Estée Lauder’s sustainability leader on racial justice, ‘sector-agnostic’ solutions

July 27, 2020 by  
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Estée Lauder’s sustainability leader on racial justice, ‘sector-agnostic’ solutions Heather Clancy Mon, 07/27/2020 – 01:30 In the six years since Nancy Mahon assumed responsibility for CSR and sustainability strategy at Estée Lauder Companies — she’s currently senior vice president of corporate citizenship and sustainability — her team has launched a series of new initiatives that are a “first” among her organization’s sector. The list includes the company’s first virtual power purchase agreement for 22 megawatts, a move made in pursuit of its 2020 net-zero carbon emission goal. More recently, it energized on-site two solar arrays — one at its Melville, New York, campus that will produce 1,800 megawatt-hours of power annually, and a smaller one at the Aveda brand’s campus in Minnesota. The New York installation will provide 100 percent of the electricity required by the office operations, while the Minnesota one will contribute up to 50 percent — the remainder of its power will come from utility-sourced wind power.  Moreover, Estée Lauder Companies also has declared its intention to make 75 percent to 100 percent of its packaging recyclable, refillable, reusable or recoverable by 2025 — the strategy will depend on the needs of individual brands. As with many companies heavily dependent on nature for product ingredients, Estée Lauder Companies is developing biodiversity action plans and becoming far more attuned to it role in deforestation, afforestation and reforestions. And befitting its heavily female clientele, the company also funds initiatives focused on raising up girls and women, such as HERProject, a BSR initiative aimed at supporting low-income women in global supply chains. I recently checked in with Mahon, one of this year’s 25 Badass Women in Sustainability , to get an update on how her priorities have shifted in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and the corporate awakening about systemic racism. In mid-June, the company issued a series of sweeping new racial equity policies , i including reaching “U.S. population parity” for Black employees at all levels of the company within five years, doubling the amount spent on sourcing ingredients, packaging materials and supplies from Black-owned businesses over the next three years, and committing $10 million over the next three years to support racial and social justice initiatives. “Moving forward, I think where we are energized as a division — it’s become super clear — on how core the work we do is to the business, not only the environmental side, but also the social side,” Mahon told me. Following are excerpts from our conversations, edited for clarity and length. Heather Clancy: How has the COVID-19 pandemic changed the focus of the Estée Lauder sustainability team, if at all?  Nancy Mahon: I think the clear disparate impacts of COVID-19 across countries and communities has really highlighted, and I think really illustrated, the intersection … of gender justice and social injustice, essentially, and racial injustice. I think while before that intersectionality might have been a little obtuse for folks, I think it’s much clearer now that if you come from a community where there’s high rates of pollution, there’s a huge intersection between high rates of pollution, access to healthcare and health outcomes and COVID-19 outcomes. So I think the speed, the velocity and the ferocity of COVID-19 really highlighted that in a way that I think both unearthed that underlying reality and threw a spotlight on it. And also for consumers, [it] really allowed an opportunity to focus on what was most important in their lives around healthcare, around their families, and put an emphasis — really, I would say it hasn’t changed it, but it has really accelerated consumer interest, particularly — on supply chains, which is super interesting …  I think similar to HIV, there is a question of what will we make of this moment and how will we as stewards of funds or stewards of companies or stewards of our families make a difference. Internally, what it’s allowed us to do in a very agile, very energizing way is move very quickly across different functions to stand up programs that we were planning on setting up. For instance, we created an employee relief fund, and we had targeted that we were going to do it basically this fall. When [COVID-19} happened,”‘We thought, you know what? We have to do this right away.” We had incredible partnership from [human resources] and [information technology] and legal, and we started up right away, then globalized it.  We also created a race and social justice fund in a matter of a couple of weeks. In that way, we’ve had opportunities, which hopefully we’ve seized upon. Moving forward, I think where we are energized as a division — it’s become super clear — on how core the work we do is to the business, not only the environmental side, but also the social side. Clancy: In a previous role, you were very closely involved with addressing the AIDS crisis, which is a humanitarian but also an economic crisis as well. How are you layering that perspective into the strategy as you’re mobilizing around COVID-19?  