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In Madagascar, a French Beauty Brand’s Mindful Project

By Renée Batchelor

 
Clarins: Jardins du Monde Project

The Jardins du Monde project in Madagascar.

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Clarins: Jardins du Monde Project

The Jardins du Monde project in Madagascar.

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Clarins: Jardins du Monde Project

Clockwise from top left: The harungana plant is native to Madagascar; the kangaroo flower is found in Australia; the fruit of the hazelnut plant fights dehydration; the leaf of life, a plant that retains water in the heart of its leaves.

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French skincare brand Clarins has been growing from strength to strength since it was first founded in 1954 by Jacques Courtin-Clarins. The late founder’s mission – “Do more, do better and enjoy doing so” — still holds today. Since his passing, the brand has very much remained a family business with his sons Christian and Olivier Courtin-Clarins, Christian’s daughter Virginie, and Olivier’s daughters Jenna and Prisca, helping to run various aspects of its business. 

Throughout its history, the brand has pioneered many firsts in the cosmetics industry — such as its own massage and application techniques and category-defining products like the V Shaping Facial Lift. Although the topic of conscious beauty is trending now and many young brands are making this a major marketing point, Clarins has been quietly pioneering conscious beauty in the way it sources ingredients, respects its clients and packages its products.

T Singapore spoke to Christophe de Pous, the president of North America and Asia-Pacific of Clarins to learn more about their efforts. 

RENÉE BATCHELOR: What is Clarins’s philosophy when it comes to conscious or responsible beauty?

CHRISTOPHE DE POUS: It’s in the DNA of the brand and it is embedded in its way of thinking as well as their own philosophy. It is not just a marketing concept because Clarins is a genuine, authentic company. When the issue of micro plastic beads came up, Clarins stopped producing them as soon as that question was raised. The family decided to stop it before any EU legislation was passed. 

Our very first product, the tonic oil, was already 100 per cent natural, way back in the 1950s.

RB: In terms of brand initiatives, like your production and packaging, how does the brand help the environment? 

CDP: We have an internal engagement to use a minimum of 25 per cent recycled glass in our packaging. Maybe some of our packagings might seem too classic, as we cannot have the creativity of using purely new materials, but we want to respect those engagements. We have done a decrease of 10 to 15 per cent of energy consumption over the years, simply by paying attention and setting targets. We also have internal rules and in 100 per cent of the case when we can, we only buy green energy. Overall in the entire world, two-thirds of the electricity that we use are green.

RB: How difficult do you think it is to incorporate these changes in your everyday production? 

CDP: I was very surprised and pleased when I joined the company three years ago, at the family’s, sincere commitment to making these changes— it [is] really embedded in every employee. And when we do our review of performance of our employees, this is part of it. Whenever we evaluate someone, we make sure they respect all our values. And there is also open and sincere discussion with our employees, to make sure that they really not only follow it by rule, but also by conviction. 

It takes much more time and money, but the effort is a positive effort. So it creates a very positive environment. Clarins may not have really communicated that in the past, but in today’s world, there is a need for more transparency and there is a greater aspiration from Generation Z and millennials towards those values. I believe we have to express and share them more. If you go on our website, you can see a lot of our unique programmes, with the kangaroo flower in Australia, and the harungana plant in Madagascar. We now try and communicate more because the consumers are interested. 

RB: Tell us about the relationship that the brand has with Jardins du Monde and how it relates to this philosophy of conscious beauty?

CDP: There are different types of collaborations with Jardins du Monde and most of them are to create a social impact. You can have less harm to nature and a positive impact on biodiversity, but also it’s very important to have a positive economic cycle for people. Because when we work with people in very poor areas, we want to make sure that we create a healthy and sustainable economic cycle. And it’s the best impact that you can have, because if you protect biodiversity, and harmless nature, the country creates a more positive cycle and creates jobs for people in a sustainable way. 

It’s not always possible for every project but these projects help to finance schools, for example, in Madagascar. Thanks to the Jardins du Monde partnership, we can bring education, a positive economic cycle and sustainability and make a really positive impact on the planet.

RB: How important do you think this idea of conscious beauty and environmental friendliness is to the customer today? 

CDP: I think many people sincerely are very interested in it and the interest is definitely getting higher and higher, and we see that in, again as I mentioned, the younger generation, but also in the more mature generation. Even at my age, consumers also have a big interest. At least 60 per cent of the younger generation are conscious. And it influences their purchases. 

RB: How does Clarins actively ensure that it stays on top of being a conscious beauty brand?

CDP: It’s really thanks to the leadership of the family. The personal engagement of Olivier and Christian and also their daughters, because as they live it, the whole company is living that with them. So we are really following through with our very clear objectives, but also through cultural sharing. 

When we research on plant extracts, we try to do it in a sustainable way. So we try to avoid the roots if it’s not sustainable, because that would kill the plant so we focus on other parts of it. We also use a lot of techniques for clean extraction because some of the plant extraction is done with solvents. Solvents are made of chemicals that you have to recycle after, so we have original techniques in our lab to do clean plant extraction. It starts with the family, and then the research and development, where we are incredibly advanced.