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The eco decryption. A new boss for L’Oréal, the beauty giant


The L’Oreal logo on its building in Clichy (Hauts-de-Seine). (THOMAS SAMSON / AFP)

The first mission of Nicolas Hieronimus, new CEO of L’Oréal, is to make people forget the bad year 2020. With the pandemic, the group recorded a 5% drop in its net profit last year. Less 5%, that may not seem like much, but it was a first for this hundred-year-old group, rather subscribed to significant progressions. As a reminder, over the past ten years, L’Oréal has doubled its turnover and quadrupled its market value.

The group, which includes brands such as Garnier, Lancôme, Biotherm, and Yves Saint Laurent, remains, despite the crisis, still world number one in cosmetics and its first results, this first quarter, are encouraging: a 10% increase in its sales, thanks in particular to the recovery in China, which remains by far its main market. Even though there are more and more competitors with growing Asian local brands.

With the pandemic, customers have bought their face cream or hair dye online. This is also one of the new boss’s objectives: to put the package on digital, to reach 50% of online sales against 27% today. This issue is crucial, in particular to remain the leader in China, where e-commerce is commonplace. This is why Nicolas Hieronimus wants to create more personalized services and advice via smartphones and social networks.

He also wants to focus on respect for the environment and health because consumers are more and more careful, especially young people. And L’Oréal has made a commitment that by 2030, in less than 10 years, 95% of its ingredients will be from plant or renewable sources, and that 100% of its formulas will be safe for the environment. A risky bet. At 57, Nicolas Hieronimus spent 34 years at L’Oréal. Entered as product manager, he climbed all the ranks internally, before gently succeeding Jean-Paul Agon, who is retiring. There he is today, at the head of 86,000 employees in 150 countries. With this challenge: to keep on the top step of the podium this French flagship which generates more than 28 billion euros in annual turnover.

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