Beauty’s Top CEOs on President Biden’s Priorities

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Jenny B. Fine
·16 min read
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William P. Lauder

Executive Chairman, The Estée Lauder Cos.

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The Estée Lauder Cos. has a deep respect for U.S. democracy, and we wish the very best for the incoming administration. As a company that has been in business for nearly 75 years, we recognize that this is a pivotal time in our country’s history.

Among many significant undertakings, we would hope to see the new administration focus on issues that reflect our core values of long-term sustainable growth, ethics, integrity and respect for all individuals. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to have an impact on the communities where our employees live and work, we believe that the guidance of scientists and medical professionals should be the North Star of public health policy. Economic recovery from the pandemic is naturally a top priority for all of us, and we hope the new administration creates opportunities for public-private partnerships that allow the business community to do its part in ensuring not only that we recover quickly, but also that we come back stronger, address issues of economic inequality, and create opportunities for all Americans to share in U.S. prosperity.

Our company continues to advocate for racial equality and will support this administration as it plays a critical role in confronting deeply disturbing issues of systemic racism. Managing our company’s environmental impacts continues to be a top priority. While we are proud to have made great strides in meeting our company’s environmental goals, we look to this administration to place a high importance on the environment, incorporating environmental concerns in policy and restoring our country’s commitment to a healthy planet.

Mary Dillon

Chief Executive Officer, Ulta Beauty

There is much work to be done to unite the country and the first steps this administration takes will be critical to doing so. As President Biden takes office, it is my personal hope that he take notable, swift actions to help our country start to heal. I remain hopeful that we can pull together to address the many challenges we face today in service of the greater good with a commitment to inclusion and respect.

More specifically, it’s important to note that throughout 2020, retailers nationwide made significant investments to keep our guests and associates safe across online and in-store shopping options. I urge the new administration to prioritize a bipartisan path forward to put the pandemic in the rear-view mirror, so retailers across the country can bring people back to work safely and help bolster the economy. We are hopeful for a COVID-19 response strategy that includes uniform, national guidance and prioritized vaccinations to ensure stability across businesses and workforces, large and small.

Esi Eggleston Bracey

Executive Vice President, Chief Operating Officer, Beauty and Personal Care, Unilever North America

The first priority of the Biden administration needs to be getting the pandemic under control and taking steps to rebuild our economy and bring back jobs. But the two most pressing ongoing issues we face are racial inequity and the climate crisis.

Building an equitable and more inclusive society must be a top priority. President Biden can take steps right away to reverse some of the damaging executive orders from President Trump, including the recent order on so-called divisive speech that is attempting to interfere with employer programs on diversity and inclusion. The administration should also work with Congress to prioritize police reform and voting rights legislation as first steps to address institutional racism.

At Unilever, we are advocating for the CROWN Act. Along with our partners in the CROWN Coalition, Dove created the CROWN Act in 2019 to fight discrimination based on race-based hairstyles by extending protection to hair texture and protective styles such as braids, locs, twists and knots. We are close to seeing this become a national law after it passed the House of Representatives in the last Congress. I hope the CROWN Act will receive support from the Biden administration and we will see it approved by the Senate, as well as the House, in the new Congress.

In addition to addressing hair discrimination, the CROWN Coalition has expanded its mission to advocate on other racial justice issues including police reform, voting rights and economic equality.

When it comes to the climate crisis, we cannot wait any longer. We need comprehensive legislation to reduce emissions quickly to avoid the most damaging impacts of climate change. The administration should consider carbon pricing and significant tax incentives to accelerate the development of renewable energy across the economy in transportation and manufacturing.

There are also several beauty and personal-care industry issues that need to be addressed during President Biden’s term. It is time for Congress and the administration to join together to pass a national ban on animal testing of cosmetics, which Unilever and our industry trade association are committed to. We also need to update the FDA regulatory program for cosmetics and ingredient review to make sure we continue to maintain a high level of trust with our consumers.

I expect to see more businesses and brands stepping up in support of government action on these challenges. Businesses have a responsibility to speak up for solutions to the most important issues we are facing even if, like Unilever, they are nonpartisan and don’t fund political organizations. We can no longer afford to think of business as separate from society. We are part of society and need to partner with government and civil society organizations to drive scale and accelerate change. In the long run, business cannot thrive unless society and our people also thrive.

Desirée Rogers

Chief Executive Officer, Black Opal

With the inauguration of President Biden and Vice President Harris, America is making history. We have elected the first African American woman to hold the office of Vice President. This duo is reflective of a changing America and has the unique opportunity to unify a nation that has been ripped apart by economic inequality, racial division and the COVID-19 pandemic. Together, they have pledged to be the soul of America and reestablish what truly makes our democracy great.

