When it comes to biodiversity and how our ecosystem functions, bees are the buzzword (pun totally intended). Without bees, plant pollination can’t happen. No pollination means no fruit and its resulting seeds. And that means the plant can’t reproduce. Now imagine this happening everywhere on the planet.
Cecile Lochard, Guerlain’s chief sustainability officer, says close to 75 per cent of cultivated plants and 90 per cent of wild flowering plants depend on pollinators, which are mostly bees. “By pollinating flowering plants, bees guarantee the reproduction of numerous plant species and no less than one third of the world’s food supply,” she says.
Unfortunately, bee numbers all across the world have been dwindling, and this endangers the world’s biodiversity. Take honeybees, for example, their mortality rate is now 30 per cent, which means three out of 10 bees die every year.
So why does the French beauty brand feel so passionately for the humble bee?
The birth of Guerlain’s iconic bee bottle
“For close to 170 years, bees have buzzed between our creations with the same endless passion for exceptional raw materials. And to do our part to protect them seemed obvious,” says Lochard.
The hardworking bee – a symbol of persistence, abundance and teamwork – has been an emblem for the brand since 1853, where it first appeared on the bottle of the Eau de Cologne Imperiale that founder Pierre-Francois-Pascal Guerlain dedicated to Empress Eugenie of France, in celebration of her marriage to Napoleon III.
The bottle was adorned with the king’s coat of arms, bees, and a festoon pattern, inspired by the Place Vendome’s column. And so, the iconic Guerlain Bee Bottle was born. The Empress was mightily impressed too.
In fact, some of the brand’s fragrance creations still showcase bees, like the Aqua Allegoria Eau de Toilette collection, from the honeycomb bottle design to the ingredients chosen.
Bee-auty secrets in Guerlain’s skincare
Bees are also nature’s great alchemists, producing effective skin-healing active ingredients, like honey. It is a humectant that draws moisture from its surroundings to hydrate the skin, plumping it from within to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
It is rich in antioxidants, which help with skin repair and protection against free radical damage. And it also contains antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties that soothe the skin and keep acne-causing bacteria at bay, for a clean and clear complexion.
It is these exceptional properties that led Guerlain scientists to create the brand’s anti-ageing Abeille Royale skincare line. Lochard says the bee actives – honey and royal jelly – used in the formula are “origin certified” and “sourced sustainably” in line with the brand’s long-term commitment to bee protection.
The Ouessant honey used is produced by an endemic black bee that lives on the island of Ouessant. This Unesco biosphere reserve is located 18km from the French Brittany coast. But what makes this place so unique is that this ecosystem is both parasite- and pesticide-free. And for more than 10 years, Guerlain has been working hand-in-hand with the island’s beekeepers to protect the bees there.
Meanwhile, the royal jelly is 100 per cent sourced in France via certified beekeepers who comply with the best-in-class artisanal practices that aim to protect the bees and their native habitat.
World Bee Day on May 20: Doing our part to save the bees
Even though Guerlain has been supporting various bee protection causes since 2011, it was only recently that the brand united all its initiatives under the Guerlain For Bees Conservation Programme, where it has formed partnerships with various organisations such as Unesco and the French Observatory of Apidology, to look into bee protection, welfare, re-population and awareness.
In honour of World Bee Day on May 20, 2021, Guerlain is launching an international fund-raising drive to raise up to one million euros in aid of its Guerlain For Bees Conservation Programme. “The World Bee Day operation will help accelerate our Guerlain For Bees Conservation Programme, especially our last initiative with Unesco: Women for bees,” says Lochard.
She explains that Women for Bees is a women’s entrepreneurial beekeeping programme, a five-year sustainability partnership with the French Bee Observatory. “Our aim is to train and create 50 affiliated women beekeepers worldwide who will develop quality, model beekeeping operations within 25 Unesco designated biosphere reserves, contributing to the (United Nations’) 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.”
The project’s end goal is to install 2,500 hives, translating to 125 million bees, in addition to collecting data to measure the benefits of pollination in local ecosystems. It will launch on 21 June, with Hollywood A-lister, Angelina Jolie, lending her voice to the cause as the 2021 initiative ambassador.
Now, here’s how you can help:
Buy a Guerlain product: From May 20 to May 22, 2021 (which is also the International Day for Biological Diversity), the French house will donate 20 per cent of its sales worldwide to the programme.
Post on social media: Also from May 20 to May 22, 2021, for every re-post of its World Bee Day image (that’s the first picture in this story) from Guerlain’s Instagram page, the brand will donate 20 Euros to the programme. Don’t forget to use these hashtags: #GuerlainForBees and #WorldBeeDay.
You can also visit Guerlain.com for more information.
This article was first published in Her World Online.