Transforming Rural And Marginalised Communities The Body Shop’s Efforts At Combining Environmental Sustainability And Business Ethics

0
241
Shriti Malhotra

Founded in 1976 in Brighton, England by Dame Anita Roddick,The Body Shop is a global iconic beauty brand that pioneered the philosophy that business can be a force for good. Spanning 3000 retail locations in 66 countries, the brand seeks to make a positive difference in the world by offering high quality, naturally-inspired skin care, hair care and make-up, produced ethically and sustainably.

A firm believer in empowering marginalised communities, Dame Anita Roddick founded Community Trade as ‘Trade Not Aid’ in February 1987 as a way to give developing communities around the world a hand up, rather than a hand out. The Body Shop’s first supplier was Teddy Exports in Madurai, Tamil Nadu, India. It has been supplying us with a wide variety of high quality gifts and accessories ever since. Thirty years on, Community Trade remains the strongest fair trade programme in the beauty industry, and by the end of 2017 will have 23 Community Trade ingredients plus accessories and gift products sourced from 30 supplier communities in 22 countries, with over 20,000 beneficiaries from community projects.

We bring great, naturally-inspired products to our customers in line with the three main aims of the Community Trade programme today: transforming marginalised communities around the world, preserving traditional crops and farming methods, and promoting sustainability in farming that challenges the status quo, which can include high use of fertiliser or pesticide, low wages and non-sustainable practices that can lead to habitat loss and poor working conditions.

“Many of The Body Shop’s community trade suppliers employ women in rural areas and people in their community at risk of marginalisation. Earning an income helps build their financial independence and social status”

Many of our community trade suppliers employ women in rural areas and people in their community at risk of marginalisation. Earning an income helps build their financial independence and social status. For example, we source argan oil from Targanine in Morocco, a network of cooperatives with over 300 female Berbers ( Descendants of the pre-Arabin habitants of North Africa. They live in scattered communities across Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Mali, Niger, and Mauretania) from the Little Atlas Mountains. Traditionally, men enjoyed higher social status as they earned a higher income. Now these women are often the primary earners in the family, increasing their social status and financial independence.

We work with suppliers all over the world to establish trade relationships that benefit communities. At the heart of Community Trade, we have consistently initiated gender equality and female empowerment. A part of this is championing women and girls – offering equal opportunities to all. Community Trade has helped support thousands of women and girls through education, and provided income for women around the world, as well as supporting fair and equal pay across the whole programme. Relationship with the Tungteiya Women’s Shea Butter organisation in Ghana provided 528 women of the Association a fair price and also pay a premium for the women to invest in community projects, which have impacted a further 46,000 people.

“Since 1987, Community Trade has helped Teddy Exports grow from just five employees to 600 crafts people from over 30 villages, giving vital employment to people at risk of marginalisation including women, disabled and HIV-positive members of the community. Teddy Exports also support training, education and health schemes which help to revitalise the whole community”

Since 1987, Community Trade has helped Teddy Exports grow from just five employees to 600 crafts people from over 30 villages, giving vital employment to people at risk of marginalisation including women, disabled and HIV-positive members of the community. Teddy Exports also support training, education and health schemes which help to revitalise the whole community. Over the past 20 years, with support from The Body Shop, the Cooperative has built eight schools, funded 30 water projects bringing clean drinking water to over 5000 people, supported environmental education and provided small loans to over 500 families each year.

Looking ahead, our Community Trade programme will evolve towards more specialist ingredients, including from biodiversity hot spots: with the bulk of our lead ingredients already covered, our opportunity is to extend this unique sourcing approach to new areas where our trade can make a difference – for communities and customers.

“The Body Shop pioneered social activism before it became fashionable. It was built on a philosophy that business can be a force for good”

Community Trade has reached its milestone 30th birthday in 2017. The aim has been to deliver positive impact by empowering marginalised communities, preserving traditional crops and practices, and promoting sustainable production methods that challenge the status quo to be replicated at scale. There are many successful examples of how this has worked effectively. Used in many of our fragrance products, the Community Trade organic alcohol is sourced near Sao Paolo, Brazil, one of the first areas in Brazil to start growing sugarcane using organic methods. Our supplier, Native, is a member of the Union for Ethical Bio Trade (UEBT) and created innovative, sustainable sugarcane cultivation and processing practices which help to protect the environment. At the São Francisco Mill where organic alcohol is produced, over one million trees have been planted in the last 30 years. The mill is also a certified carbon neutral company. It sells back excess energy to the local grid, enough to generate electricity for 300,000 people.

The Body Shop pioneered social activism before it became fashionable. It was built on a philosophy that business can be a force for good. Some key highlights of our campaigning history in terms of CSR initiatives include:

Save the Whale Campaign: The first major campaign that Anita Roddick and The Body Shop launched with Greenpeace in 1986 draws attention to the continued threat facing the great mammals. We were one of the first international beauty brands to use an alternative to sperm whale oil, pioneering the use of Jojoba oil as an alternative.

Testimonials

Amutha, aged 42 years, has been working at Teddy Exports since 2002 in the Quality Control Department. Only after joining Teddy Exports has she been able to eat regular, quality food. Being the sole earner of her family, Amutha, through Teddy Exports, has been able to send her son and daughter to school, which she feel, is her biggest achievement.

S.M. Lakshmi is 34 years old and has been working at the Printing Unit of Teddy Exports since 2002. Though she had no prior knowledge about the printing process, she quickly picked up the ropes and has become a professional in her job. She is grateful and happy for the opportunity which Teddy Exports has given her, thus changing her life for the better.

36 year old A. Parasakthi has also been working at Teddy Exports since 2002 in the Printing Unit. Her husband’s income is based on agriculture; therefore is irregular. But with the regular income that Parasakthi has been receiving from her job, she has been able to become a major contributor in running her household which is a joint family comprising of six members.

J. Thenmozhi, aged 36 years, has been part of Teddy Exports Printing Unit since 2002. She has been happily working at Teddy Exports for the past 16 years. She plans to continue being a part of this family as it provides a safe working environment for women.

As part of the Quality Control Department, 34 year old Kartheeswari has also been working at Teddy Exports since 2002. Her income has been the mainstay in her family since her husband is not being able to contribute financially. But she is happy that her job has given her and her family security for the future.

The Body Shop Foundation was established in 1990 and funds human rights and environmental protection groups around the world.

Against Animal Testing Campaign in UK (1996): This campaign led to a UK-wide ban on animal testing on cosmetic products and ingredients in November 1998 and the largest ever petition (four million signatures) being delivered to the European Commission.

Humane Cosmetics Standard (1997): We were first international cosmetics company to be recognised under the Humane Cosmetics Standard supported by leading international animal protection groups.

Home Campaign (2003): The Stop Violence in the Home campaign launched to raise money in support of victims of violence.

Sourcing Palm Oil (2007): We became the first cosmetics company to source sustainably harvested palm oil.

Recycled Bottles: 100 percent post-consumer recycled PET bottles were introduced in 2008.

The Stop Trafficking of Children & Young People Campaign (2009): Along with ECPAT International, we launched The Stop Trafficking of Children & Young People campaign. It inspired change on an unprecedented scale, gathering over seven million signatures from customers globally, resulting in over 20 countries across the world committing to adopting new legislation in response to our petitions. It became the largest campaign ever for The Body Shop.

Enrich Not Exploit

The Body Shop is committed to sourcing all its natural ingredients from traceable and sustainable sources by 2020. Bench marked against industry best practice, our Sustainable Sourcing Charter sets the standard for sustainable production and is our guide for assessing supply chains and making improvements or changes where necessary.

Our team and our sustainable sourcing partners establish relationships with our suppliers and travel the world to visit them, sourcing the most ethical and sustainable ingredients available. This is a collaborative effort to actively drive sustainability, provide know-how, and support the communities in achieving higher levels of empowerment, professionalisation, female participation, and fairer pay.

We also work with environmental organisations to source new ingredients from biodiversity hot spots, regions under threat from human activity. Trade can help preserve and increase biodiversity, giving reasons to protect species that might otherwise be seen as low value and cut down.

There are multiple methods the brand uses to measure its achievements. We have metrics to actively track our achievement against our targets (under our Enrich Not Exploit Commitment) and then we have internal quality processes to make sure that each Community Trade ingredient covers sustainability comprehensively.

As part of the motto of Enrich Not Exploit Commitment, year on year, a reduction is seen in the environmental footprint of all our product categories. This will include increasing biodegradability, the ingredients from renewable natural origin and from green chemistry and reducing water footprint.

The Body Shop aims to bring high quality, naturally-inspired products to the market in line with the three main aims of the programme:

· Transforming marginalised communities

· Preserving traditional crops and practices

· Promoting sustainable production methods that challenge the status quo

Wood Positive (2012): We launched Wood Positive, offsetting all the wood-based paper and pulp that goes into its primary, secondary and transit packaging. In 2012, we focused on the Atlantic rain forest in Brazil, and the Southern Andes in Ecuador.

2013: After 20 years of relentless campaigning, we celebrated a ban preventing the import and sale of animal-tested cosmetic products and ingredients in the EU.

Enrich Not Exploit: In 2016, we launched our commitment: Enrich Not Exploit ™ It’s in our hands.

Forever Against Animal Testing (FAAT) Campaign 2017: We were the first global beauty brand to fight against animal testing. Over the last three decades, we have worked with our campaign partner – Cruelty Free International and our collective efforts helped lead to a European Union ban in 2013. But that is not enough. 80 percent of countries do not have laws against animal testing, including the US. Animals continue to be used in testing, and we want to end this practice everywhere, and forever. The campaign, conducted in partnership with Cruelty Free International, has till now, collected 2.3 million signatures globally.

We strongly believe in giving back to the society and operating hand in hand with the environment. Our constant efforts and endeavours have always helped us keep true to our founder’s values, vision and mission. The brand will continue to act responsibly, even going forward.

Shriti Malhotra

COO, The Body Shop, India