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Citizenship and Sustainability at The Estée Lauder Companies

By Nancy Mahon, Senior Vice President, Global Corporate Citizenship and Sustainability at Esteé Lauder

For someone seeking to build a more sustainable, inclusive and just world, working at a Fortune 500 company — in the cosmetics industry no less — may seem like an unusual choice. Yet The Estée Lauder Companies is no ordinary company. And, by any measure, these are not ordinary times.

No single entity or sector has all the answers to society’s toughest challenges. After holding key leadership roles in the public, private and non-profit sectors, I am now convinced that corporations like The Estée Lauder Companies can and must be catalysts, partners, donors and thought leaders in driving consequential change on issues like universal access to education, and in decreasing the impact of global warming and waste through sustainable business practices. Focusing on the needs of key stakeholders like employees, investors and customers, companies can and must take the long view on building sustainable, just and inclusive cities, communities and environments.

As a family company, The Estée Lauder Companies has a profound sense of responsibility to the next generation. Building on the Lauder family values of uncompromising ethics and integrity, and generosity of spirit, our commitment to the communities where we work and live runs deep. So how, with a portfolio of 25+ prestige beauty brands, do we go about creating a more inclusive and sustainable world now and for our children?

In a time of great political change and in an industry and world where we can measure the velocity of change in multiples, the key for us is to have an effective Citizenship and Sustainability strategy: making clear, prioritized choices and integrating, driving and iterating those choices through the business. We are focused on building on our ongoing commitments to social impact, particularly in girls’ education, breast cancer research and the fight against HIV/AIDS. From a sustainability perspective, we are committed to sourcing responsibly, expanding Green Chemistry across the enterprise, reducing our water usage and waste production, and reaching a net zero carbon goal by 2020. We do all this while fostering an inclusive and diverse workforce and emphasizing the safety and well-being of our employees.

Engaging with our stakeholders in meaningful ways is another key driver in our approach to Citizenship and Sustainability. As a testament to the importance and generosity of our employees, we piloted ELC Good Works, a matching gifts and volunteerism program that supports employees’ charitable giving and volunteerism. We have seen a phenomenal response with 33% participation amongst eligible employees reached in the U.S., three times the industry average. We are now rolling out the program in the U.K. and soon in a number of emerging markets. And through the recently launched ELC Girls’ Education Initiative, we are also working in partnership with our colleagues and grassroots organizations around the world to support locally-tailored education programs now serving 100,000 girls across 11 global communities. We believe such commitments create roots and branches to all the communities in which our employees live and work, and together, make us stronger as a truly global company and family

Not only are employees inspired when their work connects with a cause they believe in, but consumers also want to buy from and support companies that share their values. With a global presence in 150 countries, we aim both to do good in the world and to do good by our brands. We believe that both elements must exist in order for corporate Citizenship and Sustainability programs to thrive.

I have a huge appreciation for what happens in our stores, at the counters, with our artists and through our campaigns – whether through the M∙A∙C AIDS Fund or Aveda Earth Month. During this fiscal year alone, M∙A∙C AIDS Fund has launched a $6.6 million series of public-private partnerships with the United Nations and mayors from leading cities like London, Berlin, Washington D.C., Mexico City and Paris to end HIV. Meanwhile, Aveda now raises about $6.4 million through each annual Earth Month campaign and since 1999, has raised more than $50 million total for the environment, including $44 million for clean water projects.

Regardless of the Citizenship and Sustainability efforts we undertake, it’s our partnerships – with governments, NGOs, suppliers, retailers, consumers and employees — that are critical to achieving long-term and scalable solutions. No one entity can do this work alone, and we can only get better together.

Change starts here and now, each day at The Estée Lauder Companies. Come roll up your sleeves and join us!