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

By Reuters/Anastasia Moloney   October 5, 2017 | 05:13 pm PT
Some of the world's top brands, do not report the risks of slavery associated with mica, a sparkly mineral used in makeup.

French cosmetics giant L'Oreal SA said on Thursday it has "zero tolerance" for forced labor in its supply chain and keeps a close eye on its mineral mica sources after a report criticized 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 makeup.

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 labor globally, and nearly one in 10 children around the world is a victim of child labor, according to the International Labor Organization.

In recent years, companies from clothes retailers to the food industry have come under increasing regulatory, public and consumer pressure to ensure their supply chains are free of child labor 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 regards to any type of forced labor including modern slavery," the company said in an email 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 labor 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 organizations to work on this issue of mica," Emmanuel Lulin, L'Oreal's senior vice-president and chief ethics officer, 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, 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 labor is more common in illegal mica mines.

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

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