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tales of our time: michael hayman explores the new revolution afoot

Michael Hayman talks to Marie Guerlain about being a force for good.

This piece originally appeared in Country & Town House.

Being a chip off the old block is often a compliment but sometimes a curse for new generations of famous families making their way in the world. What might be different today though is how many examples there are of those using their privilege and potential to make a difference to the environment and to be a force for good.

Founded in 1828 by Pierre-François Pascal Guerlain, the Parisian master perfumer would in time see his start up count Napoléon III and Queen Victoria among his list of celebrated clients. The rest, as they say, is history and today it is one of the leading luxury fragrances in the world.

Marie Guerlain emerges as the newest name in the family dynasty to make her mark. But this time it’s the planet, not perfume, that’s on her mind. Ondine is Marie’s middle name and that of her business brand, which produces non-toxic, sustainable, titanium cookware. It’s part of her wider mission for promoting wellness and non-toxic living.

Marie considered her entrepreneurial heritage as part of a Great British Brands x Change Makers podcast (available to download now), sharing that she believed her great-great-grandfather would have advised her to follow her passion and her creative flair. “He would have supported me,” she said.

Take Irene Forte, who began her journey as part of the family firm, Rocco Forte Hotels, and has gone on to create her own eponymous vegan skincare brand rooted in the ideals of people, community and planet.

Or Richard Walker, the latest leader in the family to take the helm at Iceland. He’s taken the family motto of ‘doing it right’ to create an exciting vision for the high street based on environmental action and a green recovery.

This is commercial activism; it’s about products, purpose and the proceeds of profits. And of course it’s a much wider movement than family firms and their offspring. It’s a spirit that is capturing the imagination through initiatives like B Corps, a trust mark for kindness in business.

Guerlain was founded less than a generation after the storming of the Bastille and the subsequent French Revolution. Today there is a new revolution afoot. Not about guillotines but about kindness and how it endures. With it comes a new scent for success and one that must stand the test of time.


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Chapter 1 outlines the concept of mission and how the breakthrough brands of today have succeeded by building a mission that inspires belief, generates a following and instils a purpose beyond profit.