Respect for People and Nature at the Heart of Oriflame’s Business and Sustainability Practices

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Oriflame is a Swedish direct-selling beauty brand that operates in more than 60 countries. It was founded in 1967 to address unique beauty needs across the globe. 2020 marks a milestone year for Oriflame, as it completes 25 years in India. Having established its strong presence in the country, it offers a wide portfolio of Swedish, nature-inspired, innovative beauty, skincare and wellness products. Respect for people and nature underlines Oriflame’s operating principles and is reflected in its social and environmental policies. CSR Mandate speaks with Frederic Widell, VP and Head of South Asia & MD, Oriflame India to know more about the company’s sustainability practices, its support for numerous charities, women empowerment, and equipping as many girl children in India with quality education.    

Being a well-known and successful beauty company, what is the Company’s commitment to environment protection/sustainability owing to the natural ingredients in select products? 

Oriflame is highly committed to environmental protection and sustainability. Over the last decade, we have reduced our impact on the environment and use 100 per cent renewable energy across all 100 per cent renewable electricity at our manufacturing sites and offices. Apart from this, we also focus on using biodegradable ingredients in our products to reduce the impact on the planet. In fact, we have banned the use of plastic microbeads in our scrub products and use only natural-origin exfoliants such as almond shells that break down in the oceans without harming the precious marine life. Additionally, we have also had solar panels installed at our wellness factory in India since 2014, covering around eight per cent of the factory’s consumption.

Our long-term sustainability strategy includes zero impact on the environment. Everything from our products to production practices and even air travel will utilise only 100 per cent renewable energy. We will ensure that the impact on the earth’s ecosystem is minimised as much as possible.

Oriflame has also taken a stand against the use of tiny plastic microbeads in scrub products. Do share in detail about this.

Microplastic contamination has been identified as a cause of water pollution. A variety of pollution sources have been identified, including the use of plastic microbeads in cosmetic formulations. We, therefore, decided to stop using plastic microbeads and plastic glitter in our cosmetic rinse-off products and started testing alternatives in early 2013. We identified several alternatives of natural origin, including plant waxes, nutshells, and seeds that all met our high performance and safety expectations. By the end of 2016, we had stopped manufacturing older rinse-off products with plastic microbeads and glitter. In 2019, we continued to use only natural origin scrubs in all of our exfoliating cosmetic products.

Do share in detail Oriflame’s Sustainability Strategy.  

Our long-term sustainability strategy includes zero impact on the environment. Everything from our products to production practices and even air travel will utilise only 100 per cent renewable energy. We will ensure that the impact on the earth’s ecosystem is minimised as much as possible.

In 2019, we organised our first two climate-neutral conferences following the Climate Neutral Event certification by the South Pole. In August, the Gold Conference 2019 for Consultants and Leaders from Turkey, Asia, and Africa was organised in Stockholm. A major focus of the conference was sustainability, and this event was the first-ever climate neutral conference organised by Oriflame. For 2020, all our global and regional conferences will be certified as climate neutral.

Overall, our sustainability endeavours cover water, climate, and forests. Some of our key goals include:

Climate

  • 100 per cent renewable electricity at our manufacturing sites and offices globally.
  • A reduction of 36 per cent CO2 emission globally since 2010
  • Since 2010, we have reduced our emissions from global logistics transportation by 20 per cent per pallet shipped
  • 100 per cent natural alcohol in our fragrances
  • We have had solar panels installed at our wellness factory in India since 2014, covering around eight per cent of the factory’s consumption.

Water

We care deeply for our natural waterways and oceans:

  • This is why all our exfoliants are 100 per cent natural origin – no plastic microbeads polluting our oceans
  • We have even made our wipes, masks and pads bio-degradable
  • We now use 21 per cent less water per unit at our manufacturing sites compared to 2015
  • In 2018, we replaced 120 tonnes of petroleum-based plastic (newly-manufactured plastic) with recycled plastic keeping 120 tonnes of plastic away from waterways and landfills.
  • Our wellness factory in India is designed to reuse 100 per cent of its water, for example by using the water from the effluent treatment plant for irrigation purposes. Rainwater is collected in rainwater harvesting pits at two sites, to replenish groundwater
  • During the year, we supported the Government in Indian in its efforts to boost a recycling and reduced waste to landfill economy. We replaced some of our secondary plastic packaging, which is used to deliver products safely whenever customers order online, with recyclable cartons and paper cushions. This initiative decreased our secondary plastic packaging in India by one million units in 2019. Additionally, 2020 onwards, 100 per cent of plastic equivalent to our product sales in India will be sent for recycling and co-processing through our local waste management partner in compliance with Plastic Waste Management rules
  • We support sustainable fisheries and source our Omega 3 with the label of sustainable fisheries, FOS, Friends of the Sea

Forests

  • 96 per cent of our catalogue paper and paper packing comes from certified or recycled sources. India 100 per cent of catalogue paper is FSC certified
  • 100 per cent of our palm oil (an important ingredient in cosmetics) is responsibly sourced through RSPO credits. Now palm oil is a contentious ingredient. We are proud to say that for many years, 99 per cent of our manufacturing waste have avoided landfill. Instead, we were able to recycle our waste. 

