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Investigative Report Links Luxury Perfume Brands Lancôme and Aerin Beauty to Child Labour Practices

London: An investigative report has revealed that child labour is being used in the supply chains of two major luxury perfume brands, Lancôme and Aerin Beauty, raising serious ethical concerns.

The British media outlet BBC’s investigation uncovered that children as young as five are working in the jasmine fields of Egypt, a key source of the ingredient for these high-end fragrances.

The report highlights severe 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. This 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, revealed that children are starting their workday as early as 3 AM to pick jasmine before the heat of the sun can damage the flowers. Heba, a local picker, works with her four children, earning a meager $1.5 for a night’s work, a sum that is significantly eroded 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 exposed flaws in the auditing systems that are supposed to monitor supply chains. Factories such as A Fakhry and Co, Hashem Brothers, and Machalico, which process the jasmine into essential oil, set prices that indirectly perpetuate 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 paints a starkly different picture. Industry insiders, including independent perfumer Christophe Laudamiel, criticized luxury perfume companies for prioritizing low costs over ethical practices, driving down prices and consequently the wages of the pickers.

The UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, Tomoya Obokata, expressed grave concern over the findings, criticizing the lack of effective oversight by the perfume companies. He highlighted that the reliance on third-party auditors by fragrance houses, without direct supervision by the companies themselves, has allowed these abuses to persist.

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