A beekeeper

PARIS — Guerlain and UNESCO have created a partnership to train new beekeepers, form beekeeping affiliates globally and measure the bees’ pollination benefits in biosphere reserves.

The announcement was made Thursday morning at UNESCO headquarters on Paris’ Left Bank. Among the speakers present were Audrey Azoulay, director general of UNESCO; Laurent Boillot, president and chief executive officer of Guerlain; Antoine Arnault, head of communication and image at LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, Guerlain’s parent company, and Sandrine Sommer, Guerlain’s chief sustainability officer.

Antoine Arnault and Audrey Azoulay

Antoine Arnault and Audrey Azoulay  Courtesy Photo/Pierre Mouton

The new program is part of Guerlain and UNESCO’s quest to preserve bees and biodiversity, which ensures earth’s food security.

“What brings us together today is this small animal. The oldest fossil with bees measuring less than 3 millimeters was found, frozen in amber and dating from approximately 100 million years ago,” said Azoulay, adding that in a few dozen years bees risk extinction.

It is estimated that there are 75 percent fewer pollinators than in the early Nineties, and that man is most responsible (think pesticides and climate change) for their rapid decline in number. Meanwhile, between 60 percent and 90 percent of wild plants depend on bees for their reproduction.

“We will contribute up to a billion bees over the next 10 years,” said Boillot.

Arnault said that LVMH has had an environmental department for 27 years, so the link with biodiversity isn’t new for the group, which is involved in numerous sustainable programs. LVMH in 2012, for instance, launched LVMH Initiatives for the Environment, or LIFE.

“But with UNESCO, we have found this common ground and a formidable and extremely expert partner to treat a whole range of issues specifically around biodiversity’s protection,” he explained. “Natural resources, of course, for a group like ours are at the heart of our strategy but also of our success.”

The five-year partnership between LVMH and UNESCO-MAB involves the French luxury group supporting UNESCO’s intergovernmental Man and Biosphere program. The training, support and installation of beehives are to be overseen by the French Apiology Observatory, which has been a partner with Guerlain over the past four years.

Laurent Boillot

Laurent Boillot  Courtesy Photo/Pierre Mouton

The program will begin in early 2020, with the training of eight people with 50 hives each, including two beekeepers each based in Ethiopia, Rwanda, Cambodia and China.

Then during every one of the next four years, 20 more beekeepers per year will be trained. They will hail from 10 more UNESCO biosphere reserves in 10 different countries, representing 4,400 hives altogether.

After five years, when the partnership between Guerlain and UNESCO could be renewed, 88 beekeepers from 44 biospheres will have been trained. The idea is also to create an international network of professionals. Passing on beekeepers’ savoir-faire is linked to the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Guerlain has had sustainability as part of its core business development over the past dozen years through a program called In the Name of Beauty.

“We re-questioned [practices], established new projects and adapted to a changing world,” said Boillot. “With the urgency of today, small steps are not enough anymore.”

The idea for the Guerlain-UNESCO partnership stemmed from the “Bee University” held by the brand at UNESCO in May.

The bee is the symbol of Guerlain, with the insect’s form appearing on the brand’s perfume packaging. Honey from special black bees is the main ingredient in Guerlain’s Abeille Royale skin-care line.

The brand’s sustainability efforts revolve around four main axes: eco-conception of products, climate, biodiversity and solidarity.

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