The holistic sustainability picture L'Occitane is pursuing

Beauty brand's Australian managing director and marketing director talk through the recent biodiversity sustainability initiatives it has signed up for and the wider definition of sustainability being pursued

A partnership with the Foundation for National Parks & Wildlife to restore Australia’s natural habitats and vegetation after the devastating bushfires is just one further step in L’Occitane’s sustainability commitment as a brand and business.

The beauty product manufacturer created an Ecosystem Restoration Fund in early 2020 to support ecosystems severely affected by natural disasters. As part of its initial two-year commitment announced on World Earth Day in April, $228,000 is being donated to plant seedlings in Australian recovery nurseries set up across the country after the most recent devastating bushfire season. The goal is to plant 1 million trees over the next five years, and efforts kicked off on National Tree Day on 2 August.

As L’Occitane Australia managing director, Pierre-Emmanuel Joffre, told CMO, helping natural biodiversity is nothing new for the brand but one of two pillars underpinning its sustainability efforts locally and globally.

“As a brand originated from nature and the use of botanical ingredients, it has long been a commitment of ours to respect and support biodiversity and so we are thrilled to be able to support the Foundation for National Parks & Wildlife in its mission of planting one million trees around Australia,” he said.

“When the bushfires occurred in January, we thought we have to do something. We want to protect biodiversity for future generations. We know our beauty comes from nature, and we have to protect biodiversity long-term.”

Joffre noted two types of sustainability for L’Occitane. “One is environmental sustainability, which is everything to do with our product, as we are a natural beauty brand; then there is social and cultural sustainability,” he said.  

Since its foundation, L’Occitane has worked to sustainably source key ingredients, such as shea butter from women in Burkina Faso since 1980 and since 2015, has worked on projects protecting the shea tree. It’s a similar story with the almond tree, and the business is working to plant 15,000 almond trees with the aim of protecting more than 1000 species by 2025. Most core ingredients come from fair trade certified sourcing.

Then there’s reducing waste, and Joffre noted L’Occitane’s partnership with TerraCycle as a key initiative. So far, the business has recycled 10 Tonne of plastic and made 21 of its products available in refill as part of efforts to reduce plastic use by 90 per cent. The goal by 2025 is for 100 per cent of plastic used to be recycled. To further encourage customers, the business has installed TerraCycle barrels in stores, where consumers can not only recycle L’Occitane packaging but also other beauty products.

Another global initiative is with Plastic Odyssey, led by French pioneers Simon Bernard and Alexandre Dechelotte. Starting from 2021, the group is embarking on a three-year journey across 40,000 nautical miles on a boat to raise awareness and understanding of how to turn plastic into new resources. The idea is fostering a circle of life by teaching local communities along the way to transform plastic into energy. L’Occitane is the main partner of the project.

In Australia, there are two additional projects coming in January. Then there’s engaging the team day-to-day to make small changes.

On the social sustainability front, there’s an emphasis on inclusion as well as empowering women. Work here includes a partnership with Unicef, which has a target of ensuring 10 million beneficiaries can access healthcare this year.

“This isn’t about one business or brand objective, it’s the raison détre of L’Occitane,” Joffre said. “We have never been that good about speaking about it, we’d rather be doing it. But we are conscious that when we do show it, we can engage people to do more.”

On that front, L’Occitane marketing director, Pamela Wilson, cited a campaign dedicated to its recycling initiatives, and noted other education messaging and efforts to lift awareness.

“It’s [recycling] is our hero message in our stores, and about showing our customers what they can do to support responsible initiatives,” she said. “We’re focused on education around these 21 refill products, and how using the refills saves up to 90 per cent of plastic.

“We’re using the same messaging across CRM initiatives, talking to our database about what they can do with our products, what refills look like, and how to use them. We also had a refill offer available so people had an incentive to try them and understand that recycling message. And across to website, we’ve again used that to educate people on what we’re doing, and we know more people are doing things digitally and online.”  

The marketing work has extended to PR, and Wilson said her team has been working to engage influencers that support biodiversity and recycling. This includes a partnership environmentalist and sustainable fashion model, Laura Wells.

“It can be such a superficial industry, but people are much more conscious of where products come from, and how companies are looking to reduce their environmental footprints,” Wilson said.   

And as the COVID-19 crisis hit, L’Occitane has stuck fast to these initiatives and efforts. “What’s been great is it hasn’t changed our marketing programs at all, this is something that’s always been focus,” Wilson said.

“Recycling was always front of mind. I think what the COVID-19 crisis has done is given us a platform to have time to talk to the customer who maybe has a bit more time to browse on social media, engage in our site or read our emails. But it hasn’t changed the program we have had in place.”   

Wilson cited a huge uptake in sales of its refill products versus last year as a result. “It speaks to the great job the team has done in educating customers, and the focus in investment the company has put into driving awareness as well,” she added.

“It’s encouraging to see consumers taking part in that.”

 Follow CMO on Twitter: @CMOAustralia, take part in the CMO conversation on LinkedIn: CMO ANZ, follow our regular updates via CMO Australia's Linkedin company page, or join us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CMOAustralia

 

 

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