If we take a look at the industry standard, it becomes apparent why sustainable fragrance should be the only kind we wear. The perfume industry lacks transparency, as the ingredients used to craft each scent are protected as trade secrets. This means brands do not have to disclose exactly what’s inside the bottle. Rather, they can just list the word “fragrance” as the encompassing ingredient. Hidden behind this word are various petroleum based products and toxic chemicals that are unfriendly to your skin and the environment. And going beyond formulations to look at packaging, perfumes are often delivered in non-recyclable boxes, padded and wrapped in excess plastic.
So what distinguishes sustainable perfume brands? Fundamentally, it is a foundation of social and environmental values. From natural ingredients to packaging to proper compensation for artisans, sustainable fragrance brands create scents that are an ode to natural and human connections. After all, perfumes are inspired by the natural world, rooted in culture and tradition. The four brands below each have a genuine commitment to sustainability, not to mention they deliver scents so rich and delightful, you’ll hear whispers of “Wow, what smells so good?” as you breeze by.
Abel’s chic, sustainable scents match their modern aesthetic. Founded in Amsterdam by a former winemaker, Abel is grounded in their ingredients, which are 100% natural and traceable to the source. They have even derived their own musk from the hibiscus flower. Abel’s ingredients are compatible and complementary to each individual’s skin. Their exclusive chemistry allows for a heightened personal experience, as their perfumes evolve with wear. Transitioning to social initiatives, Abel donates a percentage of revenue from each purchase to a different, aligned nonprofit. Opt for Golden Neroli, a refreshing citrus blast, and 1% of revenue will go to the nonprofit Pollinator Partnership; or select Pink Iris, a sophisticated twist on the classic floral number to donate to Plastic Soup Foundation. You truly cannot go wrong with Abel’s fragrance collection.
Self-described as “socially conscious luxury fragrance,” Sana Jardin makes decadent, intriguing scents to empower the producer, the consumer, and everyone in between. Through a circular model they call “Beyond Sustainability,” they uplift women in their supply chain by providing them with opportunities to become micro-entrepreneurs. It is through commerce and enhancing livelihood (and not through charity) that Sana Jardin enacts its mission for social good. Their cooperative, based in Morocco, also diverts local flower waste from landfills through upcycling orange blossom by-products into essential oils. This upcycled product is then used as the base of their natural fragrances. Considering the extent of their social and environmental work, it is no surprise that Sana Jardin also contributes to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Check out one of their best sellers, Berber Blonde, perfect for a summer day.
Guerlain’s fragrances are timeless and romantic, inspired by the beauty of nature. They are unique in this selection of sustainable perfume brands because unlike the others, they were not created in the name of sustainability. Nonetheless, as one of the oldest perfumers in the world (created in 1828), Guerlain has shown that classic, pioneer brands can successfully integrate sustainability into their existing models. Today, they vow to protect biodiversity, cut their carbon footprint, use recyclable perfume bottles, and reduce waste throughout production. Most impressively, their “Bee Respect” platform is a major step forward for transparency, as it allows the public to trace and map the life cycle of their scents. As the platform’s name suggests, it is inspired by Guerlain’s commitment to protect the invaluable and threatened bee.
London based brand Floral Street is a sparkling industry innovator, especially when it comes to packaging. Their founder and team have created reusable and compostable cartons to house their bright, feminine scents. These boxes, made from wood pulp, can be reused as mini jewelry trays or as beds for seed planting. Floral Street’s perfumes are cruelty free, made with sustainably sourced, traceable, and vegan ingredients. It is with all of this in mind that Floral Street’s founder calls her company an “upstart,” and not a startup, as they are rethinking sustainability and putting it at the heart of what they do. Find their fragrance, Iris Goddess, for a warm, inventive combination of florals and musks.
+ Words: Katia Hauser
Katia Hauser is a globally minded innovator seeking to transform sustainability into a fashion industry standard. A long time advocate of thoughtful consumption, she currently works for a sustainable fashion company in Los Angeles. She also co-hosts a podcast that covers all things current.
Connect with her on Instagram: @katiahauser