If you’ve ever walked through a mall in Metro Vancouver, you’ve most likely seen (or smelt) a Lush Store. And even if you haven’t been inside a store yet, you might know them for their bath bombs that look like candy, and values like “ethical buying” and vegan products.
Its things like that that have helped Lush cut itself a position as a leader in their industry.
Over the past 20 years, Lush has expanded from a start-up UK based brand, to a company with 250 stores in North America, 900 shops worldwide, and a huge Vancouver warehouse which produces and ships products to all of Western North America.
We visited that Vancouver warehouse to try to learn just what makes Lush such a leader in the beauty and cosmetics industry and to see if we could figure out how they make their stuff smell so good.
“We live and die by our ethics so we are very strong against animal testing, we have a very strong ethical buying policy, we like to use as little packaging and have as little of an impact on the environment as we can,” says Larissa Dundon, external communications manager.
So what exactly are they talking about when they say “ethical buying?
The go-to person at Lush to answer that question is Heather Deeth, the Buying Manager for Lush North America.
“Ethical Buying for me is intimately knowing all the touchpoints of your supply chain,” she says. “And we roll that out across every single ingredient we buy. So for me, that’s how, and where and by whom the material is grown, what the inputs are,” she says.
Deeth says that philosophy goes beyond the product itself, to the packaging and right on through to shipping to try and minimize the companies carbon footprint too.
She points to what they’re doing with honeybee farmers as an example of a healthy supply chain.
“We went out and talked to hundreds of beekeepers across Canada, primarily in Ontario and B.C. to talk about the challenges they face first hand,” she says.
“In Ontario, it was quite scary. We had talked to beekeepers where they thought all the bees would be gone in five years because of the amount of industrialized spraying happening. That seemed really dire and really urgent so we developed a four-pronged strategy of how we would go about supporting the beekeeping industry overall. Because sure, I don’t need to support the beekeepers but I would like to make sure I have a sustainable source for years to come. Never mind the food security problems we would face if all the bees disappeared. So both from a supply chain and a health of the environment standpoint.”
Deeth says that by sticking to their core values of making naked, 100% vegetarian, fresh, handmade, products that also fight animal testing doesn’t just help the environment – it helps their bottom line.
“You have to build these supply chains ethically and sustainably if you’re going to actually have long term sustainable profit,” Deeth says.
“I see there’s been an evolution of questions that come to us. It used to just be questions around ‘Tell me where your cocoa butter comes from or tell me where your jojoba comes from. But now the questions are actually much better from customers. They want to know ‘How did that get here or tell me about the issues you see in honey and how do you work around that,’” she says.
Deeth says that engagement from customers has had a big impact on the business, and kept it on its toes.
Along with ensuring their suppliers are well taken care of, Lush also prioritizes helping out philanthropists, with their Charity Pot initiative.
Erika Edwards is Lush’s North American Grant Specialist, and points to one of their most successful projects, the Charity Pot Hand and Body Lotion, launched back in 2007.
The company gives 100% of the sales to small grassroots organizations that work in the areas of animal rights, human rights, and environmental justice.
“So 100% meaning we cover all of that. So many companies will do the proceeds so after they cover all their costs. Lush, I think, is one of the only companies – and very unique in that – where we give 100%. So we cover the cost of the labour, the packaging, the shipping,” she says.
Over the past 9 years, the Charity Pot initiative has raised over $15,000,000 for over 1,200 grassroots charities like Revelstoke Bear Aware, Fur Bearer Defenders, Bicycles for Humanity, Groundswell, and a Tibetan Women’s Soccer league.
“The idea around Charity Pot is that we would look at groups that really needed that hand up,” Edwards says.
“We decided we didn’t want to focus in on one particular area or one particular organization. I would say a lot of the organizations we are funding are working on the root causes. We support groups that are on the ground, that are doing non-violent direct action, that are working on policy and legislative change, and really looking at solution based groups that are working towards change.”
Overall, both Edwards and Deeth say the entire process is a learning experience.
“Some projects are resounding successes and other ones we’ll be wondering what we were thinking or doing at the time,” Deeth says.
“We’ll never pretend to have all the answers, it’s a very humbling process every single day because there is no right or wrong. And that’s challenging because there’s no book on how do you do things ethically and how do you grow your supply chains ethically. You have to know in your heart what’s right and just go with your guiding principles and listen to people every single day about what their challenges are so that you can try and move things in the right direction,” she says.
The direction Lush is heading in over the next few months is a busy one. Not only are they well into the swing of things for the Christmas season, they’ve also launched a campaign and documentary that dives into the trophy hunt for grizzly bears.
And they’re doing all this while continuing to grow their profit in an environmentally sustainable way, while staying true to their core values, and making baths smell better – one bath bomb at a time.