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The Body Shop to reinvent itself as sustainability pioneer

On its 40th anniversary, The Body Shop has launched a strategy to become “the world’s most ethical and truly sustainable global business”, starting with new packaging made from greenhouse gases.

On its 40th anniversary, The Body Shop has launched a strategy to become “the world’s most ethical and truly sustainable global business”, starting with new packaging made from greenhouse gases.

The global cosmetics firm’s reinvention follows a three year investigation led by the company’s chief executive, Jeremy Schwartz, and international director of CSR, Chris Davis.

The Enrich Not Exploit strategy was developed alongside think tank, the Future Fit Foundation, to align The Body Shop’s business principles with the ecological boundaries of the planet.

In an interview with BusinessGreen, Davis said that The Body Shop’s ambition was to lead business in new directions rather than copying others.

“When I started developing this strategy, there was a choice of looking at what other companies are doing and copy it – which felt quite safe and didn't feel true to The Body Shop's principles – or we could go and find out about things we don't know, and get challenged, and start to feel slightly uncomfortable about our current performance and our current vision for the company.” 

Targets

The new strategy includes 14 measurable CSR targets, most of which have a 2020 deadline. The commitments are split across three themes of people, products and planet. 

Examples include ensuring that all natural ingredients are traceable and sustainably sourced, publishing the biodegradability and water footprint of all its products and reducing the energy use of all retail stores by ten per cent every year.

The company also aims to guarantee that 70 per cent of its packaging is non-oil-based by 2020 by delivering several sustainable packaging innovations.

‘Significant goal’

Launching the strategy, Schwartz said: “We have set ourselves a significant goal to be the world’s most ethical and truly sustainable global business. For us, being truly sustainable means shaping our business to work in line with the planet’s natural systems so they can replenish and restore themselves.

“With our commitment, we’re challenging ourselves to go further than we’ve ever gone before to make a real, sustainable and positive difference. We want our Enrich Not Exploit Commitment to inspire a new generation of customers, supporters and especially millennials who truly care about how a company operates.”

Innovative packaging 

One of the company’s first steps will be to substitute some conventional oil-based packaging with a thermoplastic material created from air and greenhouse gas emissions.

The AirCarbon product, developed by clean technology firm, Newlight Technologies, is made from methane and carbon dioxide captured from farms, landfills and energy facilities that would otherwise contribute to global warming.

The material is already used by Dell in its laptop packaging, but The Body Shop will be the first company to use it for cosmetics packaging.

Davis said: “The impact of our research commitment with Newlight we hope will support global business in increasing resource efficiency of product packaging, providing access to new ways of buying and using The Body Shop products and services and increasing the perceived value of packaging and materials.”