Some retailers talk the talk, while others walk the walk. LUSH Cosmetics is an example of the latter, with the UK-based cosmetics company setting a high bar when it comes to ethical cross-channel trade.
In 1995, LUSH was just starting out. In 2019, it’s one of the world’s biggest, most ethical cosmetic companies. How did the brand get to where it is today? According to Emma Brady, the business’s customer experience manager in Australia and New Zealand, the company’s success is built on its commitment to “push boundaries” and to “challenge [itself] to do better”.
“Our commitment lies in being an ethical company… However, it’s the constant product innovation, which is still led by our founders, that keeps the focus and value on our ingredients and their benefit and impact on the skin, rather than pretty packaging,” she says.
This is something that Brady says is reflected in LUSH’s pricing model, which sees customers paying for the ethical, sustainably-sourced ingredients and the associated beauty benefits of those products, rather than the cost of marketing.
“We like to call our pricing ethical and transparent. We have a global policy against traditional forms of advertising, including professional models and celebrity endorsements, so we don’t need to pass these costs onto the customer.”
In the spirit of transparency, Brady says all of LUSH’s products, whether they’re sold online or offline represent the price of maintaining an ethical supply chain. This includes things like sourcing product ingredients and making the products locally, so the company can maintain full control over the working conditions and quality of the ingredients. In Australia, this has proven so successful that LUSH was able to double the size of its local factory to accommodate its sustained growth.
“Things like sourcing cocoa butter that comes from a fairly-traded source and paying a premium for rose oil that comes from over 300 farmers in Turkey. That premium price is then able to fund a local school [in Turkey].
So, why is this pricing model one of the company’s biggest talking points when it comes to establishing the brand’s ethos? Brady believes it’s because involving customers in the company’s product development and educating them on where their money is going is not only essential for creating brand awareness and establishing loyalty, it’s also to help further the company’s overall environmental mission.
“We share the amazing stories of so many inspiring farmers and environmentalists around the world, and believe it’s important to involve customers in the choice of what their money funds and activates. It’s also to educate customers on the powerful effects these ingredients have on their skin and their emotions from an aromatherapeutic point of view.”
From this ideal, LUSH created the Sustainable LUSH Fund, AKA, the ‘Slush Fund’ as company employees like to call it.
“We wanted to move beyond simply buying fairly traded ingredients and, instead, develop supportive partnerships with the communities that produce them, and become regenerative in the way we source ingredients,” she explains. “Two-percent of our buying spend is used to start sustainable farming and community projects from scratch, some of which produce beautiful ingredients for our products.
“The Slush fund is based on the main principles of the Permaculture movement which is a based on care of the earth, care of people and fair share.”
Since the movement started in 2012, Brady says LUSH has already funnelled USD$5 million into 44 projects in 21 countries. A lot of these projects have also helped the business source new quality ingredients for its sustainable product range.
However, to ensure customers are fully aware of the projects they’re helping to fund when they shop with the cosmetics brand, LUSH encourages its in-store team to educate shoppers. From a digital perspective, bite-sized facts about the brand’s values that link to longer-form content is the company’s go-to method.
“It can be as simple as where one of our ingredients is sourced from, our commitment to reducing packaging or sharing how we continue to fight against animal testing. This allows us to build great rapport with our customers, teach them something, and encourage them to share the message with their friends and family to ultimately increase brand awareness,” Brady explains.
LUSH’s Ethos in Action
In 2018, in the lead up to Transgender Week of Awareness, LUSH used its bricks-and-mortar store network and its online platforms to advocate for the rights of every member of the LGBTQI+ community.
“We utilised our stores and online platforms to stand in solidarity and increase visibility of the trans and gender non-conforming community and the discrimination they still face,” she says. “As well as raising funds for organisations working in this space with an exclusive bath product, our social channels and website were dedicated to informing on the work that still needs to be done to reach equality, and providing resources for helping our customers become better allies.”
The overarching goal of the campaign was to start a discussion about the transgender community and non-binary and gender diverse people within the company’s team and customer-base, as part of the company’s ongoing commitment to passionately support human rights. As part of the promotion, LUSH created a new set of limited edition products, including its ‘Inner Truth Bath Melt’, which was available both online and in-store. According to Brady, the sale of this product helped to facilitate hundreds of important conversations, giving LUSH an opportunity to better educate its network of cross-channel shoppers. All sales from the bath melt were reportedly donated to LUSH’s charity partners, Transcend and Minus 18 in Australia and Rainbow Youth and Inside Out in New Zealand.
“Our customers are just as passionate about our values as we are, and have always held us to a higher standard than many other retailers. This encourages us to continue to innovate to meet consumer needs in living the most ethical life they can,” Brady says.
“LUSH paved the way with solid, packaging-free alternatives such as shampoo bars, which are seeing a surge in popularity as more people want to remove plastic from their bathrooms.”
The company also believes it’s at the forefront of using natural, environmentally friendly ingredients in its products, in-line with its promise to consumers.
“We have also always used naturally exfoliating ingredients like salt, ground almonds and charcoal instead of plastic microbeads,” she says. “This then led to taking it a step further and removing plastic glitters, replacing them with degradable and ocean-friendly alternatives. The joy customers express with the knowledge that they can enjoy glitter guilt-free in itself is such a motivator for continual innovation, as ethics are becoming a huge factor in everyday purchasing.”