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Luxury perfumes from Lancôme and Aerin linked to child labour

Woman spraying perfume.
Woman spraying perfume. Copyright Canva.
Copyright Canva.
By Euronews
Published on
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An investigation carried out by the BBC last summer found that suppliers for the two beauty brands used jasmine picked by minors.

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Ingredients used in Lancôme’s perfume Idôle L'Intense, as well as in two Aerin fragrances - Ikat Jasmine and Limone Di Sicilia- , have been brought into the spotlight following a BBC investigation.

When looking into suppliers for Lancôme and Aerin last summer, journalists found that they used jasmine flowers harvested through child labour.

In response to the claims, Lancôme's owner L'Oréal told the BBC that it is committed to respecting human rights.

"Whenever an issue arises, L'Oréal works proactively to identify the underlying causes and the way to resolve the issue. In January 2024, our partner performed an on-site human rights impact assessment to identify potential human rights violations and find ways to prevent and mitigate them, with a focus on the child labour risks," said the group.

Estée Lauder, Aerin Beauty's owner, also said it had contacted its suppliers, stressing: "We believe the rights of all children should be protected.”

"We recognise the complex socio-economic environment surrounding the local jasmine supply chain, and we are taking action to gain better transparency and to work toward improving the livelihoods of sourcing communities."

Neither of the firms provided further comment to Euronews.

The jasmine used in the scrutinised fragrances comes from Egypt, which produces about half the world's supply of the flower.

Industry insiders revealed that many luxury brands are squeezing profit margins, meaning pay is reduced for those at the bottom of the labour chain.

According to Egyptian jasmine pickers, they are therefore forced to involve their children in the harvesting process.

One picker interviewed said that in order to finish the work required, she needed to enlist the help of her four children - aged from 5 to 15.

Journalists heard several similar stories, although it is difficult to say exactly how many of the 30,000 people involved in Egypt's jasmine industry are children.

It is illegal for anyone under the age of 15 to work in Egypt between the hours of 7pm and 7am. At four different locations, journalists said they saw minors doing just that.

Christophe Laudamiel, an independent perfumer quoted by the BBC, said fragrance companies are driving these practices due to their budget-cutting policies - a view reiterated by other insiders.

"The masters' interest is to have the cheapest oil possible to put in the fragrance bottle," and then to sell it at the highest possible price, said Mr Laudamiel.

"They actually don't govern the salary or the wages of the harvesters, nor the actual price of jasmine, because they are beyond that," he explained.

Human rights activists are lobbying for large beauty firms to be more engaged when it comes to ensuring the ethical robustness of their suppliers.

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