It’s Earth Month, and who better to profile than Guerlain? With 14 years of sustainable engagement, the company is proud to position itself as a pioneer and leader when it comes to being a sustainable beauty brand. In fact, bees have been a part of Guerlain‘s history for more than 200 years and, beyond being a mere symbol, they guide the brand’s engagement. With its recently announced partnership with UNESCO and Angelina Jolie through the Women for Bees program, plus the launch of its KissKiss Chain for the month of April to help further in bees’ repopulation, we chatted with Guerlain’s chief sustainability officer, Cécile Lochard, to learn more about this sustainable luxury beauty brand. —Vita Daily
Hello Cécile! Please tell us a bit about yourself to start. What does a Chief Sustainability Officer do?
I took on the role of Chief Sustainability Officer at Guerlain in September 2020 (I was previously in charge of Biodiversity for the Maison) with a goal of deepening Guerlain’s commitment to sustainability by innovating sustainably, preserving biodiversity, acting for climate and creating positive social impact, and also being more visible on all the progress we are doing! Despite being a House that is almost 200 years old, Guerlain has always been looking to the future. Sustainability and protecting our planet have been key values to the brand for many years and moreover for 13 years when the House recognized the importance of including a sustainable development plan in its company strategy. My vision is to keep integrating sustainability at the core of our strategy and mainly accelerate the sustainable innovation axis as well as our commitment to Bees. I strongly believe in the same goal that Guerlain does: ensuring the quality and longevity of our creations and savoir-faire with bee at heart. Sustainability is at the heart of our products, from start to finish. So, my daily job covers the House’s environmental strategy in an exhaustive way, from sustainable sourcing of raw materials to eco-design – providing packaging that is better for the environment and much more – eco-formulas and complete transparency. A business day covers as a consequence meetings and task forces with the whole Guerlain teams (marketing, R&D, operations, packaging, logistics … but also perfumers regarding sustainable sourcing of raw materials) starting with the CEO and ExCom members, to make the sustainable change happen as this is a teamwork and everybody in the Maison has to feel responsible of the responsibility! My typical day also includes to supervise my team work on sustainability projects, direct program operations to ensure compliance with environmental regulations, monitor and evaluate effectiveness of sustainability programs and for instance with our non-profit partners such as UNESCO. Joint-work with Communication Department is also so precious as Being able to clearly communicate “what,” “why” and “how” a House develops its sustainable goals and targets sounds really basic but being able to communicate and gain buy-in for these issues is essential for success. I should also mention finally HR shared work as internal discussion about applying our volunteering day around Bees is also crucial when you work at Guerlain; you are more than an employee you are an SD ambassador!
As CSO at Guerlain, what makes you most proud when it comes to the brand’s commitment to the environment?
The “Women for bees” program designed with Unesco and that enables to connect the dots between bees and society/positive social contribution. We launched it officially on the 8th of March with Angelina as Godmother of the programme and to be honest I was so proud and enchanted that Angelina one of the most committed woman in the world accepted to represent it! The Women for bees program is a five-year sustainability partnership with UNESCO Man and the Biosphere (UNESCO-MAB) in collaboration with the French Bee Observatory, also a women’s entrepreneurial beekeeping programme. Our aim is to train and create 50 affiliated women beekeepers worldwide who will be able to develop quality, model beekeeping operations within UNESCO designated biosphere reserves, contributing to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Why are bees so special to Guerlain … and to Mother Earth?
