Lancôme and Aerin Beauté perfumes smell like jasmine picked by children

The fragrances of certain giants of the cosmetics industry have a pungent smell, that of child labor, reveals an investigation by the BBC. According to British public media, “children harvest ingredients from suppliers of two major beauty companies” which are incorporated into the perfumes of Lancôme, a brand of the French group L’Oréal, and Aerin Beauté, belonging to the American Estée Lauder.

The investigation carried out last summer “on perfume supply chains revealed that the jasmine used by suppliers to Lancôme and Aerin Beauté had been picked by minors”, even though “all major luxury perfume brands claim zero tolerance for child labor”.

Egypt supplies half of the world’s jasmine

Jasmine present in eau de parfum Intense Idol of Lancôme, in Ikat Jasmine And Limone di Sicilia from Aerin Beauté comes from Egypt, a country which alone represents “half of the world’s production of jasmine flowers”. The British media clandestinely filmed, “during the picking last summer”, dozens of miners at work for his documentary Perfume’s Dark Secret,Les Noirs Secrets of perfume”.

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, Tomoya Obokata, said to himself “shocked by the evidence provided by the BBC” and explains:

“On paper, (the cosmetics industry) promises so many good things, like supply chain transparency and the fight against child labor. Seeing these images, it is clear that they do not do what they say.”

In the Gharbeya region, in the heart of the Egyptian jasmine production area, Heba, mother of four children aged 5 to 15, “wakes up his family at 3 a.m. to start harvesting the flowers before the heat of the sun damages them”. She says “need” of all his children to help him. “Like most jasmine pickers in Egypt, she is what we call a ‘independent picker’ and works on a small farm.”

1.40 euros for 1.5 kilos of jasmine flowers

The night the BBC filmed them, she and her family picked 1.5 kilos of jasmine flowers, gave a third of them to the owner of the land and pocketed $1.50 (1.40 euros). An amount “weaker than ever, inflation in Egypt having reached a record level”.

Some 30,000 people “work in the jasmine industry in Egypt”, but “It is difficult” to know how many of them are children. The BBC has collected numerous testimonies from Egyptians saying that “the low price of jasmine forced them to put their children to work”.

For the perfume house Givaudan, which works for Lancôme, “it is up to us all to continue to take steps to eliminate the risk of child labour”. Firmenich, which manufactures the Estée Lauder perfumes implicated in the documentary, says it has changed suppliers in Egypt.

As for parent companies, L’Oréal ensures that it does everything possible to “identify potential human rights violations and find ways to prevent and mitigate them, with a focus on risks related to child labor”. As for Estée Lauder, the company intends “improve transparency and the living conditions of the communities that supply us”.

Heba, for her part, finds it hard to believe the price of the bottles of jasmine flower perfume that she picked. Bitter, she declares: “People here are worthless.”

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