Meet Kao

Making life beautiful.

Kao, ‘face’ in Japanese, is in the business of making people’s lives more beautiful. Founded in 1887, the beauty product giant is now a global player with offices in 30 countries and 33,000 employees. In addition to its own brands, the company’s portfolio includes well-known hair cosmetics, facial care and health products from the likes of Guhl, John Frieda, Goldwell, KMS and Molton Brown. Already huge in Japan, Kao is now expanding throughout Europe from its Benelux headquarters in Amersfoort.

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What is good gets better

The company is known for its innovative products. “At Kao, we know the value of making innovation a continuous process”, explains Christel Grootentraast, general manager Kao Salon Benelux. “We have more than 3,000 researchers worldwide and invest not only in product development but also in research. Knowledge is key to how we distinguish ourselves.”

She continues: “Every day, we assess how we can improve our products and ingredients. The Japanese call this Yoki Monozukuri: constantly making the good even better, the art of craftsmanship. It means new products only hit the market if they are fantastic.”

Kirei – beautiful and clean

Kao is taking great strides in sustainability. Its environmental impact has already diminished considerably in recent years and the company is still looking for ways to do better.

Barbara Holsink, country manager Benelux, focuses on the consumer market and says: “We are producing more and more sustainable products, discovering green solutions along the way. Air-blown refills are a great example: a new technology that saves a good deal of packaging in production.”

Kao strives to do business in harmony with nature. Holsink explains: “We are not only there for external beauty, but we also want to be beautiful on the inside.”

That is why Kao launched its environmental, social and governance (ESG) strategy last year: the Kirei Lifestyle Plan, used by the company to encourage consumers to implement sustainable lifestyle changes. The Japanese word kirei denotes beautiful, clean and ordered.

Holsink continues: “We produce everything according to a vision based on kirei. CO2 reduction and zero waste are currently our main objectives.”

Since the launch of the new sustainability policy, the ESG divisional headquarters have been located in Tokyo. “We believe that ESG should be fully embedded in our business strategy”, says Holsink. But the company does not do this alone. “We work together with universities, experts and industry partners to develop ESG-driven innovations.”

Centrally located in Amersfoort

Amersfoort has been home to Kao Benelux since 2014. Holsink and Grootentraast agree that opting for this location was based on a conscious, well-thought-out decision.

“Centrally located and surrounded by beautiful landscapes, Amersfoort affords excellent accessibility for the many foreign delegations that visit us”, says Holsink. “They can be in Amersfoort from Schiphol Airport in no time at all or can arrive via the high-speed ICE train from Frankfurt, which stops in Utrecht. Our office is easily accessible by public transport and, thanks to the road network, you can head out in any direction from Amersfoort.”

For the complete interview, check out the Amersfoort Business website (in Dutch).