Inside the growth of YSL Beauty’s Rewild Our Earth initiative

The luxury beauty company is expanding the program to the Bahamas and Colombia this month.
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YSL Beauty

· 4 min read

Morocco had long served as inspiration for Yves Saint Laurent’s eponymous founder—so much so that there’s an entire museum in Marrakech dedicated to his work—and nearly a decade ago, YSL Beauty decided to give back to the ecosystem of the country that had been its muse and ingredient source.

Thus began the luxury beauty brand’s efforts to “protect and restore biodiversity,” Caroline Negre, YSL Beauty’s international sustainability and scientific director, told Retail Brew. It started with the Ourika Community Gardens in Morocco, created to sustainably produce ingredients used in its cosmetics. In 2017, the brand officially debuted its Rewild Our Earth initiative in Morocco, which focused on ecosystem restoration before partnering with global NGO Re:wild in 2022. It’s since expanded the initiative to Haiti, Madagascar, Indonesia, and Canada with the goal of restoring 100,000 hectares of wilderness by 2030.

Now, the brand is on track to be halfway to that goal by year’s end, according to Negre, and two new partnerships it announced last week in the Bahamas and Colombia should help push it even further.

Negre spoke to Retail Brew about how the program has evolved and the future of the brand’s sustainability efforts.

Wild at heart: Negre said the company first chose to work with Re:wild as the organization shared “values in common” with YSL Beauty, and was already involved in work in Madagascar. The NGO was founded by conservation scientists along with Leonardo DiCaprio, and works with more than 500 conservation partners, first as Global Wildlife Conservation before rebranding to Re:wild in 2021.

The Rewild Our Earth initiative began with a focus on regions growing crops which YSL Beauty sources as ingredients in its products. In Morocco, it cultivated and sourced pomegranate, marshmallow, iris, jasmine, walnut, and saffron; in Haiti, vetiver, which is used in fragrances L’Homme and La Nuit de L’Homme; in Madagascar, vanilla and geranium, used in its popular perfumes Black Opium and Libre; and in Indonesia, patchouli found in Black Opium as well as Mon Paris and Le Vestiaire de Parfums. Efforts to expand biodiversity include working to reverse desertification, reforesting, and reducing invasive species, per the brand.

The program has expanded beyond just areas where YSL Beauty could source ingredients for its own products. Its initiative in Canada, unveiled in December 2022, has focused on reducing degradation of grasslands. And its two new initiatives zero in on the wetlands in the Bahamas and the rainforest in Colombia. In the Bahamas, it’ll work to protect and restore the White Cay wetlands, home of the endangered White Cay iguana, and even plans to share learnings from its work to help other islands support iguanas. In Colombia, it aims to bolster buffer areas in Chiribiquete National Park and La Paya National Park, which, as part of the Amazon rainforest, act as large carbon sinks.

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With these new locations, like others in its Re:wild partnerships, Negre said it’s crucial to connect with members of the communities it’s working with.

“There is a strong dimension in terms of education—educating the communities or the people living close to the area because there is no protection or restoration of an ecosystem or biodiversity without the involvement of the communities,” she said.

There are many KPIs YSL Beauty and Re:wild use to measure the success of these programs, Negre said. That includes the number of trees planted (422,000 by the end of 2023) along with the number of species planted, the amount of positively impacted communities (via the availability of fruits and seeds from crops planted locally, for example), and the number of people working to oversee tree nurseries, she said. Negre said YSL Beauty and Re:wild have two annual reviews to evaluate each project’s evolution and collaborate on KPIs.

+1: YSL Beauty’s sustainability efforts are focused inward, too. Rewild Our Earth is just one of three pillars—two of which are related to sustainability efforts—under YSL Beauty’s “Change the Rules, Change the Future” platform. The “Reduce Our Impact” pillar focuses on internal efforts like packaging and manufacturing. Most recently, the company has zeroed in on refillable packaging, debuting refillable fragrances for scents like YSL Libre and MYSLF, sold at retailers such as Sephora. Consumers and retailers should keep an eye out for more refillable products, as they’ll be a “big hot topic for the years to come,” Negre said.

Retail news that keeps industry pros in the know

Retail Brew delivers the latest retail industry news and insights surrounding marketing, DTC, and e-commerce to keep leaders and decision-makers up to date.