CommPRO Editorial Staff
The Fragrance Foundation’s (TFF) signature DEI initiative, #FragranceForwardTFF, officially launched with a free webinar, Industry Perspectives on Diversity, Equity & Inclusion. Featuring brand owner Chris Collins, World of Chris Collins; Givaudan Senior Perfumer, Linda Song; Rob Smith, founder, The Phluid Project; and, Corey Smith, Head of North America DEI, LVMH, the virtual event brought together more than 1,000 attendees, ranging from brands and media, to beauty and fragrance executives and enthusiasts, students and consumers from across the country. The engaging and lively discussion, moderated by Helen Shelton, Global Chief Diversity Officer and luxury brand marketing communications expert at Finn Partners, offered actionable next steps and best practices for industry leaders and those interested in entering the field, as well as insights on the career and professional development journeys of pioneering voices in the industry.
Jerry Vittoria, Chairman of the Fragrance Foundation Board of Directors, opened the webinar, naming DEI as “the number one priority of TFF, to include all contexts in which people may identify themselves as part of a minority group, including ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, physical ability, age, and a variety of backgrounds.”
“#FragranceForwardTFF is an ambitious and focused initiative to open the doors of the fragrance industry to all, galvanizing our members to devote resources towards education, mentorship, and recruitment, while also pushing for awareness and acceptance, as well as non-discriminatory employment opportunities across the board,” said Linda G. Levy, President of The Fragrance Foundation. “Our number-one goal for #FragranceForwardTFF is to foster a fully inclusive industry that truly represents the world,” concluded Ms. Levy.
The panel covered a variety of topics ranging from the need for visibility and representation in marketing to the critical importance of the three A’s: allyship, advocacy, and activism. LVMH’s Corey Smith drove home the point that “all efforts need to be 360—and while pledges are important, what’s even more important is “having diverse products on our shelves, products created by diverse people for diverse people.” The panelists offered advice for anyone, but especially minorities, to break into the fragrance business, from networking to mentoring, to just sticking with it. “Don’t be afraid to fail,” said Chris Collins. “If you’re afraid to fail, that means you’re afraid to take risks. You have to be courageous enough to know that you’re going to get some things wrong. As long as you get more things right than wrong, that’s the goal. You have to learn from your mistakes. And you can’t be afraid to ask for help.”
Linda Song spoke about the importance of having this conversation at all levels of the industry, and thanked the Fragrance Foundation and Michael Edwards for taking a strong stance about the use of the term “oriental” in the fragrance industry, recognizing that it is outdated and offensive, and announced that Givaudan will now be using the classification Amber-y in its place. Corey Smith talked about how critical cognitive diversity is, and all agreed that greater diversity means greater creativity, output, and success. “There is a value in difference,” he said. “Innovation comes from difference. Productivity, efficiency. All of that comes from a bunch of different people sitting around a table and debating until the best idea rises to the top.”
And as for how we move the needle in the right direction? It will take everyone, individually and together. “Accountability is individual, then it’s team, then it’s organization,” said Corey Smith. “It’s a level of self-awareness, learning, unlearning, respecting difference. All of that contributes to what we call inclusion.” Rob Smith advised taking leaps, having conversations, listening, being aware, and celebrating every individual. “You’re going to have to do things that are untraditional in order to make space for untraditional brands to succeed,” he said. “We’re never done with this journey, so let’s keep pushing and challenging each other.”
A major element of #FragranceForwardTFF is the creation of an industry-wide, Fragrance Foundation DEI Signatory Pledge TFF’s 100+ members – that include both independent and corporate entities – will commit not only to furthering their respective DEI goals, but also pledging to assist TFF in building and shaping #FragranceForwardTFF in the months and years ahead. This will be achieved by sharing resources and creating opportunities for mentorship, educational advancement and more aggressive recruiting.
The Fragrance Foundation is also embarking on a series of virtual listening sessions and tours of institutions of higher learning to engage with students and to discuss ways in which they might enter the field. A TFF Career Paths series premiered earlier this month with students, faculty and alumni during Homecoming at Spelman College, an Historically Black institution in Atlanta. The session was led by Ms. Levy along with Spelman alumna Sharné Jackson, TFF’s Senior Director of Events, Education & Give Back.
Industry Perspectives on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion will be recorded and can be replayed on The Fragrance Foundation’s website www.fragrance.org.