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Companies are going green. Now customers have to follow their lead.


By Joseph L. Garcia, Reporter

WITH CLIMATE CHANGE and pollution changing the planet as we speak, it has become an imperative for people to change the way they live and consume.

Companies that provide these goods and services have adopted more conscious efforts to help preserve the planet. As an example, global beauty conglomerate L’Oreal has reported a 24% reduction in carbon emissions linked to the transport of products in their 2013-2020 Sustainability Commitment Closing Report.   

In an interview, L’Oreal Philippines Country Managing Director Yannick Raynaud said a launch was once delayed after products had to be shipped over sea, instead of through air freight as part of efforts to reduce the company’s carbon emissions. “It’s really significantly higher in terms of CO2 emissions,” said Ms. Raynaud of air freight. 

On a smaller scale, L’Oreal Philippines has committed to using zero plastic in their packaging for orders shipped through online shopping platforms Shopee and Lazada, and through social network Tiktok. “We fight against plastic,” she said in an interview on Dec. 9.   

To show their seriousness in the matter, she noted the new packaging from skincare brand La Roche Posay uses carton on the outside, with a thin layer of plastic on the inside. The product’s cap has been redesigned to use less plastic. Over at Kiehl’s, she said that some products are sold as refills so customers can reuse their containers.

“It’s a benefit for the planet, but also for your wallet. It’s less expensive. It’s a win-win, right?”

L’Oreal has since committed to using 100% biobased ingredients for their formulas by 2030. According to the company’s 2021 Annual Report, L’Oreal said it has already achieved 94% of this goal.   

The company committed to rejecting animal testing in 1989, 14 years before regulations against the practice came to pass. “The foray of L’Oreal into sustainability started more than 15 years ago, when it was not really in fashion,” Ms. Raynaud added.

More than the products themselves, the company has also adopted more sustainable measures internally. Ms. Raynaud said that she refused two carpet samples when they were changing carpets at the office, since the samples shown to her were not up-cyclable nor recyclable.

“It’s a mantra for everything we do: in our products, in our brand, but also in how we act,” she said.

SM TURNS OVER A GREEN LEAFMeanwhile, the country’s biggest mall operator SM Prime Holdings, Inc., under SM Investments Corp., has also turned over a green leaf.   

Early in 2022, they released a line called SM Green Finds, which showed off products made with renewable materials. This was presented at SM Retail, Inc.’s new headquarters which features green facilities such as energy-saving glass, centralized air, lighting automation, and water recycling capabilities.

According to the Annual Integrated Report of SM Prime Holdings, the company has saved 8.8 billion liters of water through recycling and rain-catching, and reduced its overall carbon footprint by 14% in 2021.   

“Sustainability as a business strategy is no longer an option, but an imperative business decision,” Hans T. Sy, SM Prime executive committee chairman, was quoted as saying in the report.

CHANGING CONSUMERS’ PRACTICESNew businesses are taking up the same stance and showing that sustainability has become a new imperative in order to operate. One such company is Evegrocer, which offers home products and groceries delivered in reusable packaging. 

Ma. Leonelle de Leon-Sandoval started the business in 2019 with co-founder Czarlene de Leon. Evegrocer works by repacking goods like soap and food staples like rice into reusable containers. The online store gives discounts when customers return the packaging on the next order.

“The rewards system encourages customers to return the reusable packaging,” said Ms. De Leon-Sandoval in an e-mail. 

Evegrocer’s distribution network covers Metro Manila, Laguna, Cavite, Bulacan, Pampanga, and Cebu. In Cebu, Ms. De Leon-Sandoval said the store encourages customers to bring their own containers, “which is a simpler model.”

Of course, while businesses may attempt to change their ways to better suit the planet, the rest are still dependent on consumer behavior. “We’re looking at how we can reduce our footprint, but also educate the consumer,” Ms. Raynaud said.

With the current crop of Gen Z consumers (those born after 1996), Ms. Raynaud has little problem. “If you’re Gen Z today, you’re like, ‘Darn, my parents didn’t do good. My grandparents are leaving me a world that is in disarray.’ 

“Gen Z’s are influencing the use of products, but then they’re influencing behaviors as well. Waste is something that Gen Z is more conscious (of) than maybe their parents.”

In the case of Evegrocer, Ms. De Leon-Sandoval noted that it’s easier for her to run a business, with the resources available to them. “The technological advancement and access to information has made the operations possible,” she said. 

“The magnitude of the impact is somewhat dependent on the customer behavior change,” she said, adding that the returned container rate, despite the incentivization, comes up to only 18.5%.

WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?For people like Ms. De Leon-Sandoval, the reasons for protecting the planet are personal.

“Me and my co-founder Czarlene… are very anxious over the devastating effects of climate change to the future generation, considering all our kids are asthmatic,” she said. “Putting sustainability in trend is the best way to secure the future of the next generation. We retire with a peace of mind that we have contributed something, paying forward to the world that has nurtured us, with breathable air, healthy food and drinkable water.” 

Surprisingly, despite differences in scale, a message of family rings true for both companies. Ms. Raynaud says, “We have the duty of legacy. You can’t just live (for) today. You have to be accountable for the world we are leaving to our children.”   

Speaking of scale, Ms. Raynaud noted the global impact of L’Oreal, and how changing behaviors across the board can help in activating change. By her count, L’Oreal had 85,000 employees across the globe, and approximately one billion customers.

“If you look at this, it is a powerful force. If we are able to communicate, to educate at the mass level, this is probably more power than many countries (have). At the end of the day, with one billion… together with other makers, it is our duty to do that.”

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