Sustainability in Travel Retail

“Bringing the best to everyone we touch” – Creating a legacy of sustainability at The Estée Lauder Companies

The Estée Lauder Companies Global President Travel Retail and Retail Development Olivier Bottrie underlines how the travel retail community can be a catalyst for positive sustainable impact within the channel and beyond.

Introduction: “As a parent, you want the best for your children’s future,” says Olivier Bottrie as he reflects on the legacy he and The Estée Lauder Companies will leave behind for the next generation. “You want to leave the world a little better than you found it. Taking action on climate change goes hand in hand with that intention.”

The Estée Lauder Companies Travel Retail Division, led by Bottrie (as Global President Travel Retail and Retail Development) has revealed an ambitious roadmap for sustainability in line with the group’s ‘Bringing the Best to Everyone We Touch’ mission. It has identified emissions, waste and energy as key areas of focus and will use a portfolio of solutions, both internally and externally, to create a lasting positive impact in travel retail and beyond.

In this interview, Olivier Bottrie discusses the key points of the programme, and talks about finding the balance between minimising carbon footprint and building meaningful face-to-face connections. He also underscores the crucial role of the travel retail community and how working towards a greener and more sustainable planet is the best way to turn ELC’s mission of ‘Bringing the Best to Everyone We Touch,’ into a reality.

The Moodie Davitt Report: Estée Lauder Travel Retail set out to achieve Net Zero carbon emissions for all business air travel by the end of fiscal year 23. How are you going to achieve this ambitious goal? What role will the offsetting and reduction of travel play?

Olivier Bottrie: In fiscal year 2020, our Travel Retail division worked with an outside agency to conduct an impact prioritisation analysis to identify focus areas. This identified shipping and business travel as the most material source of Scope 3 emissions.

By addressing these areas, Travel Retail will be able to engage its employees and partner with key stakeholders, including its suppliers, to reduce its most impactful Scope 3 emissions. Additionally, Travel Retail will be supporting ELC enterprise-wide science-based targets.

We recognise that there is no one solution to addressing climate change and our approach will involve a portfolio of solutions to create the greatest positive impact. By partnering with suppliers and deploying innovative solutions, we aim to reduce our footprint wherever possible. We also intend to limit the use of offsets. However, for residual, hard to offset emissions, we will explore the role of high-quality offsets as part of its overall approach.

Olivier Bottrie says that a portfolio of solutions is necessary to create the greatest positive impact on the environment

The Estée Lauder Companies Travel Retail Division has committed to reaching Net Zero carbon emissions for transportation to travel retail customers and for all business travel by end of fiscal 2023

How much has COVID-19 driven the importance of virtual communication platforms like Zoom and Microsoft Teams? Face-to-face clearly helps build relationships in a way that virtual technology cannot, but how will you balance the two?

Like so many others, our teams have pivoted tremendously during this unprecedented time. Technology has been crucial to ensuring our business continues to run smoothly and that our employees and consumers remain connected, no matter where they are in the world. While the importance of technology will certainly persist, as you mentioned, it does not compare to the connections made with face-to-face interactions.

We are committed to making any potential travel taken as sustainable as possible and are excited to achieve Net Zero carbon emissions for all TR business air travel by the end of FY23. Our teams will continue to examine what travel is necessary and what can now be done through technology. However, as we all know in travel retail, visiting our stores, our colleagues and our stakeholders in other countries and regions is crucial to our business.

As a global beauty player, you must ship internationally and efficiently too. Is this mainly a question of offset or are there other weapons in your armoury?

We know that there is no one solution to addressing climate change and our approach will involve a portfolio of solutions to create the greatest positive impact.

One example of how we are looking to reduce our emissions throughout our supply chain is our new distribution centre in Galgenen, Switzerland, which is scheduled to open in July.

We’ve installed a rooftop photovoltaic solar array on the main structure of this new distribution centre and the 1.52 MW system is expected to generate more than 1600MWh of solar power and reduce 750 metric tons of CO2 emissions annually. This is just one example of how our supply chain team is looking to make sustainable changes every step of the way.

You plan to transition all travel retail-exclusive paper cartons to responsibly sourced FSC-certified board by 2025. That’s five years away for a relatively modest part of your global business. What drives the timeline, and can you indicate how big a component of your travel retail exclusives represent?

The Estée Lauder Companies goal is to have 100% of its forest-based fibre cartons FSC-certified by 2025. In line with the company’s ambitious goal, Travel Retail will transition its Travel Retail Exclusive (TREX) paper cartons to responsibly sourced FSC-certified board by 2025, and we are well on our way to achieving this goal. As of the end of FY20, 83% of TREX cartons are already FSC-certified, which we are very proud of.

You also plan to eliminate film-wrapping from travel retail-exclusive packaging by the end of fiscal year 23. How far down the road are you in terms of alternatives? How do you plan to communicate on a consumer level the changes and the reasons behind them?

Travel Retail’s sustainable packaging team is testing various replacement options for film wrap. They are finding a solution that is best for the environment while still maintaining the integrity and protection of our products.

We are excited to engage consumers on this journey and will share updates as we continue to make progress on our goals. Consumers are invested in this topic and are keeping us all accountable on this journey.

A recent study by the Tax Free World Association (TFWA) found that over 70% of participants noted they would be influenced by sustainability credentials when purchasing an item during their travels. So, we know there is an appetite for more sustainable packaging options. We’ll be highlighting our FSC-certified packaging and film wrap-free packaging to consumers as they are produced so consumers can feel confident, they are making sustainable, environmentally friendly choices.


The Estée Lauder Companies made a big statement with its 2020 Citizenship and Sustainability Report

You also plan to incorporate sustainability practices in new travel retail store design and visual merchandising across all brands starting in FY21. Tell us about the range and depth of those new practices.

The ELC Retail Sustainability Practices are the internal guidelines that prioritise the use of sustainable, recycled, low emitting and FSC-certified materials in ELC retail environments.

We are partnering with our brands and vendors to identify materials that meet these criteria. We are proud of the work our brands have done to incorporate sustainability practices across Travel Retail new store design and visual merchandising.

Just one example of the incredible strides we are making in this space is occurring at counters in Hyundai COEX in Seoul, Korea. Our Estée Lauder, La Mer and MAC counters there utilise an average of 80% reused visual merchandising units, to reduce waste and environmental impact.

You will also deploy sustainability practices across all Travel Retail office locations by the end of Fiscal Year 2023. Tell us more about this? Will home-working loom much more significantly in terms of working practices for the future?

We have offices around the globe and are looking forward to engaging all our employees in each of our regions. Our employees are incredibly passionate about making our offices more sustainable. Internally, they have formed an employee group of Sustainability Champions in each of our TR offices to lead the charge.

The ELC Sustainability Practices for Existing Offices are the core sustainability practices that all our offices are expected to implement. There are also additional ambitions that offices can implement should they want and be able to. These practices focus on reducing the environmental impact o offices by reducing waste, conserving resources and encouraging employees to make sustainable choices throughout their day.

70% of travellers said that their purchasing decisions would be influenced by sustainability credentials, according to the TFWA 2020 Sustainability in Travel Retail Study

Travel retail is one of the most important growth drivers for The Estée Lauder Companies

The ELC presence at major shows involves a lot of personnel travel and big costs in shipping and construction. How do you see their future and ELC’s role within them?

Our teams have made a tremendous effort to engage with current and new suppliers about the materials we are using in our stores, displays and at events, including trade shows. We are always looking for areas where we can reuse or recycle materials and we try to source materials locally when possible. For years, our booth at TFWA World Exhibition in Cannes has been made with recyclable and reusable materials.

Trade shows are important events to engage on a personal level with those in the travel retail industry. Sustainability will continue to be top of mind as these shows return to in-person events. We are looking forward to engaging with our partners to discuss ways we can work together on these issues.

To build a more sustainable industry, we need support and buy-in from all TR stakeholders, including other brands, retailers and airports.

Trade shows present a unique forum where key members of the industry can get together and figure out the best way to approach these issues as an industry. If we can all work together, our progress and commitment to the environment will be tremendous.

Emissions, waste and energy were identified as the key sustainability focal points for The Estée Lauder Companies Travel Retail Division

How deep is ELC’s commitment towards a better, greener, cleaner, more sustainable planet? How will you be communicating this commitment both internally and externally?

The Estée Lauder Companies (ELC) has always taken its responsibility to its consumers, its communities and the world we live in incredibly seriously. The company believes that embedding sustainability into our company strategy and ensuring it has the right governance structures in place is key to successfully reaching its sustainability goals.

In March 2019, the company announced its 2020-2025 Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) goals. Since then, ELC has released FY19 and FY20 Citizenship and Sustainability Reports, sharing the company’s progress on its ESG goals.

As one of ELC’s highest growth channels, we in Travel Retail want to ensure we are also doing our part. After conducting an impact prioritisation analysis to better understand where to focus our sustainability efforts, emissions, packaging, store design and visual merchandising, waste reduction and energy efficiency were identified as the key areas to target for travel retail.

We then took the time to ensure that we brought all the right people to the table to develop our goals and approached this process thoughtfully and methodically. By carefully planning and creating the correct governance, we are ensuring that we can now move full speed ahead to implement these goals responsibly.

At The Estée Lauder Companies, one of our core values is “Bringing the Best to Everyone We Touch.” The earth is everyone’s home and when it comes to protecting it, I cannot think of a more urgent or crucial way to bring the best to everyone we touch.

So yes, we are incredibly committed, and I believe that we can be a leader for our industry to drive tangible impact and change.

By the end of fiscal 2020, ELC had already transitioned 83% of TREX paper cartons to FSC-certified alternatives

The newly-opened MAC and La Mer stores at Hyundai COEX in Seoul were constructed using an average of 80% reused building materials

You are a family man as well as a business leader, Olivier. How much does this cause mean to you personally?

It means very much. As a parent, you want the best for your children’s future. You want to leave the world a little better than you found it. Taking action on climate change goes hand in hand with that intention. I want to be able to tell my children that I stood up for their future and did what I could to impact change.

And as a citizen of the world, I want to believe that we can make a change to secure that better future — as do all our ELC Travel Retail colleagues. I am sure all the industry will join us and others, because if there is anything, I know from my many years in travel retail, it’s that our industry has the ability to move mountains, we need only to put our minds to it and act.

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The Moodie Davitt eZine Issue 292 | 15 March 2021

The Moodie Davitt eZine is published 15 times per year by The Moodie Davitt Report (Moodie International Ltd). © All material is copyright and cannot be reproduced without the permission of the Publisher. To find out more visit and to subscribe, please e-mail

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