An extension to the organic trend

Fair trade and ethical channels that are beginning to take shape in perfumery and cosmetics are seen as an extension to the bio trend. This is quite a challenge in fact: to offer products elaborated through responsible supply chains, lending as much attention to environment than it does to human beings.

The goal being not to lose sight of the concern for fairness and social partnership that first guided pioneers in organic products. At a time when, with a flurry of standards, of labels, and with the entry on the market of multinationals and private labels, bio products tend to become a purely technical matter, ethical channels seek to reconnect to the social pillar of sustainable development.

"This came as a logical continuation of our commitment six years ago in the manufacture of natural scented composition", explained François-Patrick Sabater, CEO of Technico Flor, a creator and manufacturer of aromatic compositions for the perfume industry. As for the supply chain in shea butter implemented by L’Occitane, which includes five cooperatives and employs nearly 12,000 women in Burkina Faso, it results, explains Maud Reboul, Sustainable ingredients & Supply chain Project Manager for L’Occitane, from the commitment, more than thirty years ago, of Olivier Baussan, the founder of the brand, in favour of what was not yet called sustainable development.

Ecocert, with the launch of its repository "ESR - Equitable, Solidaire, Responsable" (Fair Trade, Supportive, Responsible) and Cosmébio who has modified its charter to take into consideration ethical and fair trade concerns, are following the same logic.

Broaden the offer

The main objectives of the Round Table "Fair Trade Perfumes and Cosmetics" were to better understand the concept of fair trade and to put into contact the actors involved. Julie Stoll (Plateforme Française du Commerce Equitable - PFCE), Maud Reboul (L’Occitane en Provence), Patrick Collin (Golgemma), François-Patrick Sabater (Technico Flor) and Jérôme Vaquier (Ecocert) presented their activities in this area and exchanged views with brands and stakeholders gathered for the occasion.

Among the priorities put forward by different stakeholders, the need to develop the offer emerged first. The perfume and cosmetic market originating from fair trade is still very marginal in France and the offer is confidential, unlike the English market which is driven by dynamic major brands and a keen consumer interest.

The various participants, admitted however that there were still too few of these fair trade channels. The greatest difficulty not pertaining so much to additional costs but more to the time needed to really structure the supply chains and get the desired qualities. "But with this progressive multi- stage approach, we don’t need to start everything at once, we can engage ourselves in a process of progress scheduled on a 2 or 3 year period", tempered Claudie Ravel, General Managing Director and Marketing Manager of Guayapi, one of the pioneering companies in this field in France.

Hence the importance of uniting all stakeholders to create partnerships for the development of these fair trade programs. "By sharing our experiences, we hope to spark the interest of other operators who in turn will also work with the producers that we support, making them less dependent on L’Occitane", explained Reboul.

Creating value

Once the channels are in place, the creation of value will surely be the one expected. In particular because of an improvement in the quality of materials produced thanks to a tightening of links and a closer cooperation with suppliers.

"Our - human and financial - return on investment, is truly beneficial for both producers in Madagascar and Golgemma. It is truly a virtuous social, commercial and environmental circle", commented Patrick Collin, Director General of Golgemma, a company specialized in the production and trading of essential oils, hydrosols and maceration oils.

François-Patrick Sabater also believed that "Fair Trade creates a true dynamic within Technico Flor, but also with customers and suppliers. This approach leads us to more transparency and enhances our creativity. In addition, our commitment towards sustainable development has taken another dimension. The fact that all our fragrances can now take advantage from excellent fair trade essential oil stands as a proof."

An approach that should quickly sparkle increasing interest among both industrialists and consumers, even if, as all stakeholders underlined, it could not be considered as a panacea. Indeed, by definition, fair trade channels only concern some producers, leaving all the others in the traditional trade circuits.