In this opinion piece, the Group Managing Director of L’OCCITANE Travel Retail, Export, B2B & Spa Worldwide describes the Group’s commitments to sustainability and biodiversity and asks how the travel retail industry can be a pioneer for positive change in the future.
Sustainable development has become a priority for the travel retail sector in response to growing demand from consumers – and the media – to adopt more environmentally friendly practices.
In fact, in a post-pandemic world, where travel is increasing exponentially, customer demand for sustainable products has exploded. In response, there has never been such a determined focus from the industry at all levels to spearhead innovation and meet the sustainability priorities of the traveling consumer, and to lead the change.
At L’OCCITANE, brand research clearly shows that our ongoing efforts to adopt a more sustainable approach have had a positive impact on 84% of our travel retail and duty free customers. 71% of them say they are actively looking for environmentally friendly products.
This is not surprising, as travelers are becoming more discerning about what they choose to buy, driven by global environmental concerns. Consumers want more engagement in the debate and addressing major issues such as ethical sourcing, biodegradable packaging, single-use plastics and how to reduce waste.
In a recent Tax Free World Association (TFWA) survey, 70% of respondents admitted to being influenced by a brand’s sustainability credentials when purchasing a product. It is therefore essential that our industry fully understands how sustainability can influence and shape consumer buying behavior and that it meets the challenge head on.
How is our industry adapting to the changing needs and priorities of today’s ‘sustainability conscious’ traveler and can the industry be a pioneer for positive change in the future?
Sustainability has always been at the heart of our business here at L’OCCITANE. We strive to communicate this message to our customers in an authentic voice and by implementing green choices that are proven to work. Since its creation, L’OCCITANE en Provence has been an eco-pioneer by implementing an in-store bottle return policy in 1976 and in 1992 by creating a customer awareness campaign dedicated to recycling and reducing plastic waste. We are committed to using environmentally friendly manufacturing methods, eco-design and sustainable packaging for our products in line with our motto to Reduce, Recycle, React.
To this end, L’OCCITANE Travel Retail launched eco-refills for travel kits in 2008. These have been a game changer in the industry, providing an efficient and convenient solution for the modern traveller. We now have 25 eco-refills for products such as our award-winning Almond Shower Gel, Almond Milk Concentrate, Rose and Cherry Blossom lines. In addition to using 90% less plastic than a normal bottle, eco-refills also reduce plastic waste by around 200 tonnes per year.
In order to encourage the consumer to make more informed choices, all of us in travel retail must continue to spark relevant and inclusive conversations. We can do this through our omnichannel network and highlight key sustainability messages during the shopping experience. In-store, we can engage customers through imaginative point-of-sale and visual merchandising, engaging online and offline storytelling, and by providing fun and entertaining information.
For example, our travel retail APAC team recently held a sustainability-themed “Make Earth Green Again” pop-up promotion at the Sanya International Duty Free Shopping Complex. Customers were invited to participate in an immersive and experiential journey.
The pop-up used innovative technology that included a touchscreen digital recycling game and a consumer engagement wall to highlight the theme of sustainability. Other tools were used to arouse interest and fuel the discourse. This included the use of QR codes, digital information, augmented virtual reality and video games. The pop-up store featured a GWP promotion focused on eco-refills and offered a free recycled aluminum Forever bottle. The bottle is the perfect travel companion and can be used time and time again.
At the same time, L’OCCITANE’s own charter also responds to growing customer concerns about product formula purity, ethical sourcing and waste. It underscores our commitment to sustainability with the creation of leave-on products that contain at least 95% natural-origin ingredients.
We’re also committed to creating rinse-off products with at least 95% biodegradable ingredients, with both categories minimizing our environmental impact. Our travel retail range of Solid soaps and shampoos adhere to the principles of the Clean Charter, save water and reduce waste through plastic-free packaging. The products save space in the luggage and also guarantee the absence of leaks.
Our dedicated and dynamic R&D team is constantly working on other inventive solutions. For example, they developed a dry shampoo that would reduce the need for frequent hair washing and the use of water. She sees any potential obstacle as an exciting challenge and an opportunity to find more innovative solutions.
L’OCCITANE en Provence has just been honored in the 2021 activity report of the Global Commitment to the New Plastics Economy by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. The brand has been highlighted as one of the most committed brands in the fight against plastic. As a Group, we have also committed that by 2025, 100% of our plastic bottles will be made from 100% recycled waste.
At L’OCCITANE Travel Retail, we believe in working closely with our travel partners and stakeholders to meet consumer expectations. We share a common goal, so cooperate with collectives such as One Planet Business for Biodiversity (OPB2) makes sense because it allows all of us to engage in open source practices.
Having already joined forces with a positive call to action with the consumer, the travel retail sector is ahead of the game when it comes to sustainability. As an industry, we are in the driver’s seat and the proof of our success will be in implementing more environmentally friendly policies. With a strong vision and a shared desire to make a difference, together we can create a more harmonious and sustainable world.
To note: The Moodie Davitt Report has launched an electronic newsletter, Sustainability Curated, in association with L’Occitane. It features a curated selection of key sustainability stories in travel retail and beyond.
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