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The Estée Lauder Companies – The brand as corporate citizen

With consumers, employees and investors alike increasingly seeking out the role of purpose in brands and companies, business and its role in society is shifting. Value is no longer defined solely on a financial basis, but on how organisations can become good corporate citizens.

Perhaps one of the world’s best-known companies, The Estée Lauder Companies is famous as the leading global house of prestige beauty, and has been focused for some time on incorporating citizenship and sustainability into its global business operation. While serving its stakeholders, as ever, it also contributes a net positive to the communities it operates in, worldwide.

Climate change, renewable energy and women’s rights are front and centre of the company’s corporate messaging – a messaging informed by engaging with the communities it operates in. Nancy Mahon, Senior Vice President, Global Corporate Citizenship and Sustainability at The Estée Lauder Companies, explained the importance of dialogue.

‘Citizenship and sustainability is a very dynamic and interesting space. As we move along, we need to continue to listen to our key stakeholders, our customers, our employees and our investors.

‘What they are saying is that wellness and concern for the environment is not just a trend, and this has actually fundamentally changed the beauty business.’

As a family company, The Estée Lauder Companies has remained in touch with its foundational values, which, as Nancy reiterates, is essential in business. With growing sensitivity to a range of social issues – sustainability, diversity – consumers are choosing brands that stand for something positive, and with authenticity.

That’s why The Estée Lauder Companies is striving to respond ethically to the evolving preferences of society and its stakeholders.

‘We’ve always had a really strong system of ethics, and training of ethics. One of the key things I’ve learnt here is what makes this company different: our relationships. Whether its with retailers, consumers or governments, our relationships are built on transparency and trust.’

These ethics are the foundation of The Estée Lauder Companies’ vision, but Nancy also emphasizes the importance of ‘multiple engines of growth’.

‘For a business to be successful, it needs different engines that power it. We’re looking at how our legacy of citizenship and sustainability can be a fuel for our business.’

The insight that arises from this internal reflection and external consideration could go a long way in helping to ensure sustainable business exists alongside a more sustainable society.