L’Occitane chooses agroecology

Heavyweight in the world of cosmetics, the L’Occitane group, which brings together six beauty brands including L’Occitane en Provence, Erborian and Melvita, employs more than 9,000 people around the world. Among them, Jean-Charles Lhommet. This trained agronomist has been running the service for six years. biodiversity and sustainable sectors of the L’Occitane group in which nine other engineers based between France and Burkina Faso officiate. Their main mission? Develop and secure the supply chains of L’Occitane’s flagship natural ingredients such as shea produced in Burkina Faso, immortelle from Corsica, or even almonds, verbena and lavender which flourish in the South of France.

Magalie and Philippe Mary, partners of the L’Occitane group in their verbena fields – DR

Much more used to large spaces than open spaces, this team is working to secure the supply of ingredients by working alongside the group’s partner producers and supporting them in their ecological transition. All while relying on the principles of agroecology.

This practice, which aims to promote agricultural systems that respect people and the environment, is precisely the subject of Provence. Since 2016, Magalie and Philippe Mary, a couple of farmers living in Jouques, near Aix-en-Provence, have been working with L’Occitane to whom they supply verbena.

Verbena

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This verbena, grown organically in a natural setting certified Natura 2000 by the European network for the preservation of biodiversity, is harvested twice a year, at the end of August and at the end of October. All of the 7,000 tonnes produced are then sold to the L’Occitane group and will become the flagship ingredient in shower gels, hand creams and even perfumes; products sold all over the world.

“Selling our verbena to the L’Occitane group even before its production is very reassuring for us,” says Magalie Mary, who also runs a guest house with her husband. To achieve such a partnership, L’Occitane proposed and supported in 2018 a “biodiversity diagnosis”. This study, the cost of which is around 10,000 euros, highlighted the presence of protected species of flora and fauna living on Mary’s land, but also made it possible to propose organic farming methods such as the use of crops. cover.

Jean-Pierre Jaubert and his almond trees – Sylvain Duffard

Installed between permanent crops or on areas usually fallow, these plant covers chosen according to the type of soil or the environment improve fertility in particular thanks to nitrogen and allow better control of pests and diseases. .

“We can continue to destroy nature even by doing organic, so we have to go further, even if this sometimes has a cost. The establishment of plant covers requires the purchase of particular seedlings and even machines”, explains Philippe Mary, who chairs Agroecology and Fair Trade, an association made up of around fifteen farmers, supported by L’Occitane teams.

Coming from three generations of farmers established on the Valensole plateau, Jean-Pierre Jaubert took over his parents’ farm in 1979 with the desire to take up a challenge: revive the cultivation of the almond tree. The bet succeeded since with his 17,000 trees planted, Jean-Pierre Jaubert, also at the head of a public works company that he has just sold, is the main supplier of almonds to L’Occitane and one of the largest producers from France.

Jean-Pierre Jaubert, who has worked with L’Occitane for twenty years, quickly focused on sustainable agricultural practices. Even if he does not practice organic farming due to the presence of a fly particularly fond of almonds, he uses organic fertilizers, has installed a rainwater collection basin or even hundreds of beehives around his trees.

For nearly two years, he has also embarked on agroecology, gradually opting for plant cover. “With agroecology, the yield per tree is lower but the quality of the almond has improved considerably and the almond trees are more resistant to heat and disease”, explains Jean-Pierre Jaubert. And to protect this almond from Provence, which faces strong competition from that from the United States, the L’Occitane group took part in 2018 in the creation of the inter-professional association France Amande.

Lavender fields with plant cover in the intercropping. – DR

This work for a better regeneration of soils and biodiversity, L’Occitane is also carrying out with the producers of a star product of Provence, lavender. The group is participating in the “Green & Lavandes” program, the objective of which is to adapt production methods to environmental issues. And the physiognomy of these fields, very popular with tourists and amateur photographers, are also gradually changing. Among the cultures of lavender with a thousand shades of purple, also appear shades of green.

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