Premium Beauty News - In 2007, luxury and sustainable development hardly worked hand in hand. How was this initiative born?
Sandrine Sommer - It was born from a strong-willed man, Laurent Boillot, who had just taken over Maison Guerlain. Sustainable commitment was mainly a personal belief. But beyond that, sustainable development definitely had to be an integral part of the company’s strategy to develop, pass on, and preserve Guerlain’s heritage.
Premium Beauty News - Protection of bees (they are the Maison’s emblem), biodiversity, climate, eco-design, social responsibility… your commitment is global and you have already made very concrete achievements, like the new Orchidée Impériale pack lightened by 60%. After 10 years, what are your greatest satisfactions?
Sandrine Sommer - Internal mobilization and involvement, first. From the very beginning, we implemented an efficient collaborative organization with a “sustainable development” steering committee composed of 18 people from every department in the company. For sustainable development to be a project on the level of the whole company, with a real will to change and the right structure to do it, and for our employees to be the best ambassadors, it was essential for me to have all trades involved and get one referent per department. In addition, I am very proud of having brought up to date the Abeille bottles, making them indefinitely refillable, thanks to our perfume fountains. To me, the perfumer Guerlain concept embodies sustainable luxury. And we have great ambitions to gradually deploy the concept.
Premium Beauty News - What are your objectives for 2020?
Sandrine Sommer - There are many of them, but they can be grouped into four main challenges: biodiversity preservation. We already work with sustainable sourcing players for Guerlain’s iconic raw materials. Also, we have made a lot of efforts for bee protection, in particular on Brittany’s Île d’Ouessant, and we are now developing our projects on the global level. The second challenge for us is ecodesign. It is probably one of the most complex. The idea is to make things as, or even more beautiful, while preserving the planet’s resources. We aim for 100% of our new products to be ecodesigned by 2020. Then, as far as climate is concerned, we have committed to reduce our CO2 emissions by half compared to 2007, for example by choosing maritime transport. Lastly, as regards social responsibility, definitely one of our own priorities, we support a global association dedicated to self-esteem: Look Good Feel Better. They offer women receiving cancer treatment free beauty workshops in hospitals. By 2020, we would like to be able to support them in all countries where Guerlain has settled.
Premium Beauty News - How did the transition go with your suppliers?
Sandrine Sommer - We worked together with the LVMH Perfume & Cosmetics branch to develop a responsible purchasing charter and define a number of guidelines that would help us make progress. The charter was co-set up with steering suppliers and is used as a working basis to go forward together, that was most important.
Premium Beauty News - How did you make the notions of environmental protection and luxury match?
Sandrine Sommer - They are not incompatible, there are actually matching elements between luxury and sustainable development that are almost natural, even consubstantial, in particular the notions of long periods of time, of the selection of rare and precious raw materials that require protection, or of know-how that needs to be passed on…
On the contrary, it can be difficult to communicate, because we are aware of the fact that we are not exemplary yet – no one is. It is an issue on which we have been innovating on a daily basis. Many luxury companies have been working for a long time on this, but they do not make it public that much. Guerlain has only just started, but we still want to keep humble and sincere in how we do it. It is a continuous improvement process, a long, step-by-step building process, without compromising on the quality and prestige perceived with luxury houses.
The “green” vision of sustainable development is behind us now. It is time to highlight beautiful, sustainable innovations to reconcile both. That is what the challenge involves.
Premium Beauty News - Is your public ready to hear these arguments?
Sandrine Sommer - The luxury public is getting increasingly sensitive to this. To our customers, it is just obvious, as long as you are a luxury brand, you should do things well. It is up to us to go farther and anticipate their questions and aspirations. For example, we have communicated on our rare, natural materials for long. Today, we are going further, by putting an emphasis on our commitment to protect biodiversity in light of these rare ecosystems.
We have a prescribing, training role: it is up to us to raise customer awareness.
Premium Beauty News - How are you going to communicate on this issue?
Sandrine Sommer - Every year, we organize two events at Guerlain Champs-Élysées to put forward committed men and women. These players work on Sustainable Development on a daily basis. They come to share their experiences with a concerned public, my counterparts from different companies and industries, associations, all our stakeholders… It is a different way to communicate, but we do believe in the pollination of ideas and the strength of committed networks.