Criticised for overlooking slavery risks, L'Oreal keeps eye on mica, says executive


L'Oreal's "limited number of suppliers" in India obtain mica from legal mines where working conditions and human rights are closely monitored, according to the company website.
L'Oreal's "limited number of suppliers" in India obtain mica from legal mines where working conditions and human rights are closely monitored, according to the company website.PHOTO: REUTERS

BOGOTA (REUTERS) - French cosmetics giant L'Oreal said on Thursday (Oct 5) that it has "zero tolerance" for forced labour in its supply chain and keeps a close eye on its mineral mica sources, after a report criticised the company for failing to disclose slavery risks in its operations.

The report by Core, a watchdog on corporate accountability, said some of the world's top brands, including L'Oreal, do not report the risks of slavery associated with mica, a sparkly mineral used in make-up.

Reporting such risks is required by Britain's 2015 Modern Slavery Act, under which major businesses must produce an annual statement outlining actions they have taken to combat slavery in their supply chains.

An estimated 24.9 million people are victims of forced labour globally, and nearly one in 10 children around the world is a victim of child labour, according to the International Labour Organisation.

In recent years, companies from clothes retailers to those in the food industry have come under increasing regulatory, public and consumer pressure to ensure their supply chains are free of child labour and slavery.

L'Oreal said its commitment to sourcing sustainable mica in India is reported on its website and that its statement under the Modern Slavery Act should be read in conjunction with its public reporting.

"At L'Oreal, we take this topic very seriously and have a zero-tolerance policy with regard to any type of forced labour, including modern slavery," the company said in an e-mail to the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

L'Oreal owns brands such as Garnier and Maybelline.

Speaking on the sidelines of the One Young World summit in Bogota, which brings together global youth leaders and social entrepreneurs, a top L'Oreal executive said the company is well aware of the risks of child labour in India's mica mines.

"We know perfectly the issue about mica. We have been working about this issue for a number of years. We have been cooperating and engaging with local non-governmental organisations to work on this issue of mica," L'Oreal's senior vice-president and chief ethics officer Emmanuel Lulin told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Mica, used in car paint as well as cosmetics, is mined in India's poor rural areas, where impoverished families often send their children to work in the mines.

Mica from India is an "extremely small percentage" of the mica used by L'Oreal, which gets most of the mineral it uses from North and South America, Mr Lulin said.

L'Oreal's "limited number of suppliers" in India obtain mica from legal mines where working conditions and human rights are closely monitored, according to the company website.

Child labour is more common in illegal mica mines.

Mr Lulin also said L'Oreal has undergone thousands of independent audits that looked into issues such as corruption and child labour, including more than a thousand last year.