Want to be immediately transported to the dreamy-nostalgic sensorial world of southern France? Walk into a L’Occitane store (there are 23 in Canada, 895 globally). Lavender, almond and olive oils from the region, and Mediterranean ingredients like ‘Immortelle’ flower essential oil from Corsica, are evocative hallmarks.
But beyond the heavenly aromas and the benefits of plant-based ingredients of its skincare, bath and fragrance products, the company has a strong corporate philanthropy program through its foundation, established in 2006. Paris-based Mary Bonneaud of L’Occitane told Best Health the company devotes one million euros (C$1.2 million) a year to philanthropic causes, including helping to improve lives for women in Burkina Faso, one of the world’s poorest countries.
L’Occitane was founded more than 30 years ago by Olivier Baussan, who, at 23, started distilling plant ingredients in 1976 and selling the essential oils in his native Provence. In 1980, Baussan began sourcing shea butter from Burkina Faso to include in L’Occitane soaps, which led to the company’s commitment to helping the women who produce the shea butter, through ethical sustainable production. ‘Today, the foundation supports literacy programs and micro-credit entrepreneurship,’ explains Bonneaud.
L’Occitane also helps the visually impaired in France with workplace integration, and offers medical care and training to developing countries through its partnership with renowned charity Orbis.
Canada’s new flagship store will open in November (at Toronto’s Yorkdale shopping centre), and will feature a shaving/skincare area for men and ‘a fragrance discovery area,’ says L’Occitane spokesperson Odile Perquia.
What’s coming in 2013? Watch for, she says, ‘exceptional new fragrances created in Grasse en Provence, the capital of fragrance since the 16th century.’
*All profits from the rose-petal scented shea butter Solidarity Soap (pictured above) go toward eradicating preventable blindness globally. ($3, 50 g)