Mention the name “La Mer” and you’ll probably think of a few things: luxury, their iconic best-selling face cream and sea kelp – one of the brand’s star ingredients. But what you may not think of (or even know of) is their annual Blue Heart campaign, an initiative to protect marine habitats around the world.
First started over a decade ago, the Blue Heart campaign has, amongst other things, set up an ocean conservation fund, supported ocean sustainability research and engaged high-profile environmentalists to raise awareness on the importance of protecting the seas before it is too late.
One such conservationist is Phillipe Cousteau, an Emmy-nominated TV host and producer as well as author and social entrepreneur. He’s also the grandson of world-renowned oceanographer Jacques Cousteau.
Why did you partner up with La Mer?
This is the second time we have partnered with La Mer because they realise that in order to build healthy thriving oceans, we need the companies to be a part of the solution. Healthy oceans are of particular concern to La Mer because their special ingredient, sea kelp, comes from the ocean.
To me, La Mer’s Blue Heart Campaign is especially exciting because it recognises that young people are key to solving this problem and their philosophy of hope and optimism aligns with ours. While there are very serious problems we face in the ocean, both [my wife] Ashlan and I believe that there is hope. We share La Mer’s commitment to embracing solutions and the belief that protecting and restoring the ocean is an exciting opportunity that can bring us all together.
You come from a family heavily involved in ocean conservation. What was it like growing up and how did your family influence your career path?
75 years ago, my grandfather Jacques Cousteau co-invented scuba diving. It was the first time that humans could swim freely underwater and explore the ocean. He also took cameras underwater and captured the first images of coral reefs, sharks, and so many of the inhabitants of the ocean that we all know so well today.
One must understand that before his documentaries and work, the public knew nothing about what was in the ocean. My grandfather, and then my father, went on to be pioneers for the conservation of the ocean and passed on that passion to me. Our family was the first to explore the ocean, the first to document the ocean, and the first to campaign for the protection of the ocean.
That legacy had a huge impact on me. Tragically, my father passed away before I was born. However, I grew up with a passion for conservation and exploration that was fostered by my grandfather and my mother (who also spent 13 years on expedition). They taught me that we are all connected to each other and to the ocean, and that we each have a responsibility to act in our own way to help repair the damage that humanity has wrought on the ocean.
Did you ever dream of a different career path?
When I was really little, I wanted to be a fireman. But by the time I was 16, I realised that I wanted to follow in my father and grandfather’s footsteps. Being able to travel the world and explore new places while inspiring others to protect and renew the ocean is a privilege that I cherish every day.
How can we do our part in protecting the oceans?
As the lead singer of U2, Bono, once said, “shopping is politics”. Your wallet has tremendous power; support companies that make you and the planet healthier. You don’t have to live near a beach to influence companies. Also, no matter where you live, demand that politicians protect the environment and reject the false narrative that conservation is too difficult.
What’s the most beautiful thing about the ocean?
I believe the most beautiful thing about the ocean is that it is full of wonder, hope and opportunity. As my grandfather once said, “the sea, once is casts its spell, holds you in its net of wonder, forever.”
Can you tell us more about your VR programme, Drop in the Ocean?
Drop in the Ocean is an exciting new project that my wife Ashlan [Gorse-Cousteau] and I narrate. Virtual Reality is a fascinating new medium because it allows us to interact with the world in new ways that traditional media doesn’t allow.
In this case, four people enter a room that is designed to look like a jellyfish. They put on the VR headsets and are immediately shrunken down to about an inch tall and immersed into the ocean to experience a world few people ever see: the world of plankton! It is microscopic, but fascinating and vital to our survival.
Imagine that plankton generates 60 per cent of the oxygen we breathe. Then, Drop In the Ocean introduces you to the idea of microplastics as participants slowly move to the surface and are surrounded by plastic trash. Finally, we end on a message of hope that we can solve these problems if we work together. It gives people access to a world that is totally different than anything they have ever seen before and that is exciting to us.
What do you think of the iconic Crème de la Mer?
We bring the Crème de la Mer with us wherever we go. Both Ashlan and I are seasoned travellers and we travel light, but we spend a lot of time outdoors. The wind can wreak havoc on your skin, leaving cracked painful skin not to mention sunburn being a constant challenge.
While it may not seem like something that rugged adventurers would take with them, Crème de la Mer is the best thing we have found to help soothe the damage our skin endures on expedition and at home.
From now till the end of June, La Mer will be donating $25 to the La Mer Bue Heart Oceans Fund for every public Instagram post tagged with #LaMerBlueHeart and #LaMerDonation, until they hit their goal of $650k. Find out more about the campaign by visiting lamer.co/blueheart.