by: Danielle Azoulay, AVP of CSR & Sustainability for L’Oréal USA
I was 12 years old when Hurricane Andrew blew the roof off my Miami house. Huddled under mattresses, my family and I scuttled around our living room looking for somewhere to hide, while debris was falling overhead. Now living in New York City, I naively thought that I had traded tropical hurricanes for winter snowstorms, but when tropical storm Irene and Superstorm Sandy hit, that notion proved untrue.
This hurricane season, storms were measurably larger and more destructive than in previous years, carrying more moisture while also moving through communities more slowly. During hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, we experienced flooding beyond the typical storm surge from an unprecedented amount of relentless rainfall. It will take the affected communities years to recover from the trail of devastation left in the wake of these storms. So far, some low cost estimates for Hurricanes Irma and Harvey are over $150 billion.
By now, the link between these superstorms and climate change is well established, scientifically. The American public is in majority agreement accepting the reality of climate change. Only 14% of Americans actively believe climate change does not exist and two out of three Americans believe global warming is affecting weather in the US. My personal response to an ever-warming climate is to dedicate my career to finding creative, effective ways to leverage the might of global companies toward creating systemic change, while also protecting the ability for them to fulfill their business missions in a less predictable climate.
Climate change not only affects our ability to reliably continue business as usual, it also has negative consequences for our most important resource, our employees. For instance, between September and October, L’Oréal USA employees lost more than 300 workdays due to hurricanes, a number that is steadily increasing due to the devastation experienced by our colleagues in Puerto Rico.
It is clear that a strategy of responding only to the impacts of climate change and not addressing the causes is too costly for us to sustain long term.
As business leaders, we are in a unique position to limit global warming to 1.5 °C, by being the catalysts for change toward a renewable energy future. Through L'Oréal's global sustainability strategy Sharing Beauty With All, we set our CO2 emissions reductions goal at 60% from a 2005 baseline. At L’Oréal USA, we are proud to have exceeded that goal, reaching 100% renewable electricity for our manufacturing and distribution facilities in 2016. We have a total of 42 miles of solar panels across 21 locations in the USA, deriving over 8,600 MWh of energy from the sun.
This October was a big month for L'Oréal USA as years of work on sustainability initiatives coalesced into multiple recognitions as a renewable energy leader. On October 20th, we received an award from the Kentucky Department of Environmental Protection for installing the largest solar array in the state at our Florence plant. On October 23rd, we were named the EPA Green Power Partner of the Year for our leadership in renewable energy integration. On October 24th, we became one of only two companies globally to receive a Triple A rating from CDP on reduction efforts for emissions, water and deforestation.
As a company, L'Oréal USA employs more than 11,000 people. We take these actions on their behalf to help ensure a stable environment for them, for their families and for future generations. Continually reducing our carbon footprint, water footprint and waste footprint is essential to realizing this goal. It should not be our collective new normal that our fellow citizens have to rebuild their entire lives following these storms as my family had to do after Hurricane Andrew and as so many others are having to do right now. Recent events in Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico have reinforced the urgency of our work and the work of so many responsible companies in the United States and around the world that have answered the call.
And that’s a beautiful thing.