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Gattefossé has always enjoyed a close relationship with its suppliers in order to guarantee the origin of the company’s raw materials. In the 1910s, the company worked with lavender growers in Provence; later, in the 1950s, it worked in collaboration with the French Industrial Oleaginous Society (SIO). Today, the business benefits from committed partnerships with farmers who supply the plants required to create the company’s biological products.
In 1907, while working in the business, René-Maurice Gattefossé launched a campaign to raise awareness of French lavender growing. His initiative was supported by the South-East Agricultural Trade Union, which wanted to improve the quality and quantity of French lavender (largely overtaken by English lavender at the time), and also alleviate poverty amongst Haute Provence farmers.
For René-Maurice, not only was he able to improve the future of French lavender growers, but his commitment to the initiative helped the business indirectly, too.
Gattefossé perfumers benefited from access to high-quality lavender essential oils for use in their formulations. Soon, René-Maurice further developed the initiative in a number of different ways to improve production quality, increase yield, modernize equipment, train producers and organize the profession to make it more effective. Not only was René-Maurice involved in showing farmers how to grow wild lavender, he also updated distillation equipment and improved the performance of the stills. In addition, he helped create a trade union for lavender essence producers in Luc-en-Diois in the Drôme region.
Lavenders growers working in the 1910s.
His efforts proved profitable, both financially and otherwise; on the cusp of the First World War, the price of lavender rose from 14 to 48 Francs per kilo with production increasing at a similar rate. French lavender and the lavender growers had won their battle!
Throughout the 2000s and 2010s, the business developed a number of products derived from plant extracts that had been sourced all over the world. Now, Gattefossé needed full knowledge of all production facilities and growing conditions. It had to guarantee that a plant had been grown (or harvested, in the case of wild plants) according to specifications outlined by the business.
To help producers adhere to the new criteria, Gattefossé sent members of its R&D team to meet them, talk to them, better understand the parameters they work within and, if necessary, assist them in their activities
And this assistance could be material or financial. For instance, Gattefossé purchased a dryer for a producer in La Réunion so it could use optimal equipment to dry chayote, a plant used to protect against UVA rays. And sometimes the business helped out with skills transfer. For example, Gattefossé helped a medicinal plant supplier in Burkina Faso to transition to organic farming by assisting the company in compiling its certification file. For each individual case, Gattefossé needed to consider the supplier in its geographical location to identify what it could offer and the degree of flexibility available. The commitments the company has made over the years have always turned out to be positive: the relationships created are sustainable and there is always an increase in mutual trust.
This assistance, reminiscent of René-Maurice’s work when he supported the lavender growers of Haute Provence, is now part of a more formal CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) strategy and demonstrates how important it is for Gattefossé to establish long-term relationships with suppliers.