Luxury Perfume Brands and Child Labor Exploitation in Egypt

Luxury perfume brands like Lancôme and Aerin Beauty have been linked to child labor exploitation in Egypt, as revealed by a recent BBC investigation. The jasmine used in these perfumes is picked by minors, with families often forced to involve children due to low pay and poor working conditions. The auditing systems in place to monitor these supply chains are flawed, allowing such exploitation to continue unchecked.

The UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery has expressed concern over the evidence uncovered by the BBC, which includes undercover filming of children working in jasmine fields. Despite claims of zero tolerance for child labor, the reality on the ground tells a different story.

Children as young as 5 are involved in picking jasmine flowers, working long hours for meager pay that keeps them below the poverty line. The perfume industry’s reliance on cheap labor trickles down from the top, with pressure on wages leading to child labor in the supply chain.

While perfume companies and fragrance houses tout their ethical sourcing practices in promotional materials, the lack of oversight of supply chains allows such exploitation to persist. The auditing firms hired to check for due diligence often fall short, with reports not publicly available and issues of human rights violations not adequately addressed.

Industry insiders reveal that the power lies with the perfume companies, known as “the masters”, who set tight budgets for fragrance houses, putting pressure on wages and leading to child labor. Despite commitments to uphold human rights standards, the reality on the ground tells a different story.

The responsibility to end child labor in the jasmine supply chain falls on the perfume companies, fragrance houses, and suppliers. Consumers can play a role by raising awareness and demanding accountability, but ultimately, corporate actions and legal frameworks are needed to address this deeply concerning issue. It’s time for the perfume industry to clean up its act and ensure that no child is exploited in the making of luxury fragrances.