Mahon: If there is a positive to all of this, it’s that in terms of HIV, it took us well over two decades to have a deep discussion around structural racism or classism or the ways in which structures like a criminal justice system or a healthcare system basically disadvantage certain communities. It was always very hard to get at that discussion. It was much easier to fund street outreach or various research pieces or services than it was to really say, “We have to look at the way we act — either as consumers or as companies — and we might need to give something up, in addition to actually giving.” I think what is exciting about this moment — and I think this is the largest civil rights movement clearly in the United States — there are similarities certainly to what I think the LGBTQ movement experienced around HIV. That was much more, I would say, expanded over time, but I think the discussions are similar. What I think also then is a big emphasis understandably in that movement around action, whether it be FDA approval of drugs or the acceleration of accessibility of healthcare or integration of HIV into other healthcare systems. And we’re seeing that very quickly now, the fact that out of the gate we’re funding a group like Equal Justice Initiative around structural racism and the criminal justice system is exciting.  There has been one difference: The acceleration of funding in the field. I was on a call [recently] and Dan Walker from Ford, who’s so eloquent, basically said that there is roughly a half a billion dollars now in the field of racial and social justice, whereas last year there was only 10 percent of that.  Clancy: Wow.  Mahon: So I think similar to HIV, there is a question of what will we make of this moment and how will we as stewards of funds or stewards of companies or stewards of our families make a difference. How will we change our behavior? I think that’s the exciting moment that we have. The complexity, of course, is that it’s up against enormous economic loss, a lot of fear — which we always had in HIV, but we didn’t have the economic backdrop that we currently have overall to COVID-19. But there’s a lot of great people who are rowing in the same direction now. The question is how do we integrate ourselves? How do we sit in on committees that are focusing on office reopenings or how we’re doing with COVID? How do we integrate social impact and environmental impact into the way we do business every day, and how we as a luxury company kind of show up in our communities? One of our strongest brands, Aveda, is in Blaine, Minneapolis, and we’ve had town halls and will continue to have town halls with our employees there, and how are they engaging, how are they thinking about how they can help? We spent a lot of time thinking about, well, what are virtual volunteering opportunities? What are the ways that we can basically help our employees channel their passion? We decided that we were going to allow, in our year one [of our response], our employees to give away most of the money. We created a five times matching campaign, and the groups we selected were Black Lives Matter, Global Foundation Network, Equal Justice Initiative, Race Forward and NAACP Legal Defense Fund. And we basically said to our employees: Every dollar that you give, we will match it five times. We saw literally over 4,000 employees engage. We had a higher engagement rate than we’ve ever seen. People were posting on their social channels. We’ll be giving away almost $2.3 million through that vehicle. Clancy: Putting the long-term lens on, have there been any adjustments to your long-term corporate sustainability plans in this period? Have your priorities changed?  Mahon: I don’t think they changed. We have been fortunate in that our overall performance over the last I’d say two years in particular has really accelerated. We’re getting recognized by CDP or MSCI or ISS for that, which we find very gratifying. It feels like directionally we’re headed in the right way. And we certainly see in our brands, our consumers and our employees are basically saying, “We want more of this.” While it hasn’t changed the direction, it’s definitely accelerated. For instance, our climate work. We hit net zero early. We’re looking to hit our science-based target early…  We are leaning in on our social impact work, which we’re historically very well-known for. We have integration with social justice. That was an area in our social impact work which we hadn’t done in the past. Many of us had done somewhat similar work. We leaned in and spoke with allies and the Ford Foundation and some of the great foundations that are doing this work. We are looking forward to being part of a broader community and trying to leverage our corporate microphone and our company values to play an even bigger role. So I’d say [we’re moving] faster, perhaps more dimensionalized, and definitely [have a] better understanding not only how do we fund racial and social justice, but how do we as a business take concrete action around hiring and what our creative marketing looks like. So that’s very exciting, because what you don’t want as somebody in my job is to kind of be the nice people that aren’t really integrated into the business.  Clancy: Much of the work on renewable energy has really focused on electricity. Obviously, one of the toughest areas and processes to decarbonize is manufacturing. What solutions are you exploring for your production facilities? Mahon: Waste and water and energy are all linked together. Within each facility, we have an incredible team that’s been focusing on this for quite some time, which is looking at how efficient is our water use? Is there a way to reduce water use? Have we maxed out solar? And are there internal solutions before we move to offsets that we can buy to reduce our energy use? And the answer there is yes. It does vary somewhat by country, and by the state of the green energy and green finance in those countries. Also, as you know, government plays an important role, and of course, being in the U.S., we’ve seen a real rollback in terms of incentivizing green practices … What you don’t want as somebody in my job is to kind of be the nice people that aren’t really integrated into the business. I think the best thing that we can do is help the market grow so there are more alternatives for companies like ours. I think we don’t have to do any convincing at this point. It’s really about the level of sophistication of what we can invest in, and I think also kind of a deeper discussion about offsets, the quality of offsets, and where do offsets get us.  