The Values of Beauty

Sustainability And Responsibility Are More Than Just Lip Service For Clarins

There is no one solution to being a responsible company, so the family-run French beauty brand has simply chosen to implement multiple ones.

Sustainability And Responsibility Are More Than Just Lip Service For Clarins

You will never see French beauty brand Clarins tout the rarity and scarcity of any ingredient in their product arsenal. The brand prefers to use wild plants, as they believe that those are richer in active ingredients, and they refuse to denude the environment for their own private gain, so only common plants are ever harvested — quite laudable, in an industry that often touts the rarity of certain natural ingredients.

This is only just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Clarins’ sustainable and responsible business practices. Not only does it practice ethical sourcing and makes sure to give back to the communities it sources from, it is also committed to reducing its carbon footprint and making sure that the fruits of their business go towards making the world a better place.

Where Does Your Skincare Come From?

Clarins’ main business is, of course, the creation of beauty products, which span everything imaginable from skincare and makeup to body and maternity care. It should go without saying that producing this stable of products involves a lot of raw ingredients, particularly because Clarins uses so many natural plant extracts. The brand’s famous Double Serum, for instance, contains 21 plant extracts just on its own. In total, there are over 250 natural ingredients documented in Clarins’ Herbarium, its repository of natural plant extracts.

As consumers, we would want to know that any brand sources their raw materials in a way that is both sustainable and ethical. But rest assured. While nothing was mentioned about practices related to farmed ingredients, Clarins assured us that it only harvests limited quantities of wild raw ingredients so as not to upset the natural ecosystem. And according to Leona Low, Clarins’ Training Director in Asia Pacific, the brand “forges partnerships that combine social assistance or economic development with the production and harvesting of plants required for its products whenever possible.”

As an example, the katrafay (scientific name Cedrelopsis grevei) used in Clarins’ HydraQuench line is harvested mainly by local peoples living on the island of Madagascar. In return, five percent of revenues earned from the line are devoted to local projects that benefit the locals. The village of Morarano, for instance, now has a clean drinking water network, and the school in neighbouring Marovoay has been extended.

Likewise, the harvesting of vu sua, a citrus fruit native to Vietnam used in the Bust Beauty line, benefited the village of Vinh Kim, where Clarins helped to build a school.

As further evidence of its sustainability credentials, Clarins is a founding member of the Natural Resources Stewardship Council — an industry initiative dedicated to improving the sourcing of ingredients. It works to ensure that supply chains of ingredients are sustainable, and that the biodiversity and ecosystems of producing environments remain protected.

Clarins is particularly committed to protecting the rich biodiversity in the Alpine region. Together with Alp Action — the association created by Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan — the brand initiated a long-term partnership with Asters, the Haute-Savoie Nature Reserve.

Big Feet, Small Feet

Like many brands these days, Clarins is also conscious of its carbon footprint, and is working to both reduce its carbon emissions and creating less waste. According to Low, Clarins performed its first carbon assessment in 2008 in France, and has gradually extended the practice to all of its businesses in Asia (2012), the United States (in 2014) and Europe (2015).

The reports found that packaging materials are the main source of the company’s greenhouse gas emissions — 24 percent according to the most recent France 2013 activities report — which is why priority in Clarins’ product development is now given to eco-design. Every team involved in Clarins’ product creation, development, and manufacturing practice an “eco-design approach,” assessing and anticipating environmental consequences with the goal of reducing them through a continuous progress strategy.

To help the teams make these assessments and decisions, Clarins Group is equipped with a product eco-calculator. A series of indicators are measured to help assess, make choices and perform energy gains: CO2 emissions, water consumption and percentage of recycled material, recyclability of packaging, choice of abundant materials and new, less-polluting materials. The portion of recyclable packaging materials, such as glass and cardboard, already accounts for 63% of Clarins products.

Water and energy consumption are also carefully monitored, and products are transported from Clarins’ logistics site in Amiens, France, mainly by land or sea. “Air transport is exceptional and concerns less than 2% of products dispatched,” says Low. Considering that the aviation industry has been criticised for its outsized carbon footprint, this is good to hear indeed.

Two Hands To Clap

On top of their sourcing and environmental policies, Clarins works to ensure that their business continues to benefit society at large — and that means working with external parties.

For instance, Clarins recently announced that world-renowned tennis player Caroline Wozniacki has become a new celebrity partner for the brand — but not in the way that you might imagine. Wozniacki is now the ambassador for the Arthritis Foundation (or Fondation Arthritis in French), which seeks to raise awareness and fund research for Arthritis, a group of diseases that affect the joints, causing pain and inflammation.

Wozniacki’s involvement is natural; last year, the former world number one player experienced severe pain in her hands that affected her ability to play tennis. She was later diagnosed with rheumatoid polyarthritis, at the ripe old age of 28. Thanks to treatment, however, she remains resilient and able to continue her career as a world-class tennis player.

But what does this have to do with Clarins, you ask? Well, the Arthritis Foundation was actually founded in 1989 as ARP (Rheumatoid Arthritis Research Association) by Clarins’ own founder, Jacques Courtin-Clarins. He did so in response to the pain that his wife, Maria-Luisa, was experiencing as a result of rheumatoid polyarthritis. In 2006, Clarins provided €4 million to transform the association into a registered charity.

Today, the Arthritis Foundation is the leading private fundraising initiative in the field of arthritis in France, and Clarins absorbs all overheads that go into the running of the Arthritis Foundation, so that all proceeds from the public can go towards funding research into the disease.

Besides direct donations to the Arthritis Foundation, a portion of sales from Clarins’ Tonic Body Treatment Oil (pictured above) will also go towards the foundation.

You might think that, with their own foundation, Clarins’ corporate and social responsibility box has been checked, and that’s all. But no; Clarins has also partnered with FEED Projects, a social enterprise founded by Lauren Bush (yes, that Bush family) that makes bags whose proceeds go towards the United Nations’ World Food Programme to feed hungry children around the world.

The FEED-Clarins partnership began in 2011, and has provided 15,346,740 school meals to date.

It is difficult to say without deep investigation just how sustainable and responsible Clarins is as a business, but we have to say that what we have heard sounds very promising indeed.

And truth be told, if your beauty products aren’t produced in a way that benefits the environment and society (or at least doesn’t have a large negative impact on them), would you really feel all that beautiful using them?

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