their ideas directly to the L’Oréal USA CEO and to hear his feedback.

Participants are strongly motivated by the prospect of having their creative ideas taken very seriously; they find it’s worth the time and effort, as you can see by the number of proposals we receive every year.

From L’Oréal’s perspective, introducing a sustainability category to Beauty Shakers Awards brings two main benefits to the companyinnovation and employee engagement. Which one was the primary factor?

JM: Since it was the first year, I’d say the sustainability category served first and foremost to engage employees and get the message out about our sustainability commitments. When we created this category, we wanted to emphasize that our sustainability strategy stretches across every function of the group. The award category and its many participants helped to personify our sustainability drive.

Nevertheless, we remain a company that prizes innovation, so I expect in the years to come that even more innovations in sustainability will spring from our Beauty Shakers Award.

What are the criteria for the Sustainability category?

JM: There are six criteria:

  1. Is sustainability or social responsibility, as per Sharing Beauty with All, at the heart of this project?
  2. New-better-different: How do you rate this project in terms of novelty?
  3. Will this idea allow us to reach one or more of our goals in any of the four pillars of Sharing Beauty with All?
  4. How do you rate the potential impact and added value on the business and the organization?
  5. Is the project feasible (calendar, resources needed, cost)?
  6. What is the scope of the project? Is it a small, local idea or can it be rolled out large-scale (national, worldwide)?

After the projects are submitted, the nominations are assessed by a panel of judges comprised of both internal leaders within the company as well as external champions of sustainability. The 2014 judges included Tom Szaky, CEO of TerraCycle; Caryl Stern, President & CEO at US Fund for UNICEF; and Koann Skrzyniarz, Sustainable Brands’ founder & CEO.

Can you share any of the winners of last year’s Sustainability category?

JM: Unfortunately, we can’t divulge as we’re still in the process of implementing some of the ideas. But just to give you an overview, I can say that the project innovations span areas such as how to reduce the quantity of raw materials, reuse products or rethink product components. Many of the projects stem from a Life Cycle Assessment of our products and finding new ways to decrease their environmental impact.

To illustrate Beauty Shakers, we can take as an example a recent project that was implemented. Garnier Green Garden was the outcome of the Garnier and TerraCycle partnership, to build community gardens made from recycled cosmetic materials. The plastic components of the garden, such as raised beds, picnic tables and trash receptacles, are made from recycled beauty waste collected through Garnier's Personal Care and Beauty Brigade.

What’s next for Beauty Shakers?

JM: We’re working on implementing the winning Beauty Shakers projects and of course continuing to make progress towards our commitments in sustainability. We’ve inscribed sustainability in the Beauty Shakers Awards going forward and look forward to all the new innovative ideas from across the company that will help us to innovate and achieve our sustainability commitments.

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