The administration will need to be focused on addressing our economy, our health and the reestablishment of our leadership position on the world stage but each of us can learn from the example that they have already set. We all know that during the election process, Biden and Harris did not always agree, yet together they will lead our nation.

For a country that was built on the ideals that all of us are created equal and have a voice, it is clear that we are still struggling with these principles over 200 years later. It occurs to me that the greatest gift we have gotten from these two leaders is reminding us that forgiveness and kindness may just be the greatest of American values.

Emily Weiss

Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Glossier

The Biden administration needs to take both immediate and long-term action to support American families and transform our child-care infrastructure. While no one in this country has been untouched by the pandemic, the burden on mothers, and especially mothers of color, has been unbearable. Through school and day-care closures and the shift to virtual learning, mothers across the country are shouldering an unbelievable weight, often having to make impossible choices. Some are balancing child care while continuing to work, others have had no choice but to reduce their hours or leave their jobs altogether. Since February, over 2 million women have left the workforce, and the job numbers from December alone are staggering: women accounted for 100 percent of net job losses that month. And the story goes beyond gender: Black and Latina women, who are significantly more likely to work in sectors that lack paid leave or remote work options, lost jobs while white women made overall gains.

This pandemic has already turned back the clock on years of hard-won progress in the workplace, with some saying this may set women back a generation. We can’t let that happen. As business leaders, we have a role to play here, adopting progressive policies to support and create flexibility for families for the duration of the pandemic and beyond. But ultimately, we need swift and decisive action from the new administration, acknowledging that there is no path to economic recovery without addressing the needs of women, especially women of color, through a radical effort to improve child care and support families.

Sharon Chuter

Chief Executive Officer, Uoma Beauty, and Founder, Pull Up for Change

I am full of hope for the Biden/Harris presidency. The appointments to date have been promising, and I’m looking forward to seeing more appointments. They are coming on-board at an incredibly challenging time in America’s history and really need to tackle these critical issues head on.

First, is COVID-19 and the rising cases in America. The vaccine roll-out has already been marred with scandal and reports of fewer vaccines available than initially anticipated. America so far has lost the initial battle with COVID-19 with more than 400,000 deaths in less than a year. This needs to be a key focus for the administration and a top priority over everything else.

Racial equality—this one is closest to my heart. The economic inequalities and social injustices plaguing the Black community are a pandemic in America. The country is bitterly divided, but human rights should never be a debate. The issues facing the Black community are very complex and there is no simple solution.

It’s vital that a commission is formed and is well-funded to start to tackle these issues as a priority—Black unemployment needs to be addressed and the EEOC is just not enough. Law enforcement and criminal justice reforms, investment in Black communities and in Black businesses—we know Black founders are usually overmentored and underinvested. We have been passive about these issues for far too long and it needs to be a priority. It’s time for action. America cannot win until all citizens win together.

Lezlee Westine, President and Chief Executive Officer

Personal Care Products Council

As the leading trade association for the beauty and personal-care products sector, the Personal Care Products Council congratulates President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris on their historic victory. We look forward to working in partnership with their administration and Congress to enhance our member companies’ ability to continue to provide safe and innovative products that enhance the well-being of countless American families who trust and enjoy those products every day.

Partnerships are key to achieving meaningful solutions. Partnerships can unify the country, address COVID-19 and overcome the many challenges in ensuring a safe and healthy citizenry, spur the economy, create jobs and help get America moving and working again. I had the privilege of working in government for many years. I saw first-hand what happens when people come together and work toward a common goal. PCPC’s member companies work collaboratively with policy makers, regulators and NGOs to find common ground on issues important to our sector, specifically in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.

In 2020, we engaged the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Congress to issue temporary guidance allowing nontraditional manufacturers to address the critical shortage of hand sanitizers. Our members quickly converted manufacturing lines and increased production to provide these essential products. Companies worked collaboratively with federal and state governments to provide and donate more than 20 million units of hand sanitizer to hospitals, community clinics, medical and emergency professionals, first responders and industry employees, and made them available to retail customers. This could not have happened without those critical partnerships.

Our advocacy efforts at the federal, state and local levels (and globally) provide an excellent opportunity to partner with nontraditional organizations who share in our values and goals. Our partnerships are varied and deep. We supported antidiscrimination legislation across the U.S. as a member of the CROWN (Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair) Coalition. We worked with physicians, health and parents’ groups to advocate for legislation to allow sunscreens in schools across the country. We advocated internationally for trade policy and global regulatory harmonization. In a historic effort, we joined with the Humane Society of the United States to support legislation banning cosmetic animal testing in the U.S. These partnerships are key to our industry’s continued accomplishments.

