Avon head of corporate responsibility opens up on sustainability

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Related tags: Sustainability

Cosmetics Design caught up with Susan Arnot Heaney Avon’s head of corporate responsibility to find out more about the company’s approach to reducing its carbon footprint in this, the first of a two-part interview.

As one of the world’s largest cosmetics players, with sales in more than 100 countries and over 6.4 million sales representatives, the company cannot afford to take its approach to this vital area of the business lightly.

“Improving efficiency is the right thing to do – it is good for the planet and good for business,”​ said Arnot Heaney, who joined Avon in 1997 and has been serving in her current position since 2006.

In her role she has been the flag bearer of Avon’s drive to increase its operational efficiencies, minimize environmental impact and ultimately contribute to improved margins through a number of mobilization programs.

“Within this commitment, improving efficiency is the right thing to do - it is good for the planet and good for business. No ‘trigger’ is needed since environmental stewardship is imbedded in the company.” 

That said, it takes time, resources and a focused commitment to bring this principle to life with aggressive goals and continuous improvement.”

Susan Arnot Heany, executive director, corporate resposibility, Avon Products

Focus on sustainable use of paper and pulp

One area of focus has been the company’s use of paper and pulp, which is particularly heavy due to the nature of the business, as direct sales involves significant volumes of primary packaging, as well as significant amounts of secondary packaging to protect products during transportation.

Arnot-Heaney says that this puts the company in a position of influence with respect to supply and demand, which in turn triggered the company’s Hello Green Tomorrow program, which focuses on leveraging action on a global basis to ultimately reduce deforestation.

“As a key element of this, in 2010 we launched a global policy called the Avon Paper Promise, which commits Avon to work to reduce paper usage, use certified or recycled sources, drive the expansion of sustainable forest use and protect endangered forests and ecosystems."

Avon palm oil and green building promises

Other core programs focusing on sustainability, but are also concentrated on quite different areas of the business, include the Avon Palm Oil Promise and the Green Building Promise.

The focus on building has led to either the construction or renovation of Avon production facilities to ensure they meet a minimum of LEED Green Certified standards, while the focus on palm oil has been designed to ensure that this cosmetic ingredient is sustainably sourced.

“The Green Building Promise has led to Gold and even Platinum certification for Avon buildings in countries such as China, Brazil, Columbia, the US and the UK,”​ said Arnot Heaney.

“Our new Avon R&D center in Shanghai achieved LEED Platinum, and our manufacturing plant in China, which pre-dates the Green Building Promise, is a government demonstration project for waste water treatment.”

Small palm oil use but big commitment

Although Arnot Heaney stresses that Avon is not a significant user of palm oil in its products, she stresses that the company is more than aware of deforestation and environmental issues in Indonesia, explaining the company’s commitment to the program.

“We established the Palm Oil Promise to set a policy to help drive sustainable sourcing, knowing that lending our name to the issue can have a meaningful impact on awareness and help increase support by other companies and industries.”

The second part of this interview will be published on the Cosmetics Design websites next week, while Susan Arnot Heaney will be a featured speaker at the Sustainable Cosmetics Summit​, to be held in New York, May 17 – 19.

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