Ethics and The Body Shop

I’ve had people requesting this for a while now, and I finally have all my info for you! From this blog’s beginnings I’ve been talking about the ethical fashion and natural beauty, and this has of course led many people to wonder about one of the biggest high street purveyors of this lifestyle, The Body Shop. Now The Body Shop has been around a lot longer than its main competitor Lush, 20 years longer in fact, but how does it measure up? I’ve found that, whilst many people I know are aware of The Body Shop’s stance as being ethical, they don’t know always what this actually entails. And if you try and find out there’s a lot of information out there which can be hard to sift through. So if you, like my friends, are wanting to stop using your current beauty companies because they aren’t cruelty free, ethical or zero waste and you want to know if The Body Shop is actually any good, I have your answers in an easier format!

Firstly, a little more about The Body Shop:
Founded in 1976 by the late Dame Anita Roddick, The Body Shop was once a wee store in Brighton selling a few products. However it quickly grew into a huge UK retailer; the first of its kind to really emphasise the use of ethically sourced, cruelty free ingredients. Dame Anita was an environmental and human rights campaigner all her life, opening The Body Shop with the mission statement ‘to dedicate our business to the pursuit of social and environmental change.’ I’ve gone over The Body Shop’s policies and broken it down into different categories depending on what you’re looking for, so have a lil look below…

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Cruelty Free
The Body Shop is well known for not testing on animals. It never has, and they’re pretty blunt about that. So, that’s good. There is a little snag however, which is that in 2006 The Body Shop was sold to L’Oreal who aren’t cruelty free, and have come under fire quite a bit for exploiting loopholes when it comes to this. Awkward. Now this doesn’t mean The Body Shop now test on animals, whatever you buy from them will still be cruelty free, but it does mean they’re part of a larger company that are more shady. It’s your choice to make of that what you will.

Ingredients
Whilst we’re on the subject, let’s look at the ingredients in general. I will say it until the cows come home but I love transparency. The more you make available to me, the more I’ll trust your brand. This for me is why Lush is such a big winner; I can go to their website and find any product with a full ingredient breakdown, but I can also click every individual ingredient and find out what it is. I like being able to click on a weird sounding chemical name and actually gain some understanding about what that is and what purpose it serves in my product, it helps me be a better, clued-up consumer. The Body Shop isn’t quite as slick here. I did a little website browsing and found that each product has a ‘key ingredients’ section and then a ‘full ingredients section’. I understand the point of this, you’re trying to show me the main things in there and what they do, but if I then click on a full ingredient section to see a MUCH longer list of words I don’t recognise with little descriptions like ‘additive’ or ‘preservative’ in brackets, that’s not really enough for me. Some are literally just a string of numbers and letters with no description. Give me more Body Shop! Let me learn! I even tried clicking on the ingredients in the hope that I would find something, alas I did not.

Working Conditions
Ok, The Body Shop do a lot better here through two initiatives called Ethical Trade and Community Trade. In 1998 they became a founding member of the Ethical Trading Initiative: a partnership of companies, voluntary organisations and trade unions that were all ‘dedicated to improving the working lives of people around the world.’ The ETI’s base code has been The Body Shop’s supplier code of conduct since 2005, according to their website each of their 120 suppliers are regularly visited through the Ethical Trade programme, in order to see how their workers are treated (30,000+ workers overall. Wowzers.) The way The Body Shop do this is outlined below:

– Commitment to the code
We spend time with our suppliers to make sure they understand and commit to our code of conduct.
– Gathering Information
We use a combination of questionnaires and site visits. The visits are carried out by third-party organisations that are experts in local law and customs, and speak the local language. During these visits we talk to employees to find out about their working conditions.
– Continuous Improvement
We work with our suppliers to make lasting, positive changes to the working lives of the people who make our products.
– Tracking Progress
We track the progress of our suppliers as they improve working conditions. We annually report to the Ethical Trading Initiative and have been recognised as one of its leading members.

So there’s definitely accountability there, which is great. Their other initiative is Community Trade. Community Trade was launched in 1987 and is a ‘commitment to trading fairly with suppliers and in exchange offering good trading practices and independence building prices.’ This essentially means The Body Shop fairly trades directly with communities and farms when it comes to specific ingredients. On their website there is an interactive map: when you roll over a country you can click on ingredients purchased from this country and you will get a full breakdown of the ingredient, the supplier, the local community and the products it’s in. Now that’s what I like to see. Additionally, by 2020 The Body Shop has committed to the following

-Double our Community Trade programme from 19 to 40 ingredients and help enrich communities that produce them.
-Help 40,000 economically vulnerable people access work around the world.

Top marks The Body Shop. Top marks.

Environmental Impact

On the surface, from a zero waste perspective, they aren’t my top choice. There’s way more plastic that I would prefer when it comes to Body Shop packaging, once my grandma bought me some soap from The Body Shop (lol thanks grandma) and it came in a plastic wrapper, that just seems stupid. When it comes to the high street I’m always going to prefer Lush’s naked packaging approach, but The Body Shop does have a lot to say about the environment in general, and I don’t think that should be ignored either. They have introduced an eco-conscious symbol, if you see this symbol it means the product meets the following criteria (this is a less wordy breakdown of what they say on their website):

-Respects the Aquatic environment: ingredients are non-toxic to any organisms living in water, any raw material classified as toxic is not used.
-Meets strict biodegradability standards: all foaming ingredients in products are biodegradable, and at least 75% of carbon based substances will decompose naturally and quickly.
-Limits packaging waste: aiming to use the minimum amount of packaging materials for products, as well as using recycled packaging wherever possible, and if the packaging is paper or card it is from a FSC-certified source.

Hopefully that last one means they’ll stop wrapping their soap in plastic soon. The eco-conscious symbol looks like this (so look out for it!)

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But wait! that’s not all! The Body Shop have also promised a whole load more things for 2020, here are what those things are:

-Ensure 100% of our natural ingredients are traceable and sustainably sourced, protecting 10,000 hectares of forest and other habitat
-Reduce year on year the environmental footprint of all our product categories
-Publish our use of ingredients of natural origin, ingredients from green chemistry, and the biodegradability and water footprint of our products
-Develop an innovation pipeline that delivers pioneering cosmetic ingredients from biodiversity hotspots and which helps to enrich these areas
-Build bio-bridges, protecting and regenerating 75 million square metres of habitat helping communities to live more sustainably
-Reduce the environmental footprint of our stores every time we refurbish or redesign them
-Develop and deliver three new sustainable packaging innovations
-Ensure that 70% of our total product packaging does not contain fossil fuels
-Power 100% of our stores with renewable or carbon balanced energy
-Reduce by 10% the energy use of all our stores

Those are some good goals, I for one hope they are achieved.

Also, for the record, I think it’s definitely worth noting that The Body Shop have been a huge presence when it comes to campaigning in the past, tackling subjects such as human trafficking, domestic violence, HIV treatment and renewable energy. They also have a separate foundation that gives grants across the world to ‘community based charities and organisations that strive to protect the planet, its people and the animals that share it with us’ which is also pretty awesome. You can find out more about that here

All in all, The Body Shop is not a perfect company. It certainly has its flaws, but it also has a lot of goals when it comes to making improvements. It’s ultimately always up to you to make your own choices about who you buy from, but hopefully this has helped shed some light on what The Body Shop’s ACTUAL policies are. And if you’d like to see me do this for any other companies, do let me know! I love learning about this stuff as much as you guys.

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Until next time, stay magic y’all.

 

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