Biotherm, making waves in responsible consumption

Responsible consumption is the last crucial link in the sustainable development chain. The challenge remains recent, but L'Oréal is making its mark. The strategy implemented by Biotherm, via its Water Lovers platform, in perfect sync with the brand’s “Beauty from the Deep” positioning, is an excellent illustration.

Corner Biotherm

Water is fundamental to Biotherm's products and this prevalence is highlighted in its sales corners all over the globe.

Corner Biotherm

Water is fundamental to Biotherm's products and this prevalence is highlighted in its sales corners all over the globe.

Discover the interview with Elisa Simonpietri, Biotherm's Scientific Director

In 2012, as Biotherm extended its expertise to all aquatic biodiversity as part of its 60th anniversary celebrations, the brand in tandem launched its Water Lovers platform, taking a 360° approach. From packaging to formulae, to communication and philanthropy: the brand’s mobilization is global, since it encompasses commitments both on an internal and external level. The evocatively-named Water Lovers platform thus combines three essential stages for encouraging responsible consumption among consumers: the design of better and better eco-friendly products, followed by a responsible communication strategy, and finally, greater consumer awareness.

Embracing eco-design

As notes Biotherm’s Scientific Director, Elisa Simonpietri, ‘Sustainable consumption starts with... sustainable innovation! Ahead of raising awareness among consumers, we first have to offer them products with the best possible environmental profile.’ Biotherm has drawn up an action-plan to upgrade its products’ environmental profiles, without compromising either on their effectiveness or the enjoyment had from using them.

‘The real challenges were on the research and innovation front’ Elisa Simonpietri adds. ‘Firstly, to replace polyethylene particles with particles of natural origin in all our exfoliating products’, explains Thierry Cotton, director of skincare Laboratories. ‘We needed to identify the possible natural alternatives able to reproduce the precise exfoliating quality of products currently on the market.’ In economic terms, the challenge was to produce increasingly natural formulae at an equivalent price, with an identical performance. The overriding goal is always to provide genuine, tangible benefits for consumers. For instance, Biotherm will highlight the finer and more precise effectiveness of the new exfoliating particles of its products, for skin that’s even softer. Packaging-wise, numerous initiatives were launched to cut down on volume, such as eliminating the outer boxes of every tube of Biomains cream.

Water, a legitimate issue for action

‘These internal efforts directly impact consumers’ involvement in the sustainable development chain. By improving our products and their environmental impact, we are making the act of purchasing a responsible gesture in itself’, underscores Elisa Simonpietri. These efforts have spurred the brand to build further on its commitments in relation to water. ‘This element is part of our DNA. It’s our N°1 raw material. We therefore have a legitimate role to play in this field’, says Emilie Marsh, Biotherm’s Communication Director. In fact, water has been intricately linked to the brand’s history since biologists first discovered thermal plankton’s multiple benefits for skin in 1952. Twenty years of research culminated in the extraction of an active concentrate, Life Plankton™, which has become the brand’s star component, proving formula after formula its capacity to naturally protect skin cellular functioning. Via its Water Lovers platform, Biotherm reaffirms the importance of water and demonstrates its commitment to all the world’s waters. This initiative marks its determination to go further, guided by innovation, to place the richness of the world’s waters and of all aquatic biodiversity, at the heart of the advancement of its cosmetic efficacy.

Biotherm’s position addresses a key challenge for the brand’s own development. As observes managing director Patrick Kullenberg: ‘The quantitative and qualitative balance of the ecosystems from which our active ingredients are extracted today and tomorrow, guarantees the brand’s long-term success. Our future therefore depends on preserving this balance.’ Biotherm’s particular interest in preserving this resource converges with the growing global concern over water, now a critical issue for the planet. ‘We are therefore talking about a win-win approach for the planet, for our consumers and for our company’, adds Patrick Kullenberg. A coherency which lends even greater impact to the Water Lovers platform.

Education and dialogue, striking the right tone

Beyond eco-design and responsible communication comes a third pillar, namely consumer awareness. ‘Today’s consumers understand sustainable development and its challenges. Together with seeking as much information as possible about what they’re consuming, they also want to be guided in product usage’, observes Patrick Kullenberg. The brand therefore plans to support consumers. On the one hand, with detailed explanations of Biotherm’s commitments and challenges even at points of sale, and on the other hand by making product information and tools available to consumers in their day-to-day lives. ‘In every instance, we have to strike the right tone without over-dramatising the situation or pointing the finger. Consumers must be persuaded that they can do something at their individual level in favour of sustainable development’, says Elisa Simonpietri.

To spread that message, Biotherm has tapped new communication technologies. Rich in detail, the brand’s corporate website offers a whole new immersive experience to visitors, largely thanks to video. ‘It’s been designed as an invitation to travel to the depths of the seas, oceans, lakes and thermal waters in order to discover the secrets these waters hold and the beauty born of their depths’, explains Emilie Marsh. A further innovation: the use of social networks. In March 2013, for instance, Biotherm launched a water footprint e-calculator on Facebook, which calculates your water footprint in just a few clicks. This marks a major step forward in terms of interactivity. ‘We no longer talk at consumers but instead talk with them’, notes Patrick Kullenberg. ‘An approach centred on dialogue and co-construction goes hand in hand with our support for responsible consumption.’

Biotherm s’engage

  • 99% the biodegradability level of Biotherm’s Eau Océane
  • 12 tonnes: the plastic saved by 2014 according to Biotherm’s target
Improving our products’ environmental impact makes the act of purchasing a responsible gesture.
Elisa Simonpietri, Biotherm’s Scientific Director
  • L’Oréal had been committed to a study into water footprint evaluations for several months when Biotherm’s Water Lovers platform first began to take shape.

    1. Raw materials’ impact on the lifecycle of formulae and packaging depends not only on the number of raw materials but also on their origins.
    2. Thanks to the water-saving programmes implemented since 2005, the production stage has a minimal impact on products’ water footprint.
    3. The usage phase of a facial cleanser or shower gel has a potentially major lifecycle impact depending on the quantity of the water used.
    4. The product’s end-of-life in surface water (lakes, rivers) is the most impactful lifecycle phase. This is one of the main eco-design priorities for our rinse-off products today.
    Transport and distribution operations have been taken into consideration for each of the stages below.

  • Biotherm’s Water Lovers platform includes a philanthropic dimension to support projects aimed at protecting the planet’s aquatic resources. The first campaign to benefit is that led by the Mission Blue coalition, founded by oceanographer Sylvia Earle, to protect the Ross Sea. One of the last preserved marine ecosystems on the planet, this ice floe on the edge of Antartica is today under threat from industrial fishing and global warming. For its 2012 holiday editions, Biotherm invited the Swedish artist Ingela Peterson Arrhenius to create limited edition illustrations. The operation’s profits enabled Biotherm to donate 250,000 euros to help Mission Blue finance the creation of a protected marine zone for the Ross Sea. ‘When you fully grasp the sheer biodiversity and the uniqueness of a sea barely touched by mankind, you begin to understand what’s really at stake here. We’re proud to support the efforts of Mission Blue since this marine reserve is the best hope for the Ross Sea’s future,’ explains Patrick Kullenberg.


Elisa Simonpietri, Biotherm's Scientific Director