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The community spirit behind the beauty: Brazil gets into the swing of Citizen Day

What is it like working for a major company in Rio? Probably like something out of a daydream. But if that company happens to be L’Oréal, employees also get the opportunity to help out needy communities and play their part in a country where the sun does not always shine for everyone. Renan Miranda, who heads up internal communication at L’Oréal Brazil, tells us about Citizen Day 2016 at L’Oréal Brazil.

Employees are keenly aware of social inequalities

Inequality is all around in Brazil. Employees at L’Oréal Brazil are surely more aware of the issues than most people. “We are confronted with social inequalities everyday”, comments Renan. The orphanage selected as one of the beneficiary organisations for Citizen Day 2016 is located in one of the wealthiest regions of the country, not far from parts of the city where L’Oréal employees have their homes. Renan explains that when you live in Brazil, there are plenty of opportunities for community action: “Lots of our people already volunteer with different organisations With Citizen Day, we wanted to put together something bigger and really up our volunteer numbers”.

Citizen Day is a day when L’Oréal’s subsidiaries around the world give their employees the chance to come together to help out a charity or non-profit group. Since Brazilians are big-hearted, and because the country is on such a vast scale, L’Oréal Brazil staged this year’s event over three days. After all, with employees spread between Rio de Janeiro, Nova Iguaçú and São Paulo, Renan claims that bringing them all together would have been a “logistical complication ” – being costly, very time consuming and could be a security risk for the employees. Day one, which involved the Rio HQ, was held on 10 June. The operations teams from Rio, followed by those in Sao Paulo, will hold their Citizen Days on 12 and 18 July. Renan also claims that they’re planning on how to bring Citizen Day to Niely’s employees as well.

When deciding which initiatives to support, Renan’s team looked at employees’ volunteering preferences. As he explains: “For the first time, we asked participants to suggest which projects to support. After that, we drew up a shortlist using various criteria, such as social impact, whether the organisation actually needed help, whether projects were in safe areas, and so on”. Over several months, organisers and prospective volunteers held discussions over Yammer, an enterprise social network. The projects were finally chosen at the end of April. Two were picked for the 10 June event: the Educandario Romao de Mattos Duarte Orphanage, which looks after 75 children aged zero to seven, and Lar Amparo Thereza Christina, a boarding house for 60 women in need. In all, we expect 220 employees signing up to take part.

The organising team comprises L’Oréal Brazil employees from a wide range of company departments, such as human resources, communication and legal affairs. It also includes members of the Beauty That Lasts – in portuguese Beleza que Fica – group, who want Citizen Day to have a lasting impact and who embody the level of engagement shown by employees. Says Renan: “These volunteers, who hail from every department of the company, have spontaneously come together to form a group over the years that we have been conducting Citizen Day. Through initiatives such as fund-raisers for those in need and volunteer work, they continue their efforts throughout the year and strive to ensure that the actions taken during the event endure”.

Having fun on Citizen Day in Brazil

On the morning of 10 June, 60 employees from L’Oréal Brazil showed up at the Educandario Romao de Mattos Duarte Orphanage for Festa Junina, a celebration of Brazilian folklore. The company supplied materials, including utensils and tables, while a caterer specialising in Brazilian cuisine was asked to prepare the food. Volunteers took care of everything else. The menu included Brazilian dishes such as Cocada, a super-sweet traditional pastry made from coconut and condensed milk that Renan tells us you have to be Brazilian to like, and Queijo Coalho, a delicious Brazilian cheese served grilled. Volunteers split up into different activities, including decorations, meals, reading and games. Renan says: “We had limited time and resources, but I wanted everyone to feel enabled to do what they wanted. Everyone had lots of fun, and the volunteers and kids bonded. The aim was to lift the children’s spirits”. Luciana Martins, head of the orphanage, called L’Oréal to thank the volunteers, saying the event was a huge success and commenting: “Moments like these make memories that last a lifetime for these young children”.

Later in the day, 60 other volunteers went over to a boarding house that provides a home for women over 70 who have been abandoned by their families. “Their situation is heart-breaking”, says Renan, who explains that population ageing, while a familiar phenomenon in Europe, is something new in Brazil, and the country does not seem ready for it. As he observes, “they get some assistance, but is it enough?” The goal in this case was to boost the women’s self-esteem with beauty workshops including make-up, manicures and hair styling. “We also brought in hair styling interns from L’Oréal Academy. They got some hands-on experience, and the ladies were delighted”, says Renan, describing it as a win-win situation. There was also some dancing, reading, plus different art workshops, all to a sixties soundtrack. Some tears were shed when it was time to leave, and while Renan says that everyone was OK, he adds: “It was very touching. Several of the volunteers asked me for the house’s contact details so they could go back”. The lady who runs the boarding house wrote to L’Oréal, saying: “We do our best to show them love, but it is so important for them to have days that stand out, like the one they spent with L’Oréal, to break the routine and get some affection in their lives. That is all they ask for, and it makes them so happy”.

Employee engagement is a priority for L’Oréal Brazil

Nicolas Hoppenot, CFO of L’Oréal Brazil, says that “a company’s profits are meaningless if that firm does not make a contribution to society”. Based on their feedback, L’Oréal Brazil staff share this sentiment. “Taking part in something like Citizen Day brings people together. It benefits us just as much as those we help”, says Monique Machado, CDP PR Manager. Financial analyst Taina Bravo put it this way: “I have often wanted to do some volunteering but never took the time. This was a great opportunity to do it with L’Oréal’s support”.

Renan agrees: “Employee engagement is a priority for L’Oréal Brazil, and Citizen Day is one of our biggest projects in this regard. Citizen Day does us a lot of good, and the organisational support that we receive from the Group brings us closer to the company and builds ties between employees. We also work in close partnership with the HR department in order to boost employee engagement”.

A volunteer from one of the previous events said that it “feels good to do good”. Employees appreciate the fact that their company lets them take part in such a large-scale undertaking and make that known by sharing photos of the event through the Citizen Day app, a new addition with the 2016 event. Renan says “there are already one hundred or so photos of Brazil with the hashtag #citizenday on Instagram”.

“This is not volunteering for volunteering’s sake. We have a sense that we are giving back to the community, that our business has meaning. Not all companies let you do that and our employees know it.” Given the benefits to employees and recipients alike, this type of event has a long future ahead of it.

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L’Oréal

French industrial group, global leader in cosmetic products.

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