At Guerlain, there’s a firm focus on the future alongside its storied traditions that span 195 years. The Parisian beauty brand has been a forerunner in the global sustainability movement, with ambitious goals to preserve biodiversity, act for the climate, and leave a positive social imprint. Chief Sustainability Officer Cécile Lochard has been leading the charge to ensure that these goals are realised since she assumed the role in 2020.
“Guerlain has been a pioneer in the sustainable realm,” Cécile told Villa 88 at this year’s Art Dubai fair, where the Maison became the first luxury beauty brand to participate. “The general mindset is that ‘luxurious’ equals ‘excess’. But there are more common values than contradictions between luxury and sustainability,” she added.
“We’re aware of the traceability and provenance of our raw materials,” she said. “There are shared values of respect, consciousness, and prioritising the longevity, durability, and quality of ingredients. Then, there are the aspects of eco-packaging, eco-formulation, and refillability. We’re proud to be one of the first brands to propose the latter as a sustainable measure in the industry.”
For instance, the Guerlain and Bernardaud Orchidée Impériale Black Symbioserum is a true objet d’art, which is refillable and designed to stand the test of time.
Cécile, who is the author of the 2011 book Luxury and Sustainability: A New Alliance, believes in the power of the sector to have a spillover effect on environmental practices. “It’s about conveying our journey and efforts on this front. The young consumers demand transparency and want to know everything about what they’re consuming,” she stated.
“I believe in the importance of education and daring to communicate the truth. Every Guerlain creation today is screened through the prism of sustainability. Sourcing, marketing, and even the way we communicate through our advertising campaigns are measured in terms of CO2 emissions.”
In 1853, the brand’s founder Pierre-François-Pascal Guerlain created the Eau de Cologne Impériale fragrance to commemorate the marriage of Empress Eugénie and Emperor Napoleon III, adorning the flacon with bees. The insect has since become Guerlain’s historical emblem and, given its role in maintaining an ecological balance and biodiversity in nature, its preservation has been at the forefront of the brand’s vision.
Guerlain partnered with the French National Union of Beekeeping to protect bees and their habitats, installing beehives in its gardens and committing to funding research on their wellbeing. Part of the Maison’s approach is the Bee School, which was launched in 2018 to raise awareness in schoolchildren about the need to protect bees.
Actress-humanitarian Angelina Jolie led the event in Paris past February, and Dubai-based entrepreneur Karen Wazen, who was named the brand’s first regional ambassador last year, hosted the initiative alongside Cécile in the Emirate this April.
The session took place at The Beekeepers’ Association in Sustainable City and taught children about the role that bees play as pollinators to conserve biodiversity. The experience allowed participants to learn about beekeeping and honey production, and the present-day challenges that the insects are facing. “Our collaborators are committed to performing their role and Karen is no different,” Cécile said.
Among Guerlain’s many successful endeavours is the Women for Bees entrepreneurship programme. Launched in partnership with UNESCO, it supports the protection of the endangered black bee and the training of women beekeepers across the world.
“Concerns arose when we learnt about the endangerment of the black bee, which is unique to Ouessant Island that’s located 18 kilometres off the coast of Brittany in France,” Cécile shared. “This is when we decided to make the bee a component of our sustainability journey. The human species is reliant on this tiny insect, which is why it was integral for us to start this patronage and conserve the black bee.” She noted that efforts with partnering entities are under way to work on pollination and bee repopulation. “The Women for Bees programme initially focused on the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, but with the help of subsidiaries and non-governmental organisations, we’ve expanded it beyond that,” she said.
“When we launched the initiative in 2020, we had targeted training 50 women over the next five years. With the support of our subsidiaries, we’ve managed to train 100 women beekeepers this year alone. We’re certain that the number will reach something between 200 and 300 by the end of 2025,” she added.
The Women for Bees programme has played a key role in promoting female beekeepers, especially from rural communities, in a predominantly male profession. “This offers them additional revenue and the ability to autonomise themselves to become agents of change,” Cécile noted.
Plans to further bolster Guerlain’s ecological endeavours are in progress. “By the end of 2026, we aim at transitioning into using post-consumer recycled glass for our products,” she revealed. “The Guerlain Terracotta range features 96 per cent naturally derived ingredients. This year, we announced the Aqua Allegoria Nerolia Vetiver fragrance that includes organic alcohol made from beetroot, showing that we’re moving fast to improve sustainable sourcing in the beauty industry. This was critical as fragrances comprise 80 per cent alcohol.”
Cécile appreciates the UAE’s own commitment to sustainability and climate action. “Dubai is gearing up to host the United Nations Climate Change Conference this year. Expo 2020 Dubai was one of the most eco-conscious World Expos, and the Masdar City in Abu Dhabi is a low-carbon global development. Things are definitely accelerating, and it’s fitting to see that 2023 is the Year of Sustainability in the country.”
Images courtesy of Guerlain; Photography by Eric Tourneret and German Larkin