Clancy: Can you share your vision for sustainable packaging? How do things like reuse or refillable containers fit into that?  Mahon : What we’re trying to do, really, is to give the brand presence the most flexibility they can to get to sustainable packaging, and while at the same time reducing plastics and reducing carbon footprint. And that’s kind of a juggling act, frankly, because in many instances it involves added cost. We have a five-year glide path for every single brand. The ability to shift from plastic to glass is easier in skincare. Makeup innovation and sustainable packaging is a new frontier, and we’re really active in that. As you likely know, the size of makeup packaging, particularly samples, is too small — it falls through the filters in the MRFs — so it’s one of the areas that we’re really focusing on now, and really inviting innovation.  Clancy: You’re very excited about forestry and forest options as a means of carbon removal. Are there any particular things you’re looking at that you can mention? Can you elaborate?  Mahon: There’s been some companies that have basically supported, through grant funds, the creation and preservation of forests. And so we are looking at that. More directly, though, we would love to have direct investment in forestry as part of our climate portfolio, and an ability to create green energy. It gets somewhat complex, but obviously, we’re a beauty company, and we don’t want to be in the business of running forests … Those are the discussions that we’re having now, and we’ve been looking at various things over the last couple of years. We don’t have anything specific. We’re basically in due diligence phase on a couple of things. But because this moves so quickly, it doesn’t really make any sense to name names. But we would love, as a result of the article, to certainly invite both other companies who are looking at this [to talk about this and also have] a larger discussion about private/public partnerships around encouraging investment in forest preservation. We recently published a no deforestation policy, as many companies have, so there’s a nice intersectionality there between no deforestation and improving our climate component.  Clancy: I have two more questions. One is just a thread I hear often. What role will collaboration play in Estée Lauder’s strategy? What sorts of partnerships are you prioritizing?  Mahon: One of the exciting aspects of our company and our board … is we have folks who’ve worked in all different sectors. We have a lot of folks who’ve worked in government, like myself. We’ve worked in nonprofits. We’ve worked in for profits. So really, in order to move the ball down the field in a meaningful way, whether in social impact form or another form of impact, we have to basically look at this in a sector-agnostic way in which we really have company discussions about what we’re doing in climate.  What does government bring to the table? OK, there’s tax incentives. They can give various breaks in various laws, regulatory, both the carrot and the stick. What does business bring? Well, business brings enormous amounts of business discipline of understanding markets, understanding consumer needs, understanding how to scale a solution, understanding how to, candidly, abandon a solution if it’s not selling. And then NGOs clearly bring a lot to the table in terms of advocacy.  I think that as we’ve moved so rapidly in the for-profit sector being in favor of green energy and of strong climate solutions, the role I believe of NGOs will be more to be a bridge between government and I would say also private foundations [to come up with solutions]. For instance, in our VPPA, we will have excess green energy. Do we want to be in a position as a beauty company of selling energy, green energy? Or would we rather donate it? We’re having some conversations with the Rockefeller Foundation about, “Well, could we figure out a way where we could just donate it?” That’s where I think we really do need these cross-sector solutions.  Clancy: My last question is what do you feel is your most important priority as a chief sustainability officer in this moment? Mahon: At the end of the day, the great pleasure and complexity and entrepreneurism of CSO jobs is that we don’t own the P&Ls generally of the issues we need to influence. So, I would say the biggest priority really is continuing to listen to our key stakeholders with empathy, and be as responsive as we can, to try to run alongside the train of the business … A lot of what we do is obviously bring a substantive area of expertise, but also integrate as best as we can empathically to the business, and to drive value. At the end of the day, if we drive value for communities and our shareholders and our consumers, then we drive value for the business, and that is I think the great challenge … How do you sit at the table as a business person and understand and have empathy for the great demands being placed for instance on our retail team, and at the same time build climate solutions that help those retail teams, and don’t seem sort of pie in the sky and divorced from the rest of the business? Ultimately, how do we leverage the passions and the interests of our employees and our consumers and now our investors, which is great. Because I think that kind of creates an unlimited path.  Pull Quote I think similar to HIV, there is a question of what will we make of this moment and how will we as stewards of funds or stewards of companies or stewards of our families make a difference. What you don’t want as somebody in my job is to kind of be the nice people that aren’t really integrated into the business. Topics Corporate Strategy Social Justice Corporate Social Responsibility Racial Justice Forestry Deforestation Collective Insight The GreenBiz Interview Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off

