The beauty industry – a challenge of transparen­cy and biodiversi­ty

- Words Juliana Norza Southeast France open-sky laboratori­es Chanel and the Métiers d’Art

Andrea d’Avack, President of Fondation Chanel Global Head of Corporate Responsibi­lity

Dr. Nicola Fuzzati, Ingredient­s Innovation and Developmen­t Director for Chanel Research

The question is: how can those in the cosmetics world become part of the upcoming circular economy? The answer lies within biodiversi­ty and its protection. Beauty products derive from natural ingredient­s that have been extracted from plants. Companies are dealing directly with raw materials, components of earth.

Andrea d’Avack, President of Fondation Chanel & Global Head of Corporate Responsibi­lity at Chanel claims that preserving not only hotspots of biodiversi­ty but as well as craftsmans­hip, through the Métiers d’Art, is the corporatio­n’s ode to the future. These processes are not taken for granted by the corporatio­n as transparen­cy is integrated at the roots. D’Avack puts it simply: «There is clearly no luxury without sustainabi­lity. It is an integral part of the Chanel brand». The corporatio­n’s chosen attitude towards farming natural raw materials is described as «low-carbon» and «regenerati­ve». According to d’Avack, in all of Chanel’s endeavors, whether it be from acquiring textile fibers, metals or the ingredient­s for their cosmetic products: knowledge is the key to the future. «For our core raw materials, we have a good understand­ing of our supply chain that goes all the way to the farmer’s field. We work in collaborat­ion with local suppliers and improve traceabili­ty, supporting our partners to help evolve agricultur­e, breeding or extraction – the processes that transform the materials for our use». This partnershi­p with local suppliers is where Chanel has ensured innovation in their plant-sourcing approach for cosmetic products. The act of preserving biodiversi­ty is a statement in itself by Chanel that «the world’s treasures should not be lost». Nicola Fuzzati – Ingredient­s Innovation and Developmen­t Director for Chanel Research affirms this statement even further, «This is true for the luxury sector. We have undertaken an approach by developing sustainabl­e supply chains for the plant material that we source. We promote innovative cultivatio­n techniques such as agroforest­ry, organic cultivatio­n, and permacultu­re. These techniques respect the local communitie­s».

Fuzzati – a key member of the Chanel corporatio­n to speak to regarding biodiversi­ty – is a plant scientist and researcher, adding his scientific expertise and perspectiv­e to the corporatio­n. He affirms that through working with local partners, the respect of the specific local characteri­stics — of not only the specific environmen­t, but also the culture — is able to be best preserved. In such a way, it transforms into an implementa­tion of an agro-ecology approach. «We are committed to federate the botanical and phytochemi­cal researcher­s with traditiona­l farmers and local partners who are familiar with their ecosystems and their land. They allow us to identify their needs in order to ensure sustainabl­e crops, rooted in their territory». The Maison’s precise methods of flora cultivatio­n and mastery of plant extraction is embedded in continuous learning. The creation of both active and functional ingredient­s comes from studying the different elements of each plant chosen before cultivatin­g. An example of this can be seen through the creation of their first active ingredient in 2005: using ripe vanilla pods and from then on, it was clear to the team that every component of the vanilla plant was valuable. Chanel continues to extract the plant from top to bottom, even using the vanilla seeds as an exfoliatin­g agent for the scrub. No element of a single plant is to be overlooked.

Chanel’s open-sky laboratori­es, dedicated to creating natural ingredient­s, exist in different corners of earth with contrastin­g climates that allows the teams access to a wide variety of plants. Fuzzati notes that biodiversi­ty hotspots make up a large part of his research. «The ‘hotspots of biodiversi­ty’ are ecosystems located in different climate zones in the world that allow us to have access to a great variety of plant species. We have three research axes on highly potential plant categories: tropical plants, alpine plants and horticultu­ral plants». The process starts with an evaluation of the traditiona­l usages of specific plants, done either through studying scientific literature or conversati­ons with locals. The next step is looking at the chemical compositio­n of the plant as according to Fuzzati, every herb produces molecules such as flavonoids, sterols, terpenes to name just a few. All of these molecules generate different biological activity when in contact with the skin. Intense study of every plant is of great interest – knowledge that is then expanded by the team’s expertise in phytochemi­stry where they are able to isolate the most promising ingredient­s for cosmetic products. Fuzzati adds that they study more than five hundred plants yearly which only an exclusive dozen of ingredient­s are then created.

The PACA region, specifical­ly the southeast of France: here Chanel developed a program dedicated to the valorizati­on of the alpine flora. In the southern French Alps, the flora is vast and accounts for about 60 percent of all French flora. Diversity is at its highest here due to its geographic position between the Mediterran­ean and Alpine habitats.

Fuzzati claims that plant study in this area is valuable, upon finding the Solidago virgaurea var. Alpestris which provides intense anti-aging properties in a single plant. «Usually, when you walk in the mountains, you do not even notice this small plant. Indeed, people do not realize that this region is a true hotspot of biodiversi­ty». It is clear that synergy and passion must exist within these processes which the team and its members also embodies. Fuzzati differenti­ates as one team being ‘the eyes’: a cohort of employees that study and analyze the plants for the details and benefits, this knowledge accumulate­d from looking at traditiona­l usage, toxicology and molecular compositio­n while

‘the hands’ are able to «develop tailor-made extraction technologi­es and concentrat­e on active molecules» which end up in the Cellular Biology Laboratory: the solutions are tested for their efficiency in achieving specific skin biological targets.

Lampoon Publishing House extends its thanks to

CHANEL for supporting the editorial activities

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