What would you say are the various changes in the beauty industry in general brought about with more awareness and responsibility in sourcing ingredients for the various products? Is the industry truly environment-friendly?

The entire industry at large is moving towards environmental awareness. In its capacity, every brand is doing its bit in contributing to environmental protection. Today’s young consumers are intelligent and know the impact of certain ingredients on the environment. As a result, the industry is moving in the right direction.

What does sustainability look like in the beauty industry now?  

Currently, the beauty industry is focusing on natural elements in all aspects. Brands are using ingredients that are not harmful to the skin or the environment.

What is the future of sustainability in the beauty industry?  

In my opinion, the future of sustainability in the beauty industry is quite bright. All companies across the globe will start focusing on producing products that are safe for customers and the environment. The beauty segment will adapt itself in a manner so as to reduce long-term impact on the environment. The products thus created will have higher price points, but new-age consumers with higher awareness levels will be willing to pay more for the sake of the environment.

Which are the other areas Oriflame is involved in the CSR sphere?

We support numerous charities worldwide and we are the co-founder of the World Childhood Foundation. In India, we Oriflame focus on women and children in India. We have been associated with Deepalaya, an ISO 9001:2008 certified non-government organisation, which is also the largest operational NGO in Delhi. Through this association, Oriflame has sponsored the education of over 7,000 girls till now. The overarching focus, however, is on environmental protection as well as women empowerment.

The commitment towards improving the quality of life for people comes from the very opportunity that Oriflame creates. With zero investment or fees, women can create their own business and sustain their families. Thus, education, the first step towards improved quality of life, is the right fit for us as an area of interest in terms of CSR activities.

As you mentioned, Education is your flagship CSR initiative. Could you share the commitment Oriflame is making towards improving the quality of life of people in the community it operates?

The commitment towards improving the quality of life for people comes from the very opportunity that Oriflame creates. With zero investment or fees, women can create their own business and sustain their families. Thus, education, the first step towards improved quality of life, is the right fit for us as an area of interest in terms of CSR activities. We are also focused on other aspects like hygiene, etc. As part of this commitment, we have been associated with Deepalaya for 14 years. We have also created IT labs for teachers in Haryana to boost the quality of education in this region.

These initiatives have been at the heart of Oriflame since its inception in 1967. Similar beliefs have been ingrained in the Oriflame Foundation and the World Childhood Foundation.

In India, we focus on several regions such as Haryana, Delhi-NCR, Gujarat, Assam, etc. We reach out to people who might not have access to education and allow them to become more independent and empower them to make their dreams come true.

Deepalaya, that began with one teacher and five children, has completed its 40th year of foundation in 2019, and we are proud to be a part of its journey. Over the years, 3.5 lakh children have passed out and done great in life. In addition to this, Oriflame has helped Deepalaya to construct a three-storey school building, in Nuh, one of the most backward districts of Haryana. This school will support in providing education to over 3000 children in the coming years. We continue to strengthen our commitment in this area to ensure a better future for our children.

What made Oriflame decide to rope in Deepalaya as its implementing partner in empowering the girl child through education? 

In India, Oriflame’s association with Deepalaya began in 2006. Before this, we had been on the lookout for the right CSR partner for Oriflame that is aligned with its mission of fulfilling dreams. It is a crucial decision since a brand must trust a CSR partner completely in terms of finances as well as other resources. Over the past 14 years, we have received good reports from Deepalaya and believe that we made the right decision all those years ago. Our association with the Foundation has been lengthy and excellent.

Could you share more information about this long-term project you have with Deepalaya?

Currently, our major focus is on Deepalaya. Oriflame’s association with Deepalaya began in 2006. Its primary concern is to impart education to the poorest of the poor. To date,  we have sponsored the education of more than seven thousand girls in this school till date, which has classes till 12th and affiliated to the Central Board of Secondary Education (C.B.S.E). Additionally, we have donated two buses to the Deepalaya Learning Centre and also to its schools.

Deepalaya, that began with one teacher and five children, has completed its 40th year of foundation in 2019, and we are proud to be a part of its journey. Over the years, 3.5 lakh children have passed out and done great in life. In addition to this, Oriflame has helped Deepalaya to construct a three-storey school building, in Nuh, one of the most backward districts of Haryana. This school will support in providing education to over 3000 children in the coming years. We continue to strengthen our commitment in this area to ensure a better future for our children.

It gives us great joy to know that many of these young girls are doing very well. Take for example these three young ladies:

  • Anju is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Education and hopes to teach in Deepalaya one day.
  • Komal Rathore is currently teaching computers at Deepalaya. She had also received a scholarship from Oriflame and went to the US to skill herself even further.
  • Tara Khatri is currently working with the taxi app firm – Uber.

What is the way forward?

Going forward, we will remain committed to women empowerment, girlchild education, and our association with Deepalaya. As far as CSR is concerned, we believe that it is best to zero in on an area and focus all your energies on it. In doing so, companies can have a huge impact in one area instead of several low-impact CSR investments. That is why our major commitment is towards Deepalaya and will remain so for years to come.