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Estée Lauder’s sustainability leader on racial justice, ‘sector-agnostic’ solutions

The Estée Lauder Companies’ sustainability leader on racial justice, ‘sector-agnostic’ solutions

July 27, 2020 by  
Filed under Business, Eco, Green, Recycle

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The Estée Lauder Companies’ sustainability leader on racial justice, ‘sector-agnostic’ solutions Heather Clancy Mon, 07/27/2020 – 01:30 In the four years since Nancy Mahon assumed responsibility for CSR and sustainability strategy at The Estée Lauder Companies — she’s currently senior vice president of corporate citizenship and sustainability — her team has launched a series of new initiatives that are a “first” among her organization’s sector. The list includes the company’s first virtual power purchase agreement for 22 megawatts, a move made in pursuit of its 2020 net-zero carbon emission goal. More recently, it energized on-site two solar arrays — one at its Melville, New York, campus that will produce 1,800 megawatt-hours of power annually, and a smaller one at the Aveda brand’s campus in Minnesota. The New York installation will provide 100 percent of the electricity required for its Joseph H. Lauder office facility, while the Minnesota one will contribute up to 50 percent — the remainder of its power will come from utility-sourced wind power.  Moreover, Estée Lauder Companies also has declared its intention to make 75 percent to 100 percent of its packaging recyclable, refillable, reusable, recycled or recoverable by 2025 — the strategy will depend on the needs of individual brands. As with many companies heavily dependent on nature for product ingredients, Estée Lauder Companies is developing biodiversity action plans and becoming far more attuned to its role in deforestation, afforestation and reforestation. And befitting its heavily female clientele, the company also funds initiatives focused on raising up girls and women, such as HERProject, a BSR initiative aimed at supporting low-income women in global supply chains. I recently checked in with Mahon, one of this year’s 25 Badass Women in Sustainability , to get an update on how her priorities have shifted in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and the corporate awakening about systemic racism. In mid-June, the company issued a series of sweeping new racial equity policies , including reaching “U.S. population parity” for Black employees at all levels of the company within five years, doubling the amount spent on sourcing ingredients, packaging materials and supplies from Black-owned businesses over the next three years, and committing $10 million over the next three years to support racial and social justice initiatives. “Moving forward, I think where we are energized as a division — it’s become super clear — [is] on how core the work we do is to the business, not only the environmental side, but also the social side,” Mahon told me. Following are excerpts from our conversations, edited for clarity and length. Heather Clancy: How has the COVID-19 pandemic changed the focus of the Estée Lauder sustainability team, if at all?  Nancy Mahon:  The clear disparate impacts of COVID-19 across countries and communities has really highlighted, and I think really illustrated, the intersection … of gender justice and social injustice, essentially, and racial injustice. While before that intersectionality might have been a little obtuse for folks, it’s much clearer now that if you come from a community where there’s high rates of pollution, there’s a huge intersection between high rates of pollution, access to healthcare and health outcomes and COVID-19 outcomes. The speed, the velocity and the ferocity of COVID-19 really highlighted that in a way that both unearthed that underlying reality and threw a spotlight on it. And also for consumers, [it] really allowed an opportunity to focus on what was most important in their lives around healthcare, around their families, and put an emphasis — really, I would say it hasn’t changed it, but it has really accelerated consumer interest, particularly — on supply chains, which is super interesting …  Similar to HIV, there is a question of what [we will] make of this moment and how will we as stewards of funds or stewards of companies or stewards of our families make a difference. Internally, what it’s allowed us to do in a very agile, very energizing way is move very quickly across different functions to stand up programs that we were planning on setting up. For instance, we created an employee relief fund, and we had targeted that we were going to do it basically this fall. When [COVID-19} happened, we thought, “You know what? We have to do this right away.” We had incredible partnership from [human resources] and [information technology] and legal, and we started up right away, then globalized it.  We also created [an accelerated racial and social justice grants campaign] in a matter of a couple of weeks. In that way, we’ve had opportunities, which hopefully we’ve seized upon. Moving forward, I think where we are energized as a division — it’s become super clear — on how core the work we do is to the business, not only the environmental side, but also the social side. Clancy: In a previous role, you were very closely involved with addressing the AIDS crisis, which is a humanitarian but also an economic crisis as well. How are you layering that perspective into the strategy as you’re mobilizing around COVID-19?  