HomeLatest NewsInvestigative report links luxury perfume brands to child labour practices

Investigative report links luxury perfume brands to child labour practices

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LONDON: An investigation report has uncovered the use of child labour in the supply chains of two major luxury perfume brands, Lancôme and Aerin Beauty.

The report by British media outlet BBC revealed that children are being used to pick jasmine flowers in Egypt, a crOitical ingredient in several high-end fragrances.

The investigation highlights serious breaches of ethical sourcing practices, despite both companies’ claims of zero tolerance for child labour.

Lancôme, owned by L’Oréal, and Aerin Beauty, owned by Estée Lauder, source jasmine from Egypt, which produces about half of the world’s supply of the flower. The jasmine is used in products such as Lancôme’s Idôle L’Intense and Aerin Beauty’s Ikat Jasmine and Limone Di Sicilia.

Undercover filming by the BBC in the jasmine fields of Gharbia, Egypt, has exposed that children as young as five are working in the fields. Heba, a local picker, starts her day at 3 AM with her four children to gather jasmine before the sun’s heat damages the flowers.

For their night’s work, they earn a meagre US$1.5, a sum diminished by inflation and high living costs.

One of Heba’s children, ten-year-old Basmalla, suffers from a severe eye allergy, exacerbated by the harsh conditions in the jasmine fields. Medical professionals have warned that her condition could lead to long-term vision problems if not treated.

The BBC’s investigation also sheds light on the flaws in the auditing systems used to monitor supply chains.

Factories such as A Fakhry and Co, Hashem Brothers, and Machalico, which process the jasmine into essential oil, set the prices and indirectly perpetuate the low wages and child labour.

Despite promotional claims of ethical sourcing and commitments to the UN guidelines on eliminating child labour, the reality on the ground tells a different story.

Industry insiders, like independent perfumer Christophe Laudamiel, criticize the “masters” – the luxury perfume companies – for prioritizing low costs over ethical practices. These companies, he says, drive down prices, which trickles down to the wages of the pickers.

The UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, Tomoya Obokata, expressed his concern over the findings, criticizing the lack of effective oversight by the perfume companies.

The reliance on third-party auditors by fragrance houses, without direct supervision by the companies, has allowed these abuses to persist. AFP

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