Half of the world lives in an urban environment – that’s how common it is to live in a city, not including those who come into the city for work or leisure. The city is a reality of modern life. As such, people move through urban landscapes frequently. Take London for example, 57 trips a year are made by the average Londoner, a mix of private and public transport. These trips tend to involve interactions with others, which often can be uncomfortable or unsafe.
In a study conducted across 15 countries in 2021, 8 in 10 women have experienced street harassment at least once. This problem is not exclusive to cities, although it can be more prominent in densely populated places. Women and young people are amongst the most vulnerable to occurrences of harassment in public. Regardless of where people live, a majority (76%) have seen harassment occur to someone else in public spaces. It is an issue which has become normalised to the point of acceptance by many. Harassment can come in many forms, verbal or physical. It is not always a straight-forward process of identifying. Headphones in, head down, we are all just trying to get by ourselves.
These research findings and the reality of news worldwide has prompted a response. The accountability should be on perpetrators, there’s a need to be careful around framing the problem as if it’s just a women’s issue.
Campaigning Against Street Harassment
Stand Up is just one campaign which has developed as a result of these research findings. The initiative was set up as a partnership between the beauty company, L’Oréal Paris and the NGO, Right to Be. As a way to address the gap in public education on the topic, Stand Up acts as an awareness platform with an interactive training programme for women and men across the world. It was designed as a toolkit for recognising and addressing (when faced with) harassment in public.
Our sustainability consultancy, Citizen Good, led by Caroline Bates, hosted an event on ‘The Future of Sustainability for Brands.’ Amongst our panellists was Barbara Colombo, Sustainability Acceleration Director at L’Oréal. Barbara profoundly acknowledges the relevance of the S in ESG – “sustainability, it’s not just environmental, it’s also social.” In an effort to “drive business with purpose” Barbara focuses on the importance and delivery of one of the brand’s key pillars – “collaboration with the full ecosystem.” The objective of Stand Up is “to foster a partnership between L’Oréal Paris, NGO - Right to Be and the local communities where the company actually operates in,” for greater impact.
Research as a Catalyst for Change
L’Oréal looks to create a community where customers feel supported. Given the prevalence of street harassment, L’Oréal made it their “mission, for the L’Oréal Paris brand, to really educate people, reach out to as many people as possible, to teach them how to safely combat street harassment.” The brand’s obligation to their customers extends beyond their beauty routines. Being a research-driven organisation, L’Oréal knows its customers want to engage with brands they trust. When brands speak out on issues, not only does that mean resources are being used towards causes that deserve a voice, it also means a conversation is mainstreamed, a prominent message highlighted at the Marie Claire x L’Oréal Groupe Power Summit devoted to Allies, Networks and Action.
Over the past 3 years of this initiative, Stand Up has reached its ambitious target to train 1.5 million people. In purpose-led business operations, Barbara and her team work with the mindset that “you can really make a difference when you have the power of brand.” It doesn’t happen without the infrastructure of collaboration which allows for expert-driven social and environmental impact. You don’t have to be a customer to be a benefitting citizen of the Stand Up campaign. It aims to provide practical advice and support for all humans around the world, serving as a partnership for good.