Mahon: If there is a positive to all of this, it’s that in terms of HIV, it took us well over two decades to have a deep discussion around structural racism or classism or the ways in which structures like a criminal justice system or a healthcare system basically disadvantage certain communities. It was always very hard to get at that discussion. It was much easier to fund street outreach or various research pieces or services than it was to really say, “We have to look at the way we act — either as consumers or as companies — and we might need to give something up, in addition to actually giving.” …  What also then is a big emphasis, understandably, is the movement around action, whether it be FDA approval of drugs or the acceleration of accessibility of healthcare or integration of HIV into other healthcare systems. And we’re seeing that very quickly now, the fact that out of the gate we’re funding a group like Equal Justice Initiative around structural racism and the criminal justice system is exciting.  There has been one difference: The acceleration of funding in the field. I was on a call [recently] and Darren Walker from Ford Foundation, who’s so eloquent, basically said that there is roughly a half a billion dollars now in the field of racial and social justice, whereas last year there was only 10 percent of that.  Clancy: Wow.  Mahon:  Similar to HIV, there is a question of what [we will] make of this moment and how will we as stewards of funds or stewards of companies or stewards of our families make a difference. How will we change our behavior? The exciting moment that we have. The complexity, of course, is that it’s up against enormous economic loss, a lot of fear — which we always had in HIV, but we didn’t have the economic backdrop that we currently have overall to COVID-19. But there’s a lot of great people who are rowing in the same direction now. The question is how do we integrate ourselves? How do we sit in on committees that are focusing on office reopenings or how we’re doing with COVID? How do we integrate social impact and environmental impact into the way we do business every day, and how we as a luxury company show up in our communities? One of our strongest brands, Aveda, is in Blaine, Minnesota, and we’ve had town halls and will continue to have town halls with our employees there, and how are they engaging … [and] thinking about how they can help? We spent a lot of time thinking about, well, what are virtual volunteering opportunities? What are the ways that we can basically help our employees channel their passion? We decided that we were going to allow, in our year one [of our response], our employees to give away most of the money. We created [an internal] five-times matching campaign, and the groups we selected were Black Lives Matter Global Foundation Network, Equal Justice Initiative, Race Forward, NAACP Legal Defense Fund [and Educational Fund]. And we basically said to our employees: Every dollar that you give, [the company] will match it five times. We saw literally over 4,000 employee [donations]. We had a higher engagement rate than we’ve ever seen. People were posting on their social channels. We’ll be giving away [more than] $2.3 million through [company matches]. Clancy: Putting the long-term lens on, have there been any adjustments to your long-term corporate sustainability plans in this period? Have your priorities changed?  Mahon: I don’t think they changed. We have been fortunate in that our overall performance over the last I’d say two years in particular has really accelerated. We’re getting recognized by CDP or MSCI or ISS for that, which we find very gratifying. It feels like directionally we’re headed in the right way. And we certainly see in our brands, our consumers and our employees are basically saying, “We want more of this.” While it hasn’t changed the direction, it’s definitely accelerated. For instance, our climate work. We hit [RE100] early [in the United States and Canada]. We’re looking to hit our science-based target early…  We are leaning in on our social impact work, which we’re historically very well-known for. We have integration with social justice. That was an area in our social impact work which we hadn’t done in the past. Many of us had done somewhat similar work. We leaned in and spoke with allies and the Ford Foundation and some of the great foundations that are doing this work. We are looking forward to being part of a broader community and trying to leverage our corporate microphone and our company values to play an even bigger role. So I’d say [we’re moving] faster, perhaps more dimensionalized, and definitely [have a] better understanding not only how do we fund racial and social justice, but how do we as a business take concrete action around hiring and what our creative marketing looks like. So that’s very exciting, because what you don’t want as somebody in my job is to kind of be the nice people that aren’t really integrated into the business.  Clancy: Much of the work on renewable energy has really focused on electricity. Obviously, one of the toughest areas and processes to decarbonize is manufacturing. What solutions are you exploring for your production facilities? Mahon: Waste and water and energy are all linked together. Within each facility, we have an incredible team that’s been focusing on this for quite some time, which is looking at how efficient is our water use? Is there a way to reduce water use? Have we maxed out solar? And are there internal solutions before we move to offsets that we can buy to reduce our energy use? And the answer there is yes. It does vary somewhat by country, and by the state of the green energy and green finance in those countries. Also, as you know, the government plays an important role, and of course, being in the U.S., we’ve seen a real rollback in terms of incentivizing green practices … What you don’t want as somebody in my job is to kind of be the nice people that aren’t really integrated into the business. The best thing that we can do is help the market grow so there are more alternatives for companies like ours. We don’t have to do any convincing at this point. It’s really about the level of sophistication of what we can invest in, and also kind of a deeper discussion about offsets, the quality of offsets, and where do offsets get us.  Clancy: Can you share your vision for sustainable packaging? How do things like reuse or refillable containers fit into that?  