This year, French luxury beauty house Guerlain is holding one of its biggest fund drives to save the bees. Chief sustainability officer Cécile Lochard shares why bees are so important to Guerlain and the planet.
March 20 is designated by the United Nations as World Bee Day. Every year on this day, many get involved in raising awareness on the importance of bees as pollinators and the threats they face.
In the last decade, Guerlain has rolled out a number of initiatives in the spirit of protecting the bees. For example, they set up the Bee School in collaboration with UNESCO, Observatoire Français d’Apidologie (OFA) and the Elyx Foundation. It is an awareness-building programme led by Guerlain House employees for young people in school to learn about the role of bees. The luxury beauty house also runs 'Women For Bees', a partnership with UNESCO and OFA to uplift women by training them as beekeepers—a programme that has the support of Angelina Jolie, who served as a godmother to the project.
In 2021, Guerlain is stepping up its commitment to the bees with an ambitious goal to raise one million euros through their international fund drive in aid of Guerlain For Bees Conservation Programme. Between 20 March and 22 March, they will donate 20 per cent of its worldwide sales and 20 euros for every repost of its World Bee Day Instagram post with the hashtags, #GuerlainForBees and #WorldBeeDay.
In this exclusive e-mail interview, the luxury beauty house's chief sustainability officer and author of Luxury and Sustainability: A New Alliance, Cécile Lochard tells us the importance of bees.
Why are bees important to Guerlain?
Guerlain’s relationship with bees dates back to 1853. Our founder, Pierre-François-Pascal Guerlain dedicated a citrus Eau de Cologne Impériale to Empress Eugénie to celebrate her marriage to Napoleon III. And he entrusted glassmakers Pochet & du Courval to create the iconic Bee Bottle, adorned with his majesty’s coat of arms, the bees, and a pattern inspired by the Place Vendôme column. His gift earned him the title Supplier to the Empress, which was the start of the Guerlain legend.
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 bond 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 emblematic Bee Bottle is still made in the Pochet & du Courval ateliers, with dames de table still hand-decorating and sealing this historic bottle. Now, the bottle lends itself to more colour and personalisation. Best of all, they can be refilled time and time again.
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 to protect bees is obvious. With this goal in mind, we have dedicated meaningful partnerships to bees and planned these three days of action.
May 22 is also International Day for Biological Diversity. What is the link between the bees and biodiversity?
The collapse of bee colonies is not only bad news for honey lovers or users like Guerlain because the bee sits at the heart of biodiversity. They pollinate 80 per cent of the world's flowering plants, an environmental service that the French National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA) has valued at 153 billion euros per year worldwide. Bees also guarantee the reproduction of numerous plant species and no less than one third of the world's food supply.
Close to 75 per cent of cultivated plants and 90 per cent of wild flowering plants depend on pollinators, of which most are bees. This tacit agreement between bees and flowers struck several million years ago guarantees a balance in nature. Today, the annual honeybee mortality rate stands at 30 per cent. The disappearance of bees is a worldwide phenomenon that is endangering biodiversity.
The bees were born 100 million years ago. Homo sapiens appeared only 300,000 years ago. It is a dangerous error to believe that they are eternal.
In fact, pollinators like the bee, wild and domestic, are currently 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.
What is a small action that our readers can do in their everyday lives to protect the bees?
Guerlain’s commitment to bee preservation can give you some ideas. For example, it is good to support agricultural practices to support pollination services, such as organic farming. Or we could preserve bee health by increasing plant diversity and improving floral resources by planting melliferous seeds, that is nectar flowers that bees love.
And of course, it is important to raise awareness among the general public, especially the new generations, on how crucial bees are for the environment.
Speaking of raising awareness, tell us more about the Bee School, which is going international this year.
Bee School is an itinerant programme that visits schools every year between April and October to raise awareness among children between 5 and 12 years old about the protection of bees, biodiversity and the climate. Consisting of five levels adapted to different age groups with input from two trained volunteers, there is a discussion module with Q&A sessions and a workshop with two games, that is as educational as it is playful. At the end of the workshop, the children are awarded with a diploma for the level. The workshop fits seamlessly into a more general programme that can be initiated by the school, which is ideal so that children can complete the next level the following year.
I participated in the test session a year ago for children aged 8-10 years old. We knew that this programme would be well-received, but we did not know that the children had so much knowledge! It is very gratifying to meet them and to exchange with them. We realise how interested they are in these subjects and that they are much more knowledgeable than we can imagine. Even if at first it can be a bit intimidating, kids know how to make you feel comfortable and I definitely came out of it galvanised.
This year, obviously we will be deploying a simplified online version adapted to level 3 (intermediate) to facilitate remote sessions and allow children to discover the bee school. Of course, we prefer face-to-face animations whenever possible because the exchanges that take place with children can feel more authentic in person. Despite their interest in these subjects, it is still difficult to ask them to concentrate in front of a screen— just like us actually!
What are your future plans for Guerlain?
For Guerlain to be the benchmark company in terms of protecting bees. We are committed to ensuring that our products and the manner in which they are produced have a positive impact on our entire ecosystem and the regions in which we operate, and that our House actively contributes to a better future.
And if we're looking at the bigger picture, consumers—especially the millennials and Gen Z—are asking for greener, safer beauty. The Covid-19 pandemic has reinforced the demand for meaningful products that respect our plant and its inhabitants. The luxury revolution is underway, bringing a new era of transparency that can inspire creativity, magnify artisanal excellence and elevate already-high industry standards.
Guerlain has been long aware of this. In fact, in 2019, we launched the Bee Respect platform, a digital tool to help consumers understand and be informed about the whole lifecycle of Guerlain products, from formula and packaging to suppliers, manufacturers and carbon footprint. It positioned us as pioneers of transparency in the luxury and cosmetics sector, which we want to continue.
Our ambitions are to reach more than 90 per cent naturally-derive ingredients for all of our skincare by the end of 2023 and to source 100 per cent of its iconic raw materials from sustainable production channels by 2026. We want to keep innovating through eco-design and clean beauty without compromising on the quality or intrinsic beauty of our products. And we aim to reach carbon neutrality by 2030.
I really believe that we are at a critical moment. We can see how deep changes are accelerating. There is a thirst for meaning, purpose, empathy, care and respect.
I personally enjoy working for Guerlain, which is at the forefront of combining creativity and sustainability and bringing my green vision of conscious luxury to life.
Courtesy of Guerlain