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Beauty and Biodiversity: LVMH’s Cosmetopeia Initiative

Published March 21, 2023
Published March 21, 2023
Juan Fernández via Unsplash

In 2005, industry giants including LVMH, Dior, and L’Oréal founded Cosmetics Valley, a prestigious resources center specializing in perfumes and cosmetics. Cosmetics Valley works on a range of programs from raw material testing to product creation and packaging. The resources company works alongside nine universities, 136 training institutes, and 226 research laboratories to “develop innovative, competitive, and sustainable projects for the beauty of tomorrow.” Today, Cosmetic Valley produces several products that are sold worldwide.

LVMH has committed several years to Cosmetic Valley, including producing industry tools for business development. In 2017, LVMH hosted The Cosmetic Victories, a competition created to recognize projects that drive innovation in the perfumes and cosmetics sector. Recently, LVMH announced its plans to fund a conservation project to catalog and protect African cosmetic plants used to create several SKUs, in collaboration with Cosmetics Valley.

Dubbed Cosmetopeia (a play on the word pharmacopeia, meaning "drug-making"), the initiative was announced at the One Forest Summit 2023, hosted in March by the French and Gabonese presidents. As part of the program, €500,000 ($537,302.50) is pledged to fund scholarships, internships, doctoral thesis, and post-doctoral work studies of biodiversity in the Congo Basin. Funding will support the preservation of raw materials, including the padauk tree, which is used for cosmetics such as face masks.

"Cosmetics are as old as the world," says Marc-Antoine Jamet, LVMH General Secretary and President of Cosmetic Valley. "They relate to humanity, children or the elderly, women or men, on the whole earth. They originate in natural resources. Preserving them is imperative. Knowing their multiple properties is a wealth for all—those who collect and produce as well as those who enjoy their benefits. From there, our aim is to contribute to the constitution of sustainable sectors, respectful of the planet, local traditions, and ecosystems, and meeting the needs of our research and of the current cosmetics market."

Cosmetopoeia will not only help conserve essential ingredients but also amplify education and job opportunities for Indigenous people living in the area. A statement by Cosmetic Valley highlighted that Indigenous communities' traditional practices are being threatened by climate change and biodiversity loss, making Cosmetopoeia an essential program. "Cosmetopoeia is thus a lever for biodiversity conservation that drives a new dynamic for a better knowledge of the traditional uses of plants," the company proclaims.

Cosmetopoeia is not the first sustainability-backed commitment from the LVMH group. Last year, the company joined King Charles' Circular Bioeconomy Alliance, a project created to promote regenerative agriculture. In 2020, LVMH revealed its Life 360 program, designed to replenish biodiversity in the areas it sources ingredients, setting targets for the company to reach by 2024, 2026, and 2030.

At the UN Biodiversity Conference (COP 15), which took place in December 2022, LVMH made several biodiversity commitments surrounding four areas: building a clear and accurate measure of its biodiversity footprint, avoiding and reducing its impact on ecosystems, committing to animal welfare, and regenerating ecosystems. These proposals included (but were not limited to) LVMH brands such as Parfums Christian Dior that announced a plan to work locally with flower cultivation experts in Grasse, France, to help regenerate the species of flowers used within its fragrances. Another proposal included Guerlain's program, Women for Bees―which is dedicated to preserving bees with a particular focus on entrepreneurship for women, training them to be beekeepers, and creating new beekeeping operations worldwide in partnership with UNESCO. Through the collaboration, Guerlain will be able to use UNESCO’s biosphere reserves which “promote solutions reconciling the conservation of biodiversity with its sustainable use.” The company currently has 738 biosphere reserves in 134 different countries that allow them to thrive as a sustainability education company and keep up practices such as regular measurements of the benefits of pollination.

"Protecting biodiversity is essential for all the activities of the LVMH Group whose main raw materials come from nature in its six sectors of activity. While the fight against global warming is obviously a major issue, it is complementary to the strong challenges and impacts related to preserving ecosystems," LVMH states.

LVMH's Cosmetopeia and COP 15 pledges are just a few of beauty's commitments to bettering the environment, becoming ingredient-conscious, and increasing biodiversity. At COP 15, many other beauty brands made commitments and pledges to protect and restore nature. Kering and L'Occitane announced a collaboration in which they pledged €300 million ($318 million) to create the Climate Fund for Nature. This initiative invests in nature conservation and restoration worldwide, particularly in areas where raw materials are sourced.

"With our planet facing a global climate and biodiversity crisis never witnessed before, L'Occitane Group is proud to join forces with Kering and Mirova to scale up its action against the degradation of nature, which provides the very resources and services we rely on. While reducing our emissions and impacts is our priority, the Climate Fund for Nature will help us go further by supporting projects that encourage regenerative practices, benefiting both nature and communities," said Adrien Geiger, Group Sustainability Officer of L'Occitane Group.

WWF's Living Planet Report 2022 stated that wildlife populations have been declining by an average of 69% in the past 50 years. As a result, biodiversity is severely lacking and in areas such as Latin America, freshwater species populations have seen the greatest overall decline globally by 83%. Marco Lamrbertini, Director General of WWF International, says, "The planet is in the midst of a biodiversity and climate crisis … and we have a last chance to act … A nature-positive future needs transformative, game-changing shifts in how we produce, how we consume, how we govern, and what we finance." If the beauty industry truly wishes to make a difference to protect and preserve the planet, initiatives such as Cosmetopoeia must be correctly governed and implemented with nature's best interests at its core.


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