Lust is LUSH
It’s easy to be tempted by the novel items and titillating scents wafting from a LUSH Cosmetics store. From bath bombs to bubble bars, solid shampoo to henna hair dyes in the shape of chocolate bars, LUSH has transformed bath or shower time into a rather, well, lush experience. LUSH is a cosmetics company that emphasizes people, the environment and animal rights over profit
Born 17 years ago after the bankruptcy of a previous cosmetics company, LUSH has been gaining a steady following of loyal “Lushies”—from the ethical, responsible shopper to the teenage girl who may not be aware of the political ethos behind LUSH, but who simply can’t resist the soap that smells like a punchy bowl of Sangria or the bath bomb with vanilla bean that explodes in fizzy deliciousness when dropped into water.
It’s not enough that their products smell delightful. It’s not enough that they’re made from natural, real ingredients like eggs, avocadoes, honey, oats (in fact, the natural ingredients mean that most LUSH products are edible—though they don’t recommend it.) Instead, LUSH decides to push the envelope even further and place more important things over profit: things like sustainable manufacturing, energy conservation, environmental awareness and cruelty-free practices. They vocally support numerous human rights and animal rights campaigns throughout the year, many of which you can learn about by popping into a store and signing a petition or by visiting their website at www.lushusa.com
That’s right, ladies and gentlemen: a cosmetics company that you can sustainably stand behind. One that is 60% unpreserved, 38% unpackaged, 100% vegetarian, and 83% vegan, to be precise.
Cosmetics with a Conscience
“Since the late 1970s, the founders behind Lush have been involved in the cruelty-free movement. They pioneered it in the early days when no one was listening to the arguments and the road was a lonely one,” said Hilary Jones, Ethics Director for LUSH Cosmetics.
“We don’t know any other way to do it,” she said.
Their ethos and quest for responsible manufacturing is evident in everything that LUSH produces. Most products are sold packaging-free to reduce waste, but when requested or absolutely necessary, products are wrapped in 100% recycled paper or reusable, material cloth. It doesn’t end there; Lush also makes consistent efforts to reduce the amount of energy they use to manufacture their products in the first place, and refuse to source any of their raw materials and ingredients from companies who conduct animal testing.
The result? A booming brand that people have grown to love and trust, and products that consumers with a conscience can buy knowing the environment and its critters have not been sacrificed at any point in the making.
Though Jones insists that these unusual (but heart-warming) business practices are deeply engrained into the DNA of the company, she does acknowledge that sometimes, they’re not the most practical.
“Being green can save you money, but sometimes it costs you money,” she said, “for example, our decision to switch to 100% recycled polyethylene terephthalate (PET) when it first became available cost us a fair bit of extra money compared to virgin PET – but it was an easy decision to make because it was the right thing to do. New technologies and green solutions need encouragement to get up and going.”
“If profit can only be generated from damaging the planet, then something is terribly wrong with the business model,” Jones stressed.
Doing the right thing often means a smaller selection of suppliers for ingredients, but it’s a compromise LUSH has always been willing to make. They have a rather thorough process to ensure their products, raw materials and ingredients are cruelty free: First, they have a strict written criteria that gets sent to any potential ingredients supplier. The supplier has to read and understand LUSH’s policy, then answer a set of questions about their business practices. LUSH screens those responses to make sure they fit the criteria before any ingredient is ordered. The supplier then also signs an annual declaration stating that they continue to match the criteria, and must advise LUSH if anything has changed throughout the placement of the order. As a final measure, LUSH then has an external auditor check through their paperwork every year to ensure diligence in the enforcement of their published policy.
It may seem excessive, and like far too much work for the average big-name cosmetics company that routinely employs methods of animal cruelty in the testing of their products. To LUSH, it means something different: responsibility and practicing what they preach. Besides, Jones revealed that it’s not as difficult to manufacture cruelty-free products as some people think.
“You find the things you can buy and you make the best, most creative use of them. It has never limited us to the extent that we fear for our survival. We take the view that there are hundreds of amazing ingredients out there in nature that we can already use that do not require animal testing,” she said.
If it’s simple, then, why doesn’t everybody do it?
“We honestly can’t answer that,” Jones said, befuddled. “It is a mystery to us how anyone would wish to build a business on cruel, inhumane practices. If we can build a worldwide brand with the wide range of products we offer, then there is really no excuse for anyone else not to be able to do the same thing.”
Being an educated consumer has become easier with the research tools available at our disposal in recent years. A quick Google search or visit to the PETA website can advise consumer if they’re purchasing products that may be harming the environment or supporting animal cruelty, and Jones advocated that no purchase is too small to count. A consumer truly can make a difference with what they choose to buy.
“Even with multi-million dollar sales, companies are still looking at the percentage of their sales. If the ethical consumer is only a small percentage—they are still a percentage that the big brands are watching,” she said. Don’t believe it? Jones points out how many small ethical brands are being bought by the cosmetic giants: Body Shop was acquired by L’Oreal, and the almost entirely vegan brand Aveda is now owned by Estee Lauder. Both of these powerhouse brands routinely test on animals.
“They want those brands for a reason,” Jones explained, “the reason is your money, and those ‘small’ ethical purchases you’re making.”
LUSH recently released their much-anticipated Holiday line, which you can peruse at your nearest LUSH store or online at www.lushusa.com. They sell several baskets that offer a mix of their most popular products, the perfect gift for a friend or loved one in need of some pampering.
In the midst of Holiday panic and bustle, Jones offered these final 3 tips for consumers looking to be a little more conscientious in all things bath and beauty:
1. Look at the ingredients
Do you understand them, or are they a list of mysterious chemicals? Try to find out where those ingredients from, and what is involved in the development and production of them.
2. What is a company NOT telling you?
Are they open about their policies, do they have a clear statement of intent and clear company practices? Are they willing to answer questions and enter debate with their customers?
If something is really cheap to buy, ask yourself if it is really possible to bring that product to the shop shelf without someone along the way being underpaid for their part in it. All too often people at the start of the chain are being exploited to make out food, cosmetics and everyday products. If we want to trade fairly, then we should pay the correct price so that others can do more than simply scratch an existence. Our buyers see so much on their travels around the world and it is important to us that others aren’t suffering to bring goods to the shelves of the ‘developed’ world. Price can be a clue to this. However, don’t be fooled that high prices always mean high quality, fairly traded ingredients. The beauty business sometimes has a tendency to price things to appear luxurious and create a must-have, exclusive marketing vibe to a product that often contains the cheapest chemical ingredients.
Lisa-Marie is a journalism graduate with a passion for weaving stories from spoken words and learning about the intricacies of people. After spending a few years honing her skills in the professional sports industry, she is turning her focus to animal rights, environmental causes, and non-profit organizations that she is passionate about. An avid martial artist, she is also a firm believer in random acts of kindness.
RYOT Note: Make sure you do your holiday shopping with a large dose of cynicism; it is far healthier for you and far healthier for the animals and people that might have been exploited to bring a product to market. The Ian Somerhalder Foundation is fighting for the same things LUSH is: sustainable manufacturing, energy conservation, environmental awareness and cruelty-free practices. You can help further these causes by donating, or by sharing this story.