Mahon : What we’re trying to do, really, is to give the brand [presidents] the most flexibility they can to get to sustainable packaging, and while at the same time reducing plastics and reducing carbon footprint. And that’s kind of a juggling act, frankly, because in many instances it involves added cost. We have a five-year glide path for every single brand. The ability to shift from plastic to glass is easier in skincare. Makeup innovation and sustainable packaging is a new frontier, and we’re really active in that. As you likely know, the size of makeup packaging, particularly samples, is too small — it falls through the filters in the MRFs — so it’s one of the areas that we’re really focusing on now, and really inviting innovation.  Clancy: You’re very excited about forestry and forest options as a means of carbon removal. Are there any particular things you’re looking at that you can mention? Can you elaborate?  Mahon: There’s been some companies that have basically supported, through grant funds, the creation and preservation of forests. And so we are looking at that. More directly, though, we would love to have direct investment in forestry as part of our climate portfolio, and an ability to create green energy. It gets somewhat complex, but obviously, we’re a beauty company, and we don’t want to be in the business of running forests … Those are the discussions that we’re having now, and we’ve been looking at various things over the last couple of years. We don’t have anything specific. We’re basically in the due diligence phase on a couple of things. But because this moves so quickly, it doesn’t really make any sense to name names. But we would love, as a result of the article, to certainly invite both other companies who are looking at this [to talk about this and also have] a larger discussion about private/public partnerships around encouraging investment in forest preservation. We recently published a no deforestation policy, as many companies have, so there’s a nice intersectionality there between no deforestation and improving our climate component.  Clancy: I have two more questions. One is just a thread I hear often. What role will collaboration play in The Estée Lauder Companies’ strategy? What sorts of partnerships are you prioritizing?  Mahon: One of the exciting aspects of our company and our board … is we have folks who’ve worked in all different sectors. We have a lot of folks who’ve worked in government, like myself. We’ve worked in nonprofits. We’ve worked in for profits. So really, in order to move the ball down the field in a meaningful way, whether in social impact form or another form of impact, we have to basically look at this in a sector-agnostic way in which we really have company discussions about what we’re doing in climate.  What does the government bring to the table? OK, there’s tax incentives. They can give various breaks in various laws, regulatory, both the carrot and the stick. What does business bring? Well, business brings enormous amounts of business discipline of understanding markets, understanding consumer needs, understanding how to scale a solution, understanding how to, candidly, abandon a solution if it’s not selling. And then NGOs clearly bring a lot to the table in terms of advocacy.  As we’ve moved so rapidly in the for-profit sector being in favor of green energy and of strong climate solutions, the role I believe of NGOs will be more to be a bridge between government and I would say also private foundations [to come up with solutions]. For instance, in our VPPA, we will have excess green energy. Do we want to be in a position as a beauty company of selling energy, green energy? Or would we rather donate it? We’re having some conversations with the Rockefeller Foundation about, “Well, could we figure out a way where we could just donate it?” That’s where we really do need these cross-sector solutions.  Clancy: My last question is what do you feel is your most important priority as a chief sustainability officer in this moment? Mahon: At the end of the day, the great pleasure and complexity and entrepreneurism of CSO jobs is that we don’t own the P&Ls generally of the issues we need to influence. So, I would say the biggest priority really is continuing to listen to our key stakeholders with empathy, and be as responsive as we can, to try to run alongside the train of the business … A lot of what we do is obviously bring a substantive area of expertise, but also integrate as best as we can empathically to the business, and to drive value. At the end of the day, if we drive value for communities and our shareholders and our consumers, then we drive value for the business, and that is I think the great challenge … How do you sit at the table as a business person and understand and have empathy for the great demands being placed for instance on our retail team, and at the same time build climate solutions that help those retail teams, and don’t seem sort of pie in the sky and divorced from the rest of the business? Ultimately, how do we leverage the passions and the interests of our employees and our consumers and now our investors, which is great. Because that creates an unlimited path.  This article was updated on July 27, 2020, at the request of The Estée Lauder Companies to correct Mahon’s tenure in her current role, and provide more detail about some of the included commitments discussed during the interview. Where changes have been made to her verbatim comments, they are noted with brackets. Pull Quote Similar to HIV, there is a question of what [we will] make of this moment and how will we as stewards of funds or stewards of companies or stewards of our families make a difference. What you don’t want as somebody in my job is to kind of be the nice people that aren’t really integrated into the business. Topics Corporate Strategy Social Justice Corporate Social Responsibility Racial Justice Forestry Deforestation Collective Insight The GreenBiz Interview Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off

