At Lush we pride ourselves on our creativity, and this doesn’t stop with our products. Since the beginning our aim has been to use the best, safest and most beautiful ingredients.
We have discovered that if you want the best ingredients, you have to go out and find them yourself in the wider world. Our dedicated Buying team works tirelessly to ensure that’s what we get. Often this involves a great deal of creative thinking and finding solutions to problems, such as sourcing the finest essential oils and absolutes, the best natural raw materials, safe synthetics, 100% recycled packaging or removing Palm oil from our products. Lush has a very strong commitment to the communities and areas from which we buy our ingredients. We feel that our ingredients should be bought in a respectful way safeguarding the environment and the social impact. Lush supports Fair Trade and Community Trade initiatives. We find out what impact our buying has on the people and environment and make responsible decisions regarding from where, from whom and how we purchase ingredients and packaging for Lush.
Ethical Considerations when buying
- Workers rights – unions, collective bargaining, health and safety, freedom to leave, fair pay, working hours, discrimination, no child labour.
- Environment – organic, sustainability, endangered species, production emissions onto land and water, use of resources to process ingredients, no Genetic Modification…
- Animal protection – No animal testing of ingredients. Vegetarian ingredients only.
- Transport – The distance ingredients travel, minimum air freight, packaging materials used.
- 1/6th of the world’s harvest of Orange Flower absolute from small orange groves in Tunisia.
- 1/8th of the world’s Neroli oil, hand harvested from the Bitter Orange trees of Tunisia
- 1/10th the worlds crop of Turkish Rose absolute, gathered by the nomadic Roma people
- 5 villages worth of Benzoin resin from the inaccessible climbs of Northern Laos; one of the poorest countries in South East
- Fair trade Shea butter, supporting 400 women in remote areas of Ghana
- 55 tonnes of organic, fair trade cocoa butter from Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic
- Nearly 1/5th of the UK’s henna imports, a whopping 50 tonnes
- One island in the South Pacific’s worth of sandalwood oil (to avoid kidnappers, mafia and smuggling in India.) it is sustainably felled by the indigenous Kanak tribesmen.
- 1/3rd of Hungary’s entire crop of their best blue chamomile oil
- 150 bunches of flowers a week or about 8,000 bunches a year for use in our fresh products.
- 25 tonnes of organic fruit a year and 50 tonnes of fresh fruit and veg a year, both organic and conventional, locally sourced weather permitting
- Lush has also stopped using approximately 250 tonnes of Palm oil in an effort to save the Orangutan and its threatened habitat in indonesia’s rainforests.
Suppliers we support
For many years we have had a policy of aiming to purchase our materials direct from producers: the farmers, growers and processors, wherever possible, in order to learn the true story of each ingredient. This means that our buying team travel the world visiting suppliers, to meet the people involved. We see first hand how the ingredient is grown, harvested, mined, processed, etc. This allows us to get a better understanding of the raw materials, where they come from, how they are produced, what potential labour or environmental issues might arise and what might impact the cost of the materials (seasonality, crops, climate, etc).
Purchasing our materials in this way, with face-to-face communication also helps us foster good, honest, long-term productive relationships with the producers/suppliers and guarantees uninterrupted supply of good quality materials to make our products. We are able to ensure our suppliers understand the needs of our business and we also understand the constraints of their operations.
Through buying direct from producers we are also able to support and help finance some really worthwhile and forward-thinking projects worldwide that make us proud.
When the Buying Team are not travelling the world and working out in the field, they provide regular updates, reports and presentations of information on:
- The sources of raw materials that we buy to make our products
- Fair Trade and community trade projects
- Suppliers lists
- The status of ingredients
- Sharing their experiences on buying trips (often very challenging!)
This is constantly evolving as the Lush business grows and we nurture more relationships with suppliers all over the world.
Our stance on child labour is alligned with the ILO standards. We believe the minimum working age should not be lower than the age for completing compulsory education locally. We insist that our suppliers do not engage in any employment of child labour. Should suppliers become aware of any child labour taking place, we would expect them to engage in supporting a training and transition programme to support the child back into education.
Lush has a very strong commitment to the communities and areas from which we buy our ingredients. We feel that our ingredients should be bought in a respectful way safeguarding the environment and the social impact.