Guerlain’s relationship with bees dates back to 1853. Our founder Pierre-François-Pascal Guerlain dedicated a citrus Eau de Cologne to Empress Eugénie to celebrate her marriage to Napoleon III. Naturally, he named it “Eau de Cologne Impériale”. He then entrusted glass-makers Pochet & du Courval to create a bottle adorned with his majesty’s coat of arms, the bees, and a festoon pattern, inspired by the Place Vendôme column. The Bee Bottle was born. It would become an icon. The Empress was so impressed with this gift, that she named Pierre-François-Pascal Guerlain “Supplier to the Empress” (“Fournisseur de l’Impératrice”), which helped to rapidly spread Guerlain’s renown throughout Europe’s great royal courts. A legend was born. The emblematic Bee Bottle is still made in the Po-chet & du Courval ateliers and now lends itself to colour and personalisation. Our perfume bottles can be refilled time and time again in a celebration of how luxury can meet sustainable development as guided by Bees. The “Dames de table” continue to seal and hand decorate this historic bottle, creating some exceptional versions that perpetuate traditional craftsmanship, art and artisanship. Since then, the bee has been a strong source of inspiration at Guerlain, from fragrance to skincare. For 10 years now, our iconic skincare range Abeille Royale keeps proving the benefits of bee products on skin repairing. Some of our olfactive creations also prove this unbreakable bound between the bees and Guerlain, such as our Aqua Allegoria collection that showcases many codes related to bees or even some of our exclusive creations that borrow the unique shape of the historical Bee Bottle. The bee has also inspired artists and artisans creating bottles for Guerlain’s exclusive perfumes. Bees are also special to Mother Earth. The bee sits at the heart of biodiversity. Bearing witness to our times and at-risk, bees play an essential role in the pollination necessary for plant reproduction. The collapse of colonies is not only bad news for honey lovers or users like Guerlain. By pollinating flowering plants, bees guarantee the reproduction of numerous plant species and no less than one third of the world’s food supply. Indispensable for pollinating flowers, bees are an essential link in the chain that helps maintain the balance of ecosystems. They play an essential role in the various phases of life of many plant and animal species. It is estimated that they pollinate 80% of the world’s flowering plants – an environmental/ecosystem service that the French National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA) has valued at 153 billion euros per year worldwide. Born 100 Million Years Ago (Homo Sapiens appeared – 300,000 years ago – 100 million years after the bees!), ambassador of biodiversity and sustainable development, the bee actually suffers from the virtue that we usually grant to this charge: permanence. We believe it to be eternal because it pollinates our collective memory, our infantile imagination. A dangerous error. Pollinators like the bee, wild and domestic, are the victims of our way of life. Let us see them rather as sentinels and this is essential that we ensure their preservation which guarantees the food security of our planet. For close to 170 years, bees have buzzed between our creations with the same endless passion for exceptional raw materials. And we owe them much. To do our part (and then some…) to protect bees seemed obvious. With this goal in mind, we have dedicated meaningful partnerships to bees. Faced with the worrying decline in pollinator populations, Guerlain is more intent than ever on their protection. And to be more visible and powerful on all the actions initiated we decided recently to reunite them under a common banner such as un umbrella BRAND: the “Guerlain for bees conservation program”.
Please tell us about the launch of the KissKiss Chain campaign for the month of April? What is it, what’s the goal and how does it work?
This April, we’ve launched a KissKiss Chain which will last for the entire month. “Bloom a kiss, save the bees”! With just a simple selfie on Instagram, everyone will be able to contribute towards saving bees. The KissKiss Chain is an online initiative to bring people together about protecting bees. Whether furtive or intense, kisses have everything it takes to reveal our feelings. And Guerlain’s KissKiss Chain becomes a collective way for declaring our love for Nature. To participate, just post a virtual kiss on Instagram using the KissKiss filter, tagging @Guerlain and adding the hashtag #GuerlainKissKissChain. 1 kiss = 10,000 melliferous flowers planted which, as food sources for bees, are rich in nectar and pollen. Sowing them will also help combat the destruction of bee habitats and their threat of extinction. On April 8th, Natalia Vodianova kicked off the KissKiss Chain’s launch on Instagram. From then until April 30th she’ll be followed by a host of House muses and friends. It will be the Women for Bees programme beekeepers within their respective biosphere reserves who will plant the melliferous flowers counted during the campaign. The bee repopulation process will respect species endemic to each region concerned, as will the melliferous flower seeds which will be locally sourced. To preserve local biodiversity, no species will be imported. This campaign is the occasion for us to raise people’s awareness of protecting bees via a playful, young yet meaningful challenge.
When it comes to helping/attracting bees, what’s your favourite pollinator flower?
Definitely lavender! With its different varieties, Lavender is a melliferous plant very appreciated by bees. Beekeepers also look for this plant, because it has the particularity to produce a rather abundant nectar, at the origin of a pale yellow and very perfumed honey.