Beauty, naturally

PUBLISHED : Friday, 10 October, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 10 October, 2008, 12:00am

The beauty industry is notorious for its use of excess packaging, but one way that it is addressing sustainability issues is through the increasing use of naturally-derived ingredients which also support environmental initiatives.

As part of its commitment to being socially responsible, Clarins has supported the development of a botanic garden in the Herboretum of Saint-Ay near Orleans in France.

The garden has a collection of more than 200 species of plants and the teams which work on the garden collaborate closely with Clarins' research department on the cultivation of certain plants and the extraction of active ingredients used in formulations of its skin care products.

According to research by the Herboretum Association situated near Paris, between now and 2050, 25 per cent of all species will have disappeared if no effort is made to preserve them. And because of man-related activities, 1,000 to 10,000 times more species are being eliminated than would have been by natural evolution.

So what does the Herboretum do to help preserve biodiversity, and why has Clarins decided to support its development?

The garden does not use chemical pesticides and only uses organic fertilisers. Ashes are used in the flowerbeds to protect against slugs, and the waste is recycled. Parts of the garden are still undergoing construction and new plants are being introduced gradually.

As the Herboretum is located around the banks of the river Mauves, which flows into the River Loire, the priority is to preserve the rare species that have been struggling to grow in the region. The Loiret area of France has some species that are on the verge of extinction.

One example is Adder's Tongue, a small fern which grows in humid biotopes which is only found in 10 of the 334 communes of the Loiret department. The environment where these plants thrive has been destroyed largely due to urbanisation and industrialisation. The Herboretum is divided into different sections to accommodate such endangered species.

Animal diversity is also a priority. The garden looks to attract insects and birds so that the interaction between animals and plants can be studied and biodiversity can be sustained.

Plants that are used in Clarins' products can also be found in the garden. For example, cornflower - for soothing sensitive or irritated eyes; Mary's Thistle - which carries an antioxidant and is effective for reducing redness; soapwort, which is used in cleansing products - its leaves are rich in natural surfactants which form a natural lather; and rosemary, which contains Ursolic acid, with strong anti-irritation and repairing properties.

Following a revamp of the different sections, the garden has already attracted some new butterfly species. Future projects will include the creation of a phytoregeneration garden made of depolluting plants and a bee island. The garden is open to the public by appointment only, and visitors can learn about biodiversity through a guided tour.

Clarins became a sponsor of the Herboretum Association in 2004 because the company uses more than 130 plant species in its products taken from the wild and ensuring they are not endangered. Clarins says that the garden also offers a source of photos which can help to showcase the company's commitment to using plant extracts as the main ingredient of its products.

Although excess packaging is prominent throughout the cosmetics industry, Clarins says that it will not reduce the present amount of packaging that it uses in its products because it believes that having the ingredients listed and the instructions printed out are important for the safe use of its products.

Yvette James, the director of the sustainable development team at Clarins, says that preserving the environment along with reducing its carbon footprint are both high on its agenda. 'We plan to put in information about carbon footprint on all of our packaging,' she says.

In addition to the Herboretum, Clarins also supports, through its subsidiary Thierry Mugler Parfums, La Bastide du Parfumeur, a botanical garden of almost five acres located near Grasse in the south of France with a collection of aromatic plants. The mission there is to preserve the diversity of traditional plant species cultivated for perfumery.