We’re committed to eradicating all traces of palm oil from our supply chain and, with more palm-free materials on the horizon, we’re making steady progress…
It’s almost impossible to avoid palm oil. It’s the world’s most widely-consumed vegetable oil and you’ll find it in everything from biofuel to chocolate, cake, crisps and cosmetics. Global production doubled between 2000 and 2012, and high demand has led to the increased industrialisation of palm cultivation, destroying natural habitats and disrupting the ecosystem in the process.
Back in 2008, we started removing palm oil from our supply chain and began a campaign to expose the environmental devastation caused by palm plantations. We encouraged our customers to ‘wash your hands of palm oil’ as a way to help reduce demand and slow production — or risk seeing the rainforest disappear before our eyes. Given that rainforests produce about 20% of all the oxygen in the world, and absorb significant amounts of harmful carbon dioxide, it’s vital that they are preserved; protecting them will help to combat climate change and global warming.
We accept that not all palm cultivation is bad, and there are some examples of good growing practices that incorporate palm. Nevertheless, palm cultivation has a massive social and ecological footprint and it’s inextricably linked to deforestation, human rights abuses, child labour, pollution and corruption.
“The problem isn’t palm, but how it’s grown and managed,” explains Mark Rumbell, Lush’s Ethical Buyer. “Our focus is on reducing palm usage with a view to getting rid of it completely. Our work is well underway.”
The truth about palm
Palm has been used as a staple food crop for more than 5,000 years, and was one of the earliest traded commodities. But it wasn’t until the Industrial Revolution that it became highly sought after by British traders who were keen to use it as an industrial lubricant for machinery. Today it’s widely used in the food industry as a cooking oil or as a substitute for butter, and it’s also a common ingredient in cosmetics where formulators use it as an emulsifier and surfactant.
There are two species of oil palm, Elaeis guineensis and Elaeis oleifer. Both these trees produce two types of oil: palm oil, which comes from the fruit of the tree, and palm kernel oil, which comes from the seed. In 2017, Malaysia and Indonesia were responsible for 87% of the global production of palm oil. This has come at a huge environmental cost: palm plantations have replaced huge areas of the oldest tropical rainforest on the planet, destroying the natural habitats of animals like the orangutan, Sumatran tiger and Asian elephant.
Not only that, land has been stolen from indigenous peoples and given to corporations to develop palm oil plantations. This land grabbing typically results in human rights abuses and conflict, and bribery and corruption are frequently used to expand plantations. Once established, the work provided in many plantations is often dangerous, insecure and poorly paid — and may involve child labour.
Palm is an efficient crop — and that’s part of the problem. “To produce the same amount of oil that comes from one hectare of palm you would need three hectares of rapeseed, four hectares of sunflower, 4.7 hectares of soya or seven hectares of coconut,” explains Mark. “With that lower yield a lot of manufacturers aren’t willing to take the price increase hit. If the entire world switched to coconut we would need around seven times as much land.”
A sustainable alternative?
We’re not convinced that palm oil can ever be truly sustainable. However, the Round Table on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) has developed a set of environmental and social criteria which companies must comply with in order to produce Certified Sustainable Palm Oil (CSPO). These criteria can help to minimise the negative impact of palm oil cultivation on the environment and communities in palm oil-producing regions. According to World Wildlife Fund (WWF), British retailers, manufacturers and food service companies are ‘leading the way’ on sourcing sustainable palm oil. Although this is a positive development, only around 20% of the world’s palm oil is certified, and smaller companies often struggle to implement the changes required for certification. In addition, certified palm oil is more expensive and, consequently, global demand for it is weak.
Lush head buyer Simon Constantine, who has seen the devastation in Sumatra at first hand, says: “If palm exists in the right ecosystem and it has the right relationship to the natural environment and to people then it could be great. I haven’t seen an example of that yet.” So, as we haven’t managed to identify fully sustainable and traceable sources of palm oil, we’ve focused on finding alternatives and removing palm from our supply chain.
“It’s very tricky,” admits Mark. “Not only does the source need to confirm that the ingredient is 100% palm free and always will be, but they need to follow Lush’s ethical and non-animal testing policies. The alternatives to these materials that contain palm are often new to the market and therefore often subjected to animal testing that makes them unsuitable for Lush. Palm-free versions of our current materials are not readily available and, when they are, a reformulation is needed rather than a simple swap. Constant research and testing is occurring to stop our use of palm.”
Until recently we’ve been unable to say that our soaps are 100% palm free. Although our soap bases have been palm free since 2006, we were concerned that the sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS) which is one of the ingredients which helps to create an abundant and rich foam, and the sodium stearate, which makes soap solid, were derived from palm oil. However, we’ve now developed our own in-house soap base made from Fair Trade organic cocoa butter, extra virgin coconut oil and organic castor oil, mixed with sodium hydroxide to induce a reaction called saponification. This creates the lathering solid base of the soap on which infusions, juices or oils are added to benefit the skin and provide fragrance.
This clever new formulation means there’s no need to add SLS or sodium stearate and, as it’s made in-house, we can guarantee that the entire soap is free from palm oil and palm derivatives. We’re now busy developing a palm-free sodium stearate that doesn’t compromise the quality of the end product. We’ve worked with our manufacturer to design a material that’s made from leftover olive oil, to create a closed-circle production. The good news is that it works — but not as well as we’d like.
“Removing palm is a difficult process as key market synthetics such as SLS are produced to such a high scale,” explains Mark. “We continue to work on resourcing all our materials that contain palm. We’re getting there!”
Which ingredients still contain palm oil?
Although we no longer use palm oil in our products, some of our safe synthetics contain palm oil derivates, simply because it’s so hard to find a suitable alternative. In the interests of full transparency, these are:
|Material||Contains derivatives of:|
|Lauryl Betaine||Palm kernel, palm and coconut|
|Sodium Cocoamphoacetate||Palm kernel, palm and coconut|
|Cetearyl Alcohol||Palm kernel|
|Cetearyl Alcohol & SLS||Palm oil|
|SodLauroylSarcosinateNP||Coconut, palm, palm kernel|
|Lauroyl Sarcosine||Coconut, palm kernel|
|Glycol Cetearate||Palm oil|
|GMS SE40 – Glycerol monostearate||Palm oil|
|SSD – Disodium laureth sulfosuccinate||Palm oil|
|Glyceryl Stearat-PEG100||Palm kernel source|
|Ammonium Laureth Sulfate||Palm kernel|
|Sodium Laureth Sulfate||Palm kernel|
|Sodium Lauryl Sulfate||Palm kernel|
|Sodium Stearate||Palm oil|
*palm-free version found in Orangutan soap
|Stearic Acid||Palm oil|
|Laureth 4||Palm oil|
Our work continues to remove all traces of palm oil from our products, down to the very last drop.
Here at Lush we have never liked to call ourselves an Ethical Company. We find the term rather a difficult concept, because it seems to us that it is used to describe companies who try not to damage people or planet with their trade practices – when surely this should not be regarded as ‘ethical’ but as normal business-as-usual.
All business should be ethical and all trade should be fair. Individual companies should not stand out simply by not being damaging or unfair. No company should be trading from an unethical position and society has a right to expect as the norm fairness and resource stewardship from the companies that supply them.
We always wish to conduct our business so that all people who have contact with us, from our ingredients suppliers through to our staff and customers, benefit from their contact with Lush and have their lives enriched by it. No company is perfect and we strive daily to get closer to the ideal vision that all Lush people share. We will always want and demand more from Lush, so that our business practices match our own expectations, our staff and customer expectations and the needs of the planet.
These policies are in place in Lush UK and are evolving continuously as we respond to world events, new legislation and our own aspirations to constantly improve. Where Lush has partners in other parts of the world, we encourage them to adopt similar policies.
The registered address at 29 High Street Poole is the same as the Lush Poole store trading address.
The world’s first naked shop
The biggest bid to kick plastic to the kerb so far came in June 2018, when Lush opened the world’s first Naked Lush Shop in Milan, Italy, treating customers to two floors of unpackaged cosmetics, regenerative containers, swag and Knot Wraps. Rather than scanning labels, visitors are instead scanning products using new AI product recognition technology in the form of the Lush Lens app, which delivers all the information you need straight to your smartphone. It’s one step closer to a packaging-free future that serves up the finest cosmetics for out customers and cares for the planet too.
As of 2018, 65% of Lush’s all year round products are currently totally unpackaged and naked… And the rest is on its way!