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The Estée Lauder Companies’ sustainability leader on racial justice, ‘sector-agnostic’ solutions

Closed Loop Partners teams with Walmart, CVS, Target to take on the plastic bag

July 24, 2020 by  
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Closed Loop Partners teams with Walmart, CVS, Target to take on the plastic bag Deonna Anderson Fri, 07/24/2020 – 01:15 Single-use plastic shopping bags are a real problem. They take decades to break down but nearly 100 billion of them are used in the United States every year to cart away goods from retailers. Fewer than 10 percent of those are recycled  — often winding up in landfills and waterways because many recyclers don’t accept them . Now, Closed Loop Partners’ Center for the Circular Economy is partnering with Walmart, CVS Health and Target to address that problem. Their $15 million joint Beyond the Bag Initiative  — similar to a previous collaboration focused on redesigning cups — will focus on creating solutions that reinvent shopping bags and that more effectively divert single-use plastic bags from landfills.  “By coming together to tackle the problem, we aim to accelerate the pace of innovation and the commercialization of sustainable solutions,” said Kathleen McLaughlin, executive vice president and chief sustainability officer for Walmart, in a statement. “We hope the Beyond the Bag Initiative will surface affordable, practical solutions that meet the needs of customers and reduce plastic waste.” Together these companies and others — Kroger and Walgreens, along with Conservation International and Ocean Conservancy as environmental advisory partners — make up the Consortium to Reinvent the Retail Bag. By coming together to tackle the problem, we aim to accelerate the pace of innovation and the commercialization of sustainable solutions. “A main focus of what we do at the center is bring together corporations, nonprofits, industry groups, and others to create unexpected partnerships of competitors, to bring them together to collaborate on challenges that really no one organization can solve in isolation,” said Kate Daly, managing director of the Center for the Circular Economy at Closed Loop Partners. The consortium’s goals include diverting single-use plastic bags from landfills and scaling solutions that would serve the same function and replace the retail bag, through this three-year partnership. It plans multiple approaches. The first approach, which Daly named as a backbone of the initiative, centers on reimagining the design through an Innovation Challenge with OpenIDEO. That effort, which will begin accepting applications Aug. 3, will seek innovative ways to “reinvent” the retail bag. It’s open to all sorts of solutions from students, scientists and companies of all sizes, because Daly acknowledges that there will be no one silver bullet solution that will solve the plastic retail bag problem.  “Some of those [solutions] might be new material, others might be entirely new approaches to transporting what we purchase from stores to our home,” Daly said. “There might be tech-enabled or AI-enabled solutions that we haven’t learned about yet.”  Once the search ends, the group will select about a dozen winners to join the Beyond the Bag Circular Business Accelerator, which will involve mentoring, capital investment, testing and piloting. Whichever solutions win and become scalable, Daly said, “It’s really important that these options be accessible and inclusive to all the different communities across the United States.” The retail partners, which have locations across the United States, should be able to make that happen. Back in 2018, the center — along with founding partners McDonalds and Starbucks — launched its NextGen Cup Challenge, which had the goal to reduce disposable coffee cup waste. Daly said the center is taking lessons learned from that effort into this new challenge.  One of those learnings was that extensive testing is critical. For the NextGen Challenge, Daly said the group asked questions such as, “Does [the cup] hold liquids up to a certain temperature Fahrenheit? Can you comfortably hold the cup? Does the lid work with the cup? Does the coating stay on the cup? Does the coffee leak through the bottom?” For the bag reinvention, it will ask similar questions centered on identifying potential performance issues, such as: “Does the bag break?” And if it’s a new, bagless way of transporting goods, “Does it effectively prevent any sort of breakage or leaks?”  It’s really important that these options be accessible and inclusive to all the different communities across the United States. In addition to performance, the consortium plans to do environmental testing on the types of materials being used across all applications, ensuring that the materials used for a given solution — even if it’s reusable — can be recovered through recycling infrastructure. That brings us to another approach the consortium is exploring with the Beyond the Bag initiative: investments in recovery infrastructure. Daly said the group wants to ensure that the solutions — no matter which form they take — align with the recovery options at their end of life. In addition to the design and infrastructure approaches, the consortium already has started learning more about consumer behavior when it comes to plastic bags — this is another of its four approaches. It’s been asking customers about their pain points and preferences when getting their goods from a store to their homes. “We know how important it is to bring our customers along on our sustainability journey, keeping in mind that most are looking for convenience with minimal environmental impact,” said Eileen Howard Boone, senior vice president for corporate social responsibility and philanthropy and chief sustainability officer at CVS Health, in a statement. As they continue their journey, the consortium partners share a sense of urgency in addressing the issue of plastic bag waste — that’s why these unlikely collaborators are working together and acting as a collective. “We see the importance of sending a unified market signal as being really critical if you’re going to have systems-level change, and address long-standing environmental challenges,” Daly said. “The nature of bringing competitors together can help reframe the issue beyond short-term fixes and alternatives to long-lasting, systemic solutions that really take a holistic approach from production to use to reuse to recovery.” Pull Quote By coming together to tackle the problem, we aim to accelerate the pace of innovation and the commercialization of sustainable solutions. It’s really important that these options be accessible and inclusive to all the different communities across the United States. Topics Circular Economy Plastic Plastic Waste Innovation Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) On Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Source:  Emilija Miljkovic Shutterstock Emilija Miljkovic Close Authorship

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Closed Loop Partners teams with Walmart, CVS, Target to take on the plastic bag

To make sustainability real, make it personal

October 3, 2018 by  
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A corporate-academic partnership that’s made for good chemistry.

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To make sustainability real, make it personal

How feasible is California’s carbon-free-by-2045 goal?

October 3, 2018 by  
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Key point: The law does not define “zero-carbon”.

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How feasible is California’s carbon-free-by-2045 goal?

4 tips for fostering a sustainable company culture

August 2, 2018 by  
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Enhance your employees’ lives in the process.

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4 tips for fostering a sustainable company culture

4 reasons fewer employees are engaged in sustainability, and what to do about it

April 6, 2018 by  
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It’s a troubling trend, but reversing it should be fairly straightforward.

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4 reasons fewer employees are engaged in sustainability, and what to do about it

Designing a company that nurtures big ideas

January 6, 2018 by  
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The key to developing people and creating a regenerative business.

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Designing a company that nurtures big ideas

Game on: 7 approaches to hack employee engagement

August 25, 2017 by  
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Here’s how Citi, GM and others harness the wisdom of crowds to reach sustainability goals.

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Game on: 7 approaches to hack employee engagement

How CSR execs redefine the future of the workforce

July 19, 2017 by  
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Putting the well-being of your workforce at the core of CSR strategy is key to winning talent — and the right to conduct business.

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How CSR execs redefine the future of the workforce

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