“Beauty makes sense only if it is accompanied by generosity, benevolence and humanity,” said Jacques Courten-Clarence, founder of the French brand Clarins. And his heirs have clearly learned this lesson: the company builds a business in accordance with all the precepts of the principles of sustainable development, year after year raising the bar in this direction. In 2019, Virginie Courten-Clarence, Deputy CEO of Clarins, took over control of the cosmetic company's corporate social responsibility (CSR) strategy. We talked with her about what Clarins' goals are for the near future and why modern business cannot ignore the environmental agenda.
Clarins CSR strategy objectives include:
- receive a B-Corp certificate confirming social responsibility and positive impact of the enterprise on the environment by 2023;
- reduce carbon emissions by 30% by 2025;
- reach plastic neutrality by 2025;
- improve the composition of products in accordance with new requirements for raw materials (organic ingredients, sustainable farming, fair trade) by 2025.
Why do you think it was at the end of the 2010s that society developed such a demand for social responsibility of business?
My grandfather Jacques Courten-Clarence, with his love of nature, was a real harbinger of the idea of responsible business, and sustainable development has always been a priority for the brand. We understand that we owe a lot to society and nature, which is why Clarins has always been concerned about people and the environment. But it seems to me that it was at the end of the 2010s that we all learned a lot more about global warming, about how climate change and environmental pollution affect our lives. That is why today more and more consumers are choosing sustainable and responsible brands.
Which of the Clarins corporate social responsibility goals have been achieved by the end of 2020?
We have achieved carbon neutrality for the first time: carbon emissions at all of our facilities have been reduced or offset. But we are sure that compensation is not enough either. Therefore, Clarins is committed to reducing its carbon footprint by 30% over the next five years. We also launched a refill system in some stores: in France, our customers can refill their empty bottles of Eau Dynamisante toning water or Tonic toning oil, which will help save not only their money, but also natural resources. Our goal is to become a part of a circular economy (a model of an economy based on the renewal of resources. - RBC Style), and such a system of refills is a big step in this direction.
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Did the pandemic somehow affect the implementation of the CSR program?
The pandemic has once again proved the need for its implementation. Moreover, under the new conditions, the value of this program has increased. Our mission is called Clarins We Care because we care about people and the planet today for their future. Clarins is a family-owned company, and this is our strength: we can make long-term decisions and remain committed to our values, even during crises.
You mentioned that consumers themselves are increasingly choosing socially responsible brands. And what generally helps you to build communication with them?
Since 1954, the brand has been in constant dialogue with customers. We can say that Clarins stood at the origins of CRM (customer relationship management system - "RBC Style"). After all, we were the first to receive feedback from customers using special customer cards. And we continue this tradition of dialogue. For example, during the lockdown, we launched the Clarins & Me service: customers can talk to our consultants for free and get advice on skin care. During the pandemic, we have increased our market share in many countries precisely because Clarins is a trusted brand. Customers know that from the beginning, we are committed to delivering the best performing products at the best price, caring for people and the planet.
Clarins own site in the Alps
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All of the brand's formulas are based on ingredients of plant origin, but even these “green” ingredients are being challenged today. How will sustainable ideas change the composition of Clarins products?
Plant research is part of Clarins DNA and all our products are based on natural ingredients. Our goal is to increase the proportion of organically grown plant extracts in product formulas to 80% over the next five years and to establish a fair price for all suppliers we work with in different countries. But we are also proud of our synthetic ingredients: Clarins is committed to green chemistry, so all of our formulas are sustainable. In addition, we have our own site in the French Alps, where we grow our own plants, the extracts of which have been added to our products since this year. We plan that soon all the ingredients grown in this field will be used in Clarins formulas.
Is it possible to create an effective cosmetic product exclusively from organic ingredients?
Yes, we can create powerful formulas using organic ingredients derived from plants or synthetic elements derived from all principles of green chemistry. For example, Orchidée Bleue and Tonic oils, which were the first products in the Clarins range. They are 100% made from plant extracts and are more effective today than ever.
Clarins own site in the Alps
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As already mentioned, Clarins is a family business, and respect for nature is one of your grandfather's principles. Have you been instilled in your childhood with respect for the world around you?
Nature has always inspired our family. My grandfather believed that the main thing is to listen to nature and women. He repeated that in nature there is an answer to any question if you learn to treat it with care and attention. Clarins still adheres to these principles, which Jacques Courten-Clarence passed on to his sons: my father Christian and uncle Olivier. They certainly became part of the family heritage.
Several years before me, it was my father who headed the CSR direction of Clarins, and he has made many important decisions in this direction. So he taught me how to run a responsible and successful business at the same time. We believe that nature does not serve man, but guides him. That said, we owe so much to nature that it seems natural to do everything possible to become even more responsible in relation to her.