As President Biden said, “To live together and work together. That’s how I see America. That’s how I see the presidency, and that’s how I see the future.” We are energized by the Biden administration’s commitment to partnerships. Whether it is American business, international relations or confronting the many social challenges ahead, PCPC and its member companies stand ready to support President Biden, Vice President Harris and our country’s future.

Anthony Saniger

Founder, Standard Dose

As President Biden comes into office, the climate crisis should be the top priority of the administration. This is an issue that is incredibly important to me personally, and something that we at Standard Dose are deeply dedicated to addressing. World leaders need to act urgently to address climate change. We should rejoin the Paris Climate Accords, and President Biden needs to focus on implementing systemic reform policies dedicated to protecting the planet and its resources. I would love to see a comprehensive environmental policy with federal, state and local components.

Beyond rejoining the accords, there should be larger restrictions on big oil, and incentives for companies who shift their processes to be more environmentally conscious. The administration needs to think about how we can incentivize these companies from a tax perspective to make the components of their business more sustainable. Sustainable processes throughout the supply chain should be encouraged with these incentives and companies should be held accountable for following practices that harm the future of our planet.

When companies are incentivized to become more sustainable, it will be more than just those who are knowledgeable and passionate about environmental issues who make an impact. Under a model like this, we can begin to see real change.

Gregg Renfrew

Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Beautycounter

A little over a year ago, I appeared before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce to tell Members of Congress why reforming our outdated laws governing personal-care product safety is critical to public health. Since then, a pandemic has ravaged the nation, and health and safety is on our minds more than ever. As we enter the new administration, President Biden must prioritize the well-being of all Americans by not only taking swift action on COVID-19, but through supporting common sense legislation to prevent unnecessary exposure to harmful ingredients in personal-care and beauty products.

The truth is, laws governing personal-care products are largely unchanged since the World War II era and compared with the European Union and Canada, the U.S. lags far behind in restricting harmful ingredients. Consumers are right to be wary because the federal Food and Drug Administration does not have the ability to recall dangerous products.

One example was uncovered in 2019 when makeup products specifically marketed to children and teens were found to contain asbestos, a known carcinogen. As a mother, this is unacceptable and why our advocacy for cosmetics reform is so important.

Another problem confronting our industry is access to safer personal-care products by communities of color. While Black, Latinx and Asian women spend more than women of other ethnicities on beauty products, studies show that products targeted to this population actually contain more ingredients of concern. This means that they are at an increased risk for exposure to ingredients that compromise their health, an issue that has been made clear by the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 for Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC).

While immediate action to prevent the spread of COVID-19 must be at the top of President Biden’s agenda, prioritizing public health legislation with bipartisan support will have positive long-term impacts for Americans. We also know that Congress can get things done, particularly when policy benefits both consumers and our economy. More and more beauty companies are following Beautycounter’s lead in proactively using safe ingredients but we need the federal government to step in to ensure a level playing field and baseline protections for consumers.

Debbie Perelman

Chief Executive Officer, Revlon

At Revlon, we believe that good business practices coupled with a culture of strong ethics are the underpinnings to a strong and successful company. We believe this remains true for a strong and united country.

On Wednesday, the Biden-Harris administration released its immediate priorities, which included containing the COVID-19 pandemic, advancing diversity and inclusion and tackling climate change. I’m pleased that the Biden-Harris administration is focused on addressing these critical issues, as these priorities align with many of Revlon’s own.

My top priority has and continues to be the health, safety and wellbeing of our team members, so it is reassuring that the administration has made the handling of the COVID-19 crisis a top priority.

In addition to addressing the COVID-19 crisis, we are thankful the Biden-Harris administration values the importance of diversity and inclusion. At Revlon, we prioritize creating a diverse, respectful and inclusive workplace and believe championing an inclusive culture is essential to our collective success. We believe this is also true for our country — an inclusive culture will create a more successful nation. We continue to work toward building a dynamic workplace and creating a culture where people of all backgrounds come together to do their best work.

The administration is also focused on empowering “businesses to lead a clean energy revolution” and Revlon continues to take proactive steps toward developing products that minimize their impact on the environment and updating our supply chain to protect our natural resources for future generations.

On Jan. 20, when Vice President Kamala Harris addressed the nation standing in front of the Washington Memorial she said, “We shoot for the moon and plant our flag on it. We are bold, fearless and ambitious.” At Revlon, our ethos is being bold and confident through fearless self expression. We create our beauty products to inspire and empower and we believe that how we conduct business matters just as much as the results we achieve. We strive to embody our values of innovation, collaboration, accountability and inclusion. We are energized that the Biden-Harris administration’s priorities align with ours and believe if the Administration stays committed to these immediate priorities, in partnership with the business community, then we will become a stronger, more united, nation.

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