Prestige fragrance brands are leveraging the value of their ongoing sustainability initiatives to appeal to a younger, Gen Z consumer. As the first point of engagement younger consumers often have with brands such as Chanel and Dior, the $16B prestige fragrance market has traditionally served luxury houses as the gateway to the greater $350B global luxury market. While fragrance purchases are how younger consumers start to become invested in a brand’s heritage, the brands themselves begin to cultivate new, loyal consumers that will eventually graduate to spending more money on shoes and handbags. Yet, Gen Z has proven to marketers to be unlike previous generations. Status signaling is less important to them than demonstrating their commitment to issues that will impact their lives. Moreover, Gen Z favors brands that are both authentic and transparent, especially when it comes to sustainability. What better place, then, for luxury houses to demonstrate their commitment to the environment and to communicate their initiatives than with fragrances?
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that luxury fragrance brands made a recent spate of announcements timed to coincide with Earth Day touting their newly sustainable collections, products, or processes. With Gen Z’s spending power estimated to overtake that of Millennials by 2031, these houses know that by offering more sustainably manufactured and responsibly sourced products will serve to protect their legacies for the next century.
While the most important luxury houses such as Guerlain, Chanel, L’Oreal, Dior, and YSL are all actively working toward achieving specific sustainability goals, each has defined a different pathway to success. By optimizing the sustainability of their fragrance production as well as protecting the environment in which their ingredients are sourced, these companies are reducing the environmental impact of their fragrances. A few notable achievements include:
Guerlain, one of France’s most storied fragrance houses, recently launched Aqua Allegoria. This new collection uses an organic alcohol produced from beets. It’s packaged in refillable bottles and contained in glass that has been recycled post-consumer (meaning it didn’t make it to the landfill). The company said that the bottles alone use 60% less carbon dioxide than non-refillable bottles.
Chanel has developed a new recycled glass bottle for its iconic No. 5 perfume, which was unveiled in 2021 as a limited-edition for the 100 ml offering which would be rolled out to other Chanel perfumes sometime this year. Using recycled glass is not as easy as it sounds, with Chanel admitting that it was challenging to create a bottle that mirrors the transparency of crystal. The brand worked in partnership with Pochet du Courval, a 400-year old luxury packaging company committed to, “an environmentally responsible approach.” Chanel also revealed that it had developed a sustainable, bio-degradable cap in partnership with Sulapac Oy, a company in Finland in which Chanel owns a minority stake. The luxury house discarded 47 different prototypes before landing on the one now in use for Les Eaux de Chanel 125 ml bottles, which is made from 91% plant-based materials.
L’Oreal recently created Polo Earth as the latest edition to the Ralph Lauren fragrance collection. According to Beauty Inc., Polo Earth is fully vegan, using a plant based alcohol as well as being 97% natural origin ingredients. Polo Earth’s packaging and wooden cap have been certified by The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC
Dior, which is owned by LVMH, has been an ardent protector of the Grasse area of France since 2006. Long renowned as France’s—and for that matter, the world’s—foremost perfume region, Grasse has a climate that it particularly conducive to growing flowers. Dior purchases land in this region not only to boost the local economy but also to protect the flowers grown there which are used in their fragrances. Dior employs people year-round to manage the land as well as to assure organic cultivation methods in addition to employing seasonal pickers. Its stated goal is to elevate its responsible ingredient sourcing and for all Dior gardens to be certified by the Union of Ethical Biotrade by 2024.
YSL Beauty, part of Kering Group, announced its new Rewild Our Earth program. This new initiative will protect and restore hundreds of thousands of acres of land—nearly ten times the size of Paris—in regions critical to YSL’s ingredient sourcing. It is reforesting and regenerating areas in Morocco, Haiti, Madagascar, and Indonesia where pomegranate, iris, jasmine, vetiver, vanilla, geranium, and other flowers and botanicals crucially needed for their products grow.
The luxury industry understands very clearly that in order to sustain the industries that have supported their iconic savoir faire, they must step up as the stewards and guardians of an increasingly rarified product.