Beauty Event Focuses on Biodiversity’s Human Aspect

The Paris conference welcomed speakers from companies including L’Oréal and LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton.

PARIS — The human aspect of biodiversity was the focus of the recent “The Beauty of Sourcing With Respect” conference organized by the Union for Ethical BioTrade here.

Beauty players came together on April 8 to share best practices and experiences of the social aspect of sourcing natural ingredients, with specialists from L’Oréal and LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton among the speakers.

“The beauty industry recognizes more and more value to inclusive approaches such as social responsibility, fair trade and solidarity sourcing,” said UEBT executive director Rik Kutsch Lojenga.

“Our objective is to have a positive impact on biodiversity all along the supply chain,” said LVMH environmental director Sylvie Bénard, who added that building a long-term relationship with suppliers, including sharing best practices with communities at a local level, was an essential part of ensuring long-term supply and having the greatest possible impact on local populations.

She used case studies of the Dior Gardens in Madagascar and Burkina Faso as well as a vetiver supply chain for Guerlain in India as examples of how the company works with local communities.

In India, where the group has committed to buying ingredients for an initial 10-year period, she said: “Vetiver plants were given to families who were shown how to plant and grow them, then LVMH helps to harvest. It is a new source of revenue for this remote Indian village.…It leads to new projects on energy- and water-saving for the local population.”

L’Oréal project manager for environmental research and sustainable development Rachel Barré spoke of how important it is for the firm to get suppliers on board as part of its “Sharing Beauty With All” program, launched last year, which notably stipulates that 100 percent of the raw materials the firm uses should be sustainably sourced by 2020.

Since 2013, L’Oréal has sourced 100 percent of its shea butter needs from fair-trade sources.

The company is working to accompany its suppliers in integrating sustainable sourcing through training, for example. “We deeply rely on a network of cosmetics ingredients suppliers,” Barré said.

“The difficulty will reside in the great diversity of our portfolio, with different elements at stake…that need to be adapted to the specificity of each resource,” she explained to WWD.

The Body Shop’s senior buyer for community fair trade ingredients, Christina Archer, reminded attendees that as well as empowering local communities, fair trade allows the company to secure supply and ensures the quality of ingredients.

“For most of our community fair-trade groups, we give them access to the international market,” she said, explaining it allows them to sell their products to other market players and grow their business.

The Body Shop’s sesame seed-oil supplier in Nicaragua, for example, began supplying additional L’Oréal brands in 2012, she said.

Other conferences addressed subjects like storytelling, with sustainable communications agency Futerra’s creative director Henry Hicks informing attendees how they can tell their story of biodiversity differently and tap into human values.

“Biodiversity supply chains are full of real people who can be your heroes. Tell their story, find something about them that relates to all of us,” he said.

“Stories can connect you to consumers, and they can also make your supply chain more apparent,” Kutsch Lojenga summed up.

Part of the event was dedicated to legal updates on rules addressing biodiversity-based innovation, known as access and benefit sharing and part of the international Nagoya Protocol adopted in 2010.

Integrating complicated ABS rules, which vary from country to country, into their strategies was a key concern for many of the attendees, especially since EU regulations on the subject were approved in March and are expected to be implemented in 2015.

“The EU regulations on ABS include due-diligence requirements for companies developing new plant-based ingredients and products, which will impact how the beauty sector addresses research and innovation,” UEBT senior coordinator for policy and technical support María Julia Oliva said.

André Tabanez, Firmenich’s naturals sustainability project leader for Latin America, shared his experience in Brazil, which introduced regulations on ABS in 2001 and was the first country in the world to do so.
“It is complex, but it is not impossible to do new development in Brazil,” he said. “ABS is an opportunity for companies to work with local communities,” he continued, advising firms to invest in training and equipment to build opportunities for future development.


The conference also saw the release of the sixth UEBT Biodiversity Barometer, with research carried out in partnership with Ipsos into biodiversity awareness around the world. One thousand consumers were interviewed in France, Germany, the U.K. and U.S., Brazil, Vietnam and Colombia, respectively.

The results found that biodiversity awareness among the population is growing in France, Germany, the U.K. and U.S., having risen from 55 percent in 2009 to 67 percent in 2014.

“Biodiversity awareness is on the rise,” said Rémy Oudghiri, Ipsos director of trends and insights studies. “It is a market opportunity.”

Awareness is even higher in emerging markets, he said, explaining that “in emerging countries, [biodiversity] is a daily preoccupation.”

Taking WWD Beauty Inc’s annual Top 100 ranking of the world’s leading beauty companies as its base, UEBT said 60 of the world’s leading beauty players now report on sustainable development, compared with only 44 in 2009. Thirty-one report on biodiversity, versus 13 six years ago.