Sustainability In Perfumery

There are few things more crucial than protection of our natural resources – as perfumers know only too well. As a beneficiary of nature’s bounty, the fragrance industry has moved boldly towards working in harmony with its partners and environment. We talked to Erwin Creed about what it means to be sustainable in the world of fragrance today.

Perfume And Nature

We are standing by a field of jasmine about an hour outside of Madurai in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu. It’s 6am, humidity is already high, the pickers have been out since 5am and the farmer who tends to this field is loading the van with jasmine grandiflorum buds to take to the local market. Two children with backpacks clutching onto their mother, head off to school on a motorbike up a bright red dirt track.

We have travelled here to see and record the harvest of both jasmine and tuberose. The scene before us – the unmade road, the red earth, the surrounding lush landscape – underlines just how inextricably linked perfume is with nature, from the terroir, to the farming methods, to the plants and flowers.

‘As perfumers,’ says Erwin Creed, ‘of course we want to preserve the ingredients we work with and that inspire our work. It is our responsibility to carefully source ingredients from producers who ensure sustainability, not only with regards to environmental issues but with the social aspects of the community as well.’

Minimising Environmental Impact

Creed has always worked with exceptional raw ingredients, some of which come from remote parts of the world, grown by small communities that rely on the cultivation of healthy plants to produce the intense fragrance extracts used in the perfume industry. Most of the natural ingredients sourced by Creed are specialities produced in small volumes by small farms.

‘Sustainability is key to the creation of fragrances – and we want the very best ingredients for our fragrances,’ continues Erwin, ‘so it makes absolute sense to look after production, all the way from the soil, to the people and communities tending the fields, down to the bottle. We have an ethical as well as a business responsibility to reduce our environmental and social impact.’

The House of Creed aims to minimise its environmental impact in three key ways: by opting for renewable resources, employing eco-friendly practices and having transparent supply chains. This means integrating every aspect of the creation of a perfume, from farmer all the way to the boutique. Cruelty-free and sustainable methods of farming – including restoring eco-systems; looking after the health of the soil; conserving resources such as water; recycling waste; and promoting circularity – is essential as is collaborating with farmers and companies whose social and environmental behaviour are on the same par.

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As perfumers, of course we want to preserve the ingredients that we work with and that inspire our work. It is our responsibility to carefully source the ingredients from producers that ensure sustainability, not just with the environmental issues but with the social aspects of the community as well

- Erwin Creed -


More Sustainable Practices

Among the brand’s key objectives for a more sustainable practice are: biodiversity enhancement (protecting raw materials and ecosystems); managing and offsetting carbon footprint (manufacturing while limiting the environmental impact of products and activities, including controlling CO2 emissions caused by shipments and travel); sustainable and ethical sourcing (agreeing sustainable collaborations with farmers, suppliers and other services); and social responsibility (promoting diversity and improving the working conditions and lives of employees and local communities) and using, where possible, sustainable materials for packaging.

As well as accessing natural ingredients that are produced responsibly, there are times when the use of synthetic ingredients is more environmentally responsible. Natural versus synthetic ingredients is an ongoing debate in perfumery – but replacements such as synthetic animal-derived ingredients, such as musk, are used to avoid wildlife being hurt or killed during the extraction process. Natural musk originates from the musk deer or a civet cat and is now banned in the perfume industry. Sustainability goals have also encouraged the development of new eco-friendly extraction methods which don’t require solvents, so are less damaging to the environment and are helping the industry generate exciting new fragrance ingredients.

But Creed is proud of the high percentage of natural ingredients it utilises so there is a real responsibility to use the best harvested ingredients, not just for their olfactory complexity, but also because of the economic network they rely on. The farming of the raw materials provides a livelihood for many farmers who respect and carefully tend their land, bringing income and cohesion to whole communities. If these relationships are nurtured, then there is also a keenness to look after the biodiversity of the fields and soil to optimise and make sure that the harvests are consistent in quality.

One example of this is Creed’s sandalwood oil supplier, which operates a comprehensive environmental and social protection programme in several areas of Sri Lanka, driving a sustainable supply chain with a positive impact at all levels.

‘By working with partners that are socially responsible, we can use sustainable ingredients, make social change and support our partners all over the world,’ says Erwin.

Empower & Encourage

This means empowering its harvesters with the skills and materials they need to increase their wages through commerce. Encouraging different crops in India, for example, means that farmers can have an income all year round rather than just during peak times of a single crop. There’s also a need to develop new ways of dealing with the waste arising from production, including uses as biomass, compost and even new fragrance ingredients. This promotes a circular economy that is beneficial to everyone.

‘Suppliers are genuine partners with whom we have an open dialogue which ensures respect, ethical business and care for the environment,’ continues Erwin. ‘A strong network of suppliers who act responsibly – sourcing materials in ways that preserve the environment and stimulate the development and wellbeing of communities – is a critical element to the business at Creed.’ It can be easy to lose sight of the people at the root of the supply chains – the farmers and their families. But these small farming communities are precious, and by continuing to work with them, Creed can ensure that the raw ingredients remain the absolute best quality for its signature luxury fragrances, while at the same time protecting the future of the land and ensuring that the farmer has a sustainable business too.

‘We understand first-hand the strength of families and the strength of communities,’ affirms Erwin, ‘this is really important to us.’

Learn more about our sustainability promise here.