H&H Group supports ESG in the health and wellness industry

Pascale Laborde, Chief Sustainability Officer and Global Director of Marketing & Communications at H&H Group, on ESG requirements in health and wellness

Pascale Laborde is the Chief Sustainability Officer and Global Director of Marketing & Communications at H&H Group, a global family nutrition and wellness company dedicated to promoting happiness and health through premium nutrition and wellness products. The company is committed to inspiring wellness and making positive contributions to society and the environment.

Prior to her current role, Laborde served as the Global CEO for H&H's French organic baby food company, Good Gout. She played a pivotal role in the brand's global expansion and played a significant part in Good Gout achieving B Corp certification in 2020. Laborde’s current position, assumed in November 2021, involves leading global marketing, sustainability, and communications efforts. This move was a strategic decision by H&H to consolidate environmental, social, and governance (ESG) initiatives with global marketing, placing them under a single leadership.

In this capacity, she leverages her extensive experience in consumer marketing and innovation to shape and execute the Group's sustainability strategy. Laborde’s responsibilities encompass overseeing transformative sustainability projects, such as the goal of achieving 100% renewable energy utilisation across all H&H operations, establishing a new H&H ESG Committee, and submitting science-based greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction targets to the Science-Based Targets initiative (SBTi). They are also responsible for monitoring and optimising all aspects of ESG progress and performance within the organisation.

Credit: H&H | Pascale Laborde, Chief Sustainability Officer and Global Director of Marketing & Communications at H&H Group

How does the modern consumer and consumer innovation help inform sustainable business practices?

Research has long supported consumer preference for sustainable products, with one study showing 71 percent of European consumers are in support of more sustainable options. 

At H&H, we’ve acknowledged the need to keep pace with consumer demand and the wider industry and addressed these changes to products across our range of brands, whereby 98% of our packaging materials are recyclable, biodegradable, or compostable. But packaging is only part of this, sustainable practices also extend to bringing health-oriented products with science-based claims to contribute to the wellbeing of our entire society. Modern consumers are expecting companies to change things and improve the world we live in.

For consumer facing businesses, staying agile to consumer attitudes and expectations will help best inform products’ optimisation and services from a sustainability perspective.

What long-term value can ESG bring to business growth?

Research shows that sustainability has not only become an intrinsic part of business models, but can be key to strategic transformation and growth objectives. If implemented correctly, ESG strategies can benefit stakeholders, boost employee productivity and engagement, enhance brand reputation and create operational efficiencies. 

The B Corp movement is an example of how companies can adapt and hold themselves accountable to industry standards, to create long-term sustainable growth. At H&H, our goal is to be B Corp certified by 2025. We use this as a guiding compass to improve our sustainability strategy and develop targets in line with B Lab's stringent (and constantly evolving) certification criteria. B Corp ensures a business is part of a global community that meets high standards of social and environmental impact, across many aspects of the organisation and stakeholders. To maintain certification, certified B Corps must submit an updated B Impact Assessment every three years, reinforcing the strong reputation of the process.  

Pressure stemming from climate risk can also create significant opportunities for companies and lead to future cost reductions and to higher performance. For example at H&H, we have set ambitious targets for the Group’s future by developing science-based greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction targets in line with the Science Based Targets Initiative (SBTi). The SBTi is a global body enabling businesses to set ambitious emissions reductions targets in line with the Paris Agreement goals and the latest climate science. In 2022, the Group completed its first comprehensive screening of its Scope 3 emissions. H&H Group plan includes maintaining 100% of energy use from renewable sources, delivering on an ambitious freight action plan and engaging its major suppliers to transition to a low carbon model.”

What challenges - and opportunities - come with navigating ESG requirements across multiple countries?

“Sustainability has risen to the top of corporates' agendas and the ESG regulatory landscape has become both increasingly more significant, as well as more and more complex. The regulatory landscape is in a state of flux, which can pose challenges to businesses of all sizes – especially those operating across multiple markets and therefore subject to various regulatory frameworks.

Effectively addressing ESG requirements on a multinational scale requires a deep understanding of global frameworks and local regulations, and the ability to adapt our sustainability strategies accordingly. Collaboration with stakeholders, a robust data management system, and regular reviews are key to making sure the Group stays abreast of regulatory developments in each jurisdiction, ensuring compliance and identifying areas for improvement.

For multinational companies like H&H Group, one of the greatest challenges is ensuring all ESG requirements are met and navigating the different regulations and obligations in the countries where we operate. We use a two-fold approach to address this: firstly, using international frameworks to guide our reporting globally and ensure that we are reporting on a comprehensive set of sustainability topics, and secondly, taking a localised approach to ensure compliance with local regulations and requirements. At global level, we currently follow the GRI reporting framework and closely follow the works of the International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB) (whose objective to unify corporate climate disclosures is welcome). Then, as a group listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, we must follow the HKEx's Appendix 27 guidance for ESG reporting. 

We also make sure our local entities follow local regulations and requirements (and which may also have an impact on the Group reporting framework), for example the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive from the European Union, which can be applicable to companies incorporated outside of the European Union. We work closely with our local teams to ensure that we are aware of any new or changing regulations, and we engage with stakeholders to understand their expectations and concerns. 

Although businesses may find navigating various reporting frameworks a current challenge, this presents an opportunity to become better acquainted with the landscape as we look to a future which will only continue to home in on sustainability credentials and increasingly stringent reporting. In addition, operating in diverse geographical locations enables us to learn from different regional approaches to sustainability. We can leverage best practices from each jurisdiction and incorporate them into our operations, fostering innovation and continuous improvement. This cross-pollination of ideas and experiences helps us develop a more robust and globally relevant sustainability strategy.

What are your top tips for businesses navigating ESG strategy and reporting? 

The rise of greenwashing accusations in the last few years has facilitated an environment in which businesses are reluctant to publicly speak on sustainability, due to a fear of overstating or inflating their positive environmental impact (whether it’s deliberate or not), otherwise known as ‘greenhushing’. 

While calling out greenwashing or fundamental ignorance around sustainability related issues is important, we should instead encourage businesses to remain transparent and honest about the issues they’re facing. For instance, at H&H we have numerous policies and statements publicly available so that our consumers, customers, partners and investors can trust our business practices – from Diversity, Equity & Inclusion and Supplier Code of Conduct, to Raw Material Sourcing Policy. Our Raw Material Sourcing Policy outlines the known sustainability hotspots (i.e. activities within a product’s life cycle that are identified as having a substantial environmental or social impact) that lie in our supply chain for the different types of ingredients that we source for products. Some of the known sustainability hotspots for our industry notably include health and safety in relation to chemicals used in the production process, biodiversity risk, and human rights violation risks.

Synergy across the business

Collaboration across your organisation will also help streamline ESG strategies. Rather than act as a separate arm to a business, ESG should be fully integrated into core business models and feed into wider departments within an organisation, meaning sustainability teams or individuals are better equipped to achieve their goals – and do not have to address them alone. 

Notably, we’ve found that creating opportunities for cross-functional collaboration (such as appointing ESG ‘champions’ in each region), learnings and training has not only helped to embed an ESG-minded organisational culture, but these initiatives also contribute to talent retention, growth and future-proofing the organisation.

ESG is about more than just the environment

It’s important to remember that ESG does not stop at environmental focuses. When it comes to the ‘S’ (Social), community support and engagement are crucial in helping businesses develop initiatives and projects that support society and are meaningful to their brand and product portfolio. In fact, we recognised this as an area for even deeper commitment and last year we donated $3.1million to community investment through the H&H Foundation.  

Stay ‘in the know’

Keeping pace with the industry is also important to ensure an organisation strives to be a better company. Running regular ESG evaluations of your internal stakeholders and suppliers will keep your business updated on the latest reporting standards, industry-specific certifications, and consumers’ expectations that ultimately inform your strategy and help define your impact model. At H&H, we train our team on ESG topics and recently launched the ‘H&H Academy for Change’, a new sustainability learning journey designed to empower our team to be a driving force in shaping a sustainable future for our Group and the global community. To mark the launch of the H&H Academy for Change, we also partnered with an HK-based B CORP to grow our new H&H Forest. Upon completing the training, each team member will receive his/her very own tree in our H&H Forest.

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