Beauty Activism: Q&A With Brandi Halls, Lush Fresh Handmade Cosmetics

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Lush window trans animal testing

Lush is as well-known for its ethical and sustainable approach to business and branding as it is for its bath bombs, creams (such as the iconic Charity Pot fundraiser), scrubs, shower gels and other items for the face, hair and body. Founded by a group of friends in Poole, England, in 1975, the privately-held company is proud to broadcast and inspire action around its mission and values, from its labels to its stores, from its social and digital channels to the public and political arena.

An ardent campaigner against animal testing and palm oil in the production of its products and a proponent of recycled packaging and materials for its stores, it’s not afraid to take on political causes and proudly supports refugees and the LGBTQ community. Each black pot identifies the creator of the product, while a free face mask is the reward for returning five empty tubs to a store.

Lush Cosmetics LGBTQ Pride Parade

Its website is a goldmine of information, too. In the UK, the Lush Beta digital project is an information hub for campaigns such as “Less Plastic More Lush,” which touts the benefits of “naked packaging” or eliminating packaging to lower costs and harm to the environment. While it hasn’t rolled out Lush Beta beyond the UK yet, that doesn’t stop Lush from sparking conversations about the issues it champions around the world.

Brandi Halls - director of brand communications, Lush Fresh Handmade Cosmetics North America“We use all of our channels—our website, social media, YouTube, online communities—as means to kickstart conversation, challenge ideas, educate and join people from all over the country in learning about issues that affect us all while giving them means to do something about it,” says Brandi Halls (right), Director of Brand Communications for Lush Fresh Handmade Cosmetics, North America. “Whether we are providing them info on a local Charity Pot partner they can get involved with, promoting a petition they can sign or simply asking them to stand with us on social to create noise about some of today’s most important issues, we will always involve and look upon our Lush community as a force for good.”

We caught up with her as Sustainable Brands 2018 was taking over Lush NA’s hometown of Vancouver, Canada—where last week the Senate passed the groundbreaking Cruelty-Free Cosmetics Act, which next goes to the House of Commons for a vote before it becomes a national law.

Brandi, what would you say is the essence of the LUSH brand in North America?

We’ve been in North America for the last 22 years, offering fresh, handmade bath and body care, never tested on animals and all made with the finest, ethically-sourced ingredients from across the world. We have always believed in doing more than simply selling soap. From handmaking our products to running ethical campaigns about issues we care about, we always put the heart of our brand and employees first.

In the digital age, we believe it’s up to people and brands who have a voice to use it for good. That’s why, since day one, we have taken on hard topics that other companies shy away from and brought them to the forefront to demand change. With such a highly engaged following, we have the unique ability to make a powerful, positive impact within our community of almost six million.

In February, we launched a campaign in support of transgender rights. We used our social media channels and shopfronts as a platform for our employees to share their stories and spark important conversation regarding the hurdles the trans community continues to face in 2018.

We watched as thousands of people from across the globe demonstrated how much they cared through messages of support, posting love hearts in comments sections, helping to educate one another on language and calling out others who were being purposefully ignorant.

In less than two weeks, the posts on Instagram received over 18.7m impressions and we raised over $375,000 through sales of a limited edition bath melt, with the money going directly to organizations fighting for trans rights.

How do you embed purpose across all your touchpoints while making great products, experiences and continually innovating?

Our values are embedded in every product we make, which is why we work hard to hand make products that aren’t just good for the body, but also raise awareness on serious issues impacting our world. We recently launched our Turtle Jelly Bomb, which is packed with fresh pine and smoky sandalwood to ground the mind and contains strings of agar seaweed that disperse in the tub as the bath bomb fizzes to symbolize plastic straws and other bits of ocean plastic that are harming sea turtles and other marine life. By offering products with a deeper meaning, we’re able to connect with our customers on a more personal level; not simply by offering them an amazing bath experience, but also educating them on important issues such as plastic pollution as they bathe.

How does Lush create a brave culture internally and externally—even when it (sometimes) means taking the slings and arrows that come with that bravery?

At Lush, we look at ourselves as beauty activists. And with any kind of activism, it’s so important to create a culture where being brave and speaking up for what you believe in is encouraged and supported every step of the way. Lush takes on the big controversial issues (alongside the smaller, more buried issues that not enough people are talking about) and shines a bright light on them.

With such a wide audience across the furthest reaches of the country, we know that not everyone will agree with us. And that’s OK. So long as we always remain true to our ethics and what we believe in, we’re ready to take the stones that are sometimes thrown our way.

One of your themes at Sