The idea of Canada charting a more sustainable future for the world is music to Maya Colombani’s ears.
“I am an expert in everything and nothing – I just drive change. I talk with experts. I trust them. I raise the bar,” explained the Chief Sustainability & Human Rights Officer for L’Oréal Canada. “I check that all my orchestra is playing the same song, with the right instruments, and let them play.”
Tapping into experience
With more than 2 decades at L’Oréal, Colombani worked on brand creation in India, before joining L’Oréal Brazil where she rose to the role of Sustainability & Human Rights Director in 2016.
In that role, she completely transformed the company’s value chain, infusing sustainability into every step of decision-making from product creation through the recycling process. She implemented strong social actions with communities, created the Amazonia regeneration program and launched a living-wage movement that positioned L’Oréal Brazil as an international benchmark.
As a company, we have a responsibility to use our power for something bigger than our product. We want to fight the challenges faced by society. It’s not just about being a brand with products, but being a brand that contributes to society. The challenge is changing habits. Everybody wants to help. They might not know what to do, or even have the right level of inspiration to start, but that is my job.
In 2022, Colombani brought those lofty objectives to Canada in her newly created role – a role the company said signaled how it has “placed social and environmental performance at the heart of our commitment. We want to act in favor of responsible beauty and move faster towards our mission of creating the beauty that moves the world.”
Read more about L'Oréal Groupe’s commitments to the planetKeep reading
Setting global expectations
Canadians are clear on their expectations – and L’Oréal Canada has listened.
In a recent survey of their customers, the company found that more than 80% were concerned about the preservation of nature, air pollution, water quality and human destruction of environments, leading that same number (80%) to express a desire to make more sustainable and environmentally friendly choices.
Two-thirds of their consumers (69%) expect companies to provide information about the environmental impact of a product.
Those are the kind of numbers, Colombani said, that should inspire action within the industry.
“We are the world’s leading beauty company, and with leadership comes responsibility. Our approach is twofold – first inside our business, by reducing our impact while respecting planetary boundaries and second, beyond our business, by addressing some of the most pressing environmental challenges through our L’Oréal Fund for Nature Regeneration and our committed brands,” she said.
Over the last decade, the L’Oréal Groupe has undertaken an in-depth transformation to reduce its environmental impact across its entire value chain. The company has set ambitious, measurable targets for 2030 on climate, water, biodiversity and natural resources, including:
- 95% of ingredients in formulas will be biobased, derived from abundant minerals or from circular processes
- 100% of the bio-based ingredients for formulas and packaging materials will be traceable and come from sustainable sources
- One million hectares of degraded ecosystems restored, capturing up to 20 million tons of CO2 emissions and creating hundreds of job opportunities through our L’Oréal Fund for Nature Regeneration
Beyond the environment, the company has focused on the social side of sustainability through initiatives like the Solidarity Sourcing program. This group works with suppliers who employ people from vulnerable communities – enabling allow them to have steady access to work and fair wages – helping more than 89,000 people in 61 countries.
In furthering these worldwide goals, Colombani expects L’Oréal Canada to lead the charge.
Looking to Canada to lead
Established in 1958, L’Oréal Canada employs more than 1,450 people across its Canadian footprint: A head office in downtown Montreal, a plant in Saint-Laurent that manufactures hair care, styling and skin care products; a sales office in Toronto; and a distribution centre located at the edge of Montreal’s Bois-de-Liesse nature park.
The Canadian subsidiary is considered a leader when it comes to environmental and social issues:
- Using 100% renewable energy at all its Canadian sites
- Deploying 97% eco-design products, and continuing to engage all of its ecosystems, suppliers, retailers and consumers, in developing climate change innovations that go further
- Attending and hosting events, like Women4Climate, focused on corporate responses to climate change
- Empowering women through L’Oréal Foundation’s L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science, which has been promoting the advancement of women in science in Canada since 2003, and Beauty for a Better Life, a social reinsertion program through hairdressing for immigrant women launched in 2017
- Supporting an annual Citizens Day where nearly one-third of all employees participated in 2023, interacting with 16 charities in Montreal
Exploring the possibilities
Colombani arrived with purpose.
“I came from Brazil to Canada with a mission to make a difference in this country, to bring value to this country and this society,” she explained. “I want Canada to be on the forefront of sustainability and innovation. We are talking about new way of living, a new way of doing business.”
The world is noticing the effort. In 2023, L’Oréal Canada achieved EDGEplus certification, a part of the EDGE solution that allows organizations to measure other aspects of diversity and gender intersectionality, such as race/ethnicity, sexual identity, sexual orientation, age, working with disabilities and nationality.
It’s a point of pride for the company, and while much has been accomplished in Canada, much is yet to be done, she stressed.
“I want Canada to be a laboratory for good. We will be a home of new ideas. New technologies. New way of consumption. New relationships with communities. New relationships with consumers,” Colombani said. “We are talking about something bigger than ourselves, bigger than our companies, bigger than our country. Sometimes we will fail. Sometimes we will succeed. But we are trying to create a true shift for society.”
Delivering sustainable business solutions
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