Danielle Azoulay of L’Oréal USA: “Go outside and enjoy nature! Connecting with nature means caring about the natural world, which in turn will inspire action towards climate change”
The number one thing individuals can do to help mitigate climate change is to call their local utilities and switch to renewable electricity. It’s really important to demonstrate critical mass for demand of renewable energy!
The second thing is to talk about climate change with the people they interact with on a daily basis. People don’t hear about this topic enough, which lends to an assumption that it isn’t urgent. It, of course, is hugely urgent, and needs to stay front and center.
My third suggestion is simple: go outside and enjoy nature! Connecting with nature means caring about the natural world, which in turn will inspire action.
A bonus (important!) fourth: vote for politicians who address and actively work towards mitigating climate change.
As a part of my series about “Social Impact Heroes”, I had the pleasure to interview Danielle Azoulay. Danielle is the Head of CSR and Sustainability for L’Oréal USA
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
In many ways, I connected to this career path as a kid. I grew up in Miami and experienced Hurricane Andrew firsthand; it was an early lesson in how connected we as humans are to the environment. When I was 10, I wrote a letter to President Bush about the effects of acid rain — and I demanded a response! These experiences ingrained in me the passion and dedication I feel today to help build responsible, sustainable business practices.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
I’m really excited about the fact that all 18 of L’Oréal’s U.S. Operations facilities will be carbon neutral this year — and more so, I’m excited and proud of how we did it. It was a big undertaking by our motivated teams, and really illustrates how teamwork is required to make systemic change within large, well established organizations like ours. The short explanation of how we’re achieving this is that we are adding a new source of renewable natural gas (RNG) to our diversified energy portfolio, which already includes 16 solar installations, wind turbines and locally-sourced RECs. The RNG is coming from a new landfill gas processing facility in Ashland, Kentucky where L’Oréal USA will purchase 40 percent of the RNG from the facility over 15 years, a large commitment that was a key component of the overall financing of the project. The RNG that L’Oréal USA is purchasing from this new project alone is expected to eliminate the carbon equivalent of 1.8 million gallons of gasoline consumed per year.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
This isn’t a mistake so much as a funny realization I had early on, which has stuck with me for a long time. For my masters, I was doing research on natural resources scarcity and discovered a story about how guitar manufacturers were having a hard time sourcing the trees they needed to make their guitars because of wide spread deforestation. I have been playing piano since I was a kid, and I had never before thought of a piano as having once been a tree. It was a major realization for me that everything around us comes from the Earth and drove home how sustainability matters in every facet of our lives. Resource scarcity threatens every company in every industry, and I always think back to the guitars when explaining that.
Can you describe how your organization is making a significant social impact?
In addition to our global sustainability initiative, Sharing Beauty With All, L’Oréal is leveraging the power of our brands to drive social change. Each brand in L’Oréal’s vast portfolio will be taking on a cause to champion for 3–5 years, by 2020.We are leveraging some of the biggest brands in the world to drive global change. Additionally, we have a fellowship program that is very worthy of being highlighted, called For Women in Science — it has awarded 75 postdoctoral women scientists nearly $4 million in grants since 2003.
Can you tell me a story about a particular individual who was impacted this cause?
It’s difficult to pinpoint one individual, as there is a wealth of people at L’Oréal USA who are championing sustainable innovation, not just for us as a company, but for society as a whole. For instance, multiple groups contribute to the For Women in Science program, which provides funding and support during a critical time in female scientists’ careers. Although the number of women in science is increasing, there remains a “leaky pipeline,” with significant career drop-off happening during the years between postdoc and tenure track. In addition to providing vital grant money, For Women in Science fellows receive mentorship, career coaching, and media training. This is important to us as a company as we were founded on, and believe in, science. Grant winners include mechanical engineers, neuroscientists, biologists and roboticists.
Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?
- The number one thing individuals can do to help mitigate climate change is to call their local utilities and switch to renewable electricity. It’s really important to demonstrate critical mass for demand of renewable energy!
- The second thing is to talk about climate change with the people they interact with on a daily basis. People don’t hear about this topic enough, which lends to an assumption that it isn’t urgent. It, of course, is hugely urgent, and needs to stay front and center.
- My third suggestion is simple: go outside and enjoy nature! Connecting with nature means caring about the natural world, which in turn will inspire action.
- A bonus (important!) fourth: vote for politicians who address and actively work towards mitigating climate change.
How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
I think good leaders are great listeners, especially in the realm of sustainability. Issues are localized and nuanced and you have to understand the issue deeply in order to come up with a way to solve it.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I’m grateful to feel that I’m already a part of an incredibly important movement to help safeguard our planet. As mentioned, I believe that opening the doors to what we’ve learned and working closely with others to share best practices is the key to finding viable solutions that will change the world for the better. Whether it’s identifying ways to reduce waste and improve packaging or figuring out how to collaborate on educating consumers, it’s clear that the collective impact will be far greater when we all bring our best ideas to the table. I’m also extremely passionate about getting people to interact with the outdoors more. Americans are now spending 93% of our lives indoors, which is having a negative impact on both our mental and physical health. Everyone should try and get outside every day!
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Before I got into this work, I worked in the music industry. I once had a boss tell me “If you’re only motivated by money, you are never going to be happy.” This made me think about my role in the business world in a new way. If you’re only seeking money, there will never be enough of it to be fulfilled. You have to think about how else you are going to gain satisfaction from your career and your day-to-day. The other one is to treat everyone with respect. No matter what someone’s role or level everyone is playing a role in the overall success of our organization. With sustainability work, we need all hands on deck to succeed.
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