A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

L’Oréal USA releases details of large-scale solar project at Florence manufacturing facility


By Mark Hansel
Special to KyForward

L’Oréal USA announced it will exceed its carbon emission reduction goals and build two large-scale solar projects at the company’s manufacturing facilities in Florence and in North Little Rock, Arkansas.

The projects are part of the company’s global sustainability strategy Sharing Beauty with All.

The two projects – among the largest in each state – represent an acceleration of the company’s original goals to reduce its CO2 emissions by 60 percent from its 2005 baseline.

Solar panels at the L'Oréal facility in North Little Rock, Arkansas (click to enlarge)

Solar panels at the L’Oréal facility in North Little Rock, Arkansas (click to enlarge)

L’Oréal USA will achieve an 80 percent reduction, and plans to achieve 100 percent renewable electricity for its manufacturing in the United States through the projects and the purchase of additional, locally-sourced renewable energy certificates (RECs). The project in Florence will be the largest commercial solar array in Kentucky and the project in North Little Rock will be the third largest commercial array in Arkansas.

“Reducing our CO2 emissions by 80 percent and achieving 100 percent renewable electricity for our U.S. manufacturing is a major milestone for L’Oréal USA,” said Fréderic Rozé, CEO of L’Oréal Americas. “The achievement is a testament to our passionate, creative and innovative teams who have pushed us to go beyond our original ambitions. We are committed to being a sustainability leader in the United States and are proud of the progress we have made.”

Richard Jones, L’Oréal’s Technical Director of North American Operations, said sustainability is an umbrella strategy program that is every bit as important as product development.

“We see sustainability, defined by improving our carbon footprint, reducing our water consumption, our waste consumption, as well as the way we develop and go to market with our products as a key strategic requirement,” Jones said. “Our CEO and our senior leadership is fully committed to being leaders in the sustainability place through the Sharing Beauty with All program. It’s kind of shaping our whole organization.”

The Florence plant, in partnership with Scenic Hill Solar, will house the largest commercial solar array in Kentucky at 1.5 MW (megawatts). Construction of the Florence project will start in late 2016 and will consist of approximately 5,000 solar panels.

Jones said L’Oréal felt it was important to use a domestic partner and American-made products for the projects.

“These panels are U.S. made and we think it’s key to drive that solution locally wherever possible,” Jones said.

The array is projected to cut CO2 emissions in Kentucky by approximately 1,195 metric tons per year, equivalent to eliminating over 2.8 million miles traveled by passenger cars per year, according to EPA Greenhouse Gas Equivalencies.

“We’re the leading beauty company in the world and that comes with a responsibility,” Jones said. “We want to have a positive human impact on so many aspects of our business – the products we make, the safety and security of those products, the safety and security of our employees and our care and responsibility for our communities and the environment. All of these things are super-critical to us.

The 687,000 square-foot-Florence plant, makes haircare products for the Garnier, L’Oréal Paris, Matrix, and Redken brands. It is the company’s largest manufacturing site in the United States and its largest worldwide by tonnage of products produced.

“With this project, our facility becomes an emblem of sustainable manufacturing” said Eric Wolff, L’Oréal’s Florence Plant Manager. “We’re proud to be leading the way for commercial renewable energies in Kentucky.”

Jones, who was plant manager at the Florence facility for four years, said L’Oréal is committed to getting the local communities in which it operates to buy in to the sustainability initiative in a very strong way.

“We think local and act local to drive the performances we expect in the sustainability space,” Jones said. “The announcements in Florence, and also in Arkansas, are a large part of the program. These are two of our most strategic and largest factories.”

The North Little Rock plant, also in partnership with Scenic Hill Solar, will house a 1.2 MW array that will be the third largest commercial solar array and the fourth largest solar project in Arkansas. The 4,000 solar panel installation in North Little Rock is scheduled to be operational by mid-2017 and will reduce carbon emissions in Arkansas by 1,326 metric tons per year, equivalent to eliminating nearly 3.2 million miles traveled by passenger cars per year, according to EPA Greenhouse Gas Equivalencies.

“We are delighted to partner with L’Oréal, a demonstrated sustainability leader, and help them to simultaneously meet their bold goals for clean, renewable energy and reduce their electricity costs,” said Bill Halter, CEO of Scenic Hill Solar.  “We commend L’Oréal on their continued global leadership in sustainability and are honored to partner with them.”

The 446,691 sq. ft. factory in Arkansas has operated in the state for over four decades, and is home to cosmetics production for brands including Maybelline, L’Oréal Paris, Essie and Lancôme. L’Oréal is the fourth largest industrial employer in the Greater Little Rock area and this plant has nearly 500 employees.

L’Oréal first installed a solar array at its North Little Rock plant in 2012, which now supplies the equivalent of 100 percent of its outdoor lightning needs (18,000 kWh/year).

“We are very excited to continue on our site’s sustainability journey” said Eric Fox, L’Oréal’s North Little Rock Plant Manager. “This next phase of our on-site solar installation not only paves the way for expanded low-carbon manufacturing, but also can serve as a catalyst for continued investment in renewable energy technology in the Natural State.”

L’Oréal USA has been operational in Kentucky for more than 25 years and its Florence facility now has more than 400 employees

Workforce development has been a key initiative throughout Northern Kentucky in an effort to ensure a qualified pool of employees for the region’s manufacturers and L’Oréal has been a strong contributor to those efforts.

“We have been active in the community for some time with plant visits, community sessions and high school visits,” Jones said. “We have partnered with Northern Kentucky Tri-ED from a training and skills development perspective, partnered with local technical schools for the creation of co-op programs. Our workforce is tremendously committed and engaged and we know that we want to continue to invest in that workforce and in skills development.”

Nationwide, L’Oréal USA has been a long-time leader in solar energy, and was named one of the top 25 companies for U.S. solar capacity by the Solar Energy Industry Association (SEIA).

The company’s commitment to solar began in 2011 with an installation at its Piscataway, New Jersey manufacturing facility. With this announcement, L’Oréal USA now has 16 solar installations across the country generating a total of 13.5 MW of energy.

Mark Hansel is managing editor for NKyTribune.com. Contact him at mark.hansel@nkytribune.com


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