Sustainable brand The Body Shop

Published 01/12/2022

Sustainable brand The Body Shop

Published 01/12/2022

In recent years, there has been much speculation about The Body Shop’s sustainability and good intentions. They were regularly accused of greenwashing – falsely advertising sustainability, when they don’t actually put much value on it. But is it really justified? As they themselves say, “Thinking about society and the environment are inseparable from the business. They are not goals in themselves, but are at the forefront of everything we do.”

Moreover, The Body Shop has been a B-Corp company since 2019. B-Corp is pretty much the highest certification you can achieve as a sustainable company. So there’s really no way around it then, is there? Time to dive a little deeper into the brand.

What do they produce?

The Body Shop is a cosmetics company. Founded in 1976 by Anita Roddick, an activist whose main concern was for women to feel good in their bodies, rather than conforming to existing beauty ideals. She refused to sell products that made false promises of anti-ageing or even figure corrections. Above all, the products had to feel good. Hence, to this day, the focus is on caring products like body butters and hand creams. Products that help against that annoying prickly feeling of dry skin, rather than a gel against crow’s feet.

The products they sell:

What sustainable aspects are implemented?

In 2021, The Body Shop installed over 500 refill stations in 40 countries. It is a 5-year plan to install this in all shops worldwide. You simply buy 1 aluminium bottle, which you can refill with your favourite product. Aluminium is a durable material that can last for years. At the refill stations, you can buy shampoo, conditioner, shower gel and hand soap.

Unfortunately, the packaging of the rest of the products is still plastic. However, it’s recycled plastic collected in collaboration with Plastics For Change in India, a country I think we all know is seriously behind in their waste disposal. The plastic is collected by locals, who get a good price for it. In turn, this plastic is used for The Body Shop’s packaging. Reusing material is really one of the company’s pillars, as a way not to increase the landfill and preferably even reduce it. In the UK, Hong Kong and Singapore, you can return your empty packaging to the shop so that it can be reused.

Furthermore, it’s been using natural ingredients such as Aloe Vera, Hemp and Ginger since the start. But that’s where the information ends. In 2016, they had ambitious plans to become the most sustainable company in the world, with organic ingredients sustainably sourced and without the use of fossil fuels. Nice plans, but there is absolutely no up-to-date information about it. The goals were supposed to be achieved by 2020, but that doesn’t seem to have quite worked out. 

The company does use sustainable packaging materials and is paying attention to the sustainability of the company itself, by making its premises more sustainable, keeping track of emissions and aiming to be carbon-neutral by 2030.

Ethical aspects

In terms of ethics, The Body Shop does really go the extra mile. The company was founded by a feminist and activist, who made no secret of her desire to make the world a little better and more beautiful, especially for women. Therefore, a lot of production work is done with women from different countries, who are paid a fair wage for their work thanks to The Body Shop. You can read more about it here.  Small pity though that the company now has a male CEO, but it seems that this work is still actively pursued.

As a B-Corp organisation, they prove that they are committed to a better world. By using their profits to raise and address social issues. As an activist herself, the founder regularly took to the streets to really change things, and successfully. In terms of ethics, The Body Shop is really their part.

Is it vegan?

Surprisingly, the answer to this is no. The Body Shop was the first company ever to be completely cruelty-free. They owe much of their name recognition to that. Unfortunately, that commitment has drifted a bit. Everything is still cruelty-free and suitable for vegetarians, but not all products are vegan. They do have a collection of vegan products and there was an ambition to be completely vegan by 2023. However, it is December 2022, and it doesn’t look like they will achieve that goal. Do you think this is an important aspect? Then take a look at vegan products specifically.

General verdict:

I must admit that I do understand why there is a lot of discussion about The Body Shop’s good intentions. The only thing I am really convinced of is that they really do their best for a better world. But especially on a social level. Fantastic, and to me personally very important. But in terms of sustainability, I have my doubts.

Good steps are definitely being taken, like the refill stations. What is a bit strange about that, however, is that the reasoning given behind that plan was “we notice that people increasingly want sustainable alternatives”. Then I do wonder what your goal is. Keeping your customers happy and making a profit by keeping up with trends, or do you really care about the sustainable aspect yourself?

The information on the websites differs per country. The Dutch website had a full focus on the social expects and it wasn’t until I opened the Greek one, that I found a sustainability report. The UK website does include a sustainable page, probably because it’s the founding country and new ideas are implemented there first. I do know companies that state that sustainability is the whole identity of the company, and they, therefore, do not mention it explicitly because it should just make sense.

I think there are really good intentions, but maybe it is not quite coming from the right place. There are a lot of ambitious plans for 2030. And let that also be the target year for government plans and environmental targets… 

To which countries do they deliver?

The Body Shop ships to most countries in the world. Choose the country where you want to receive your products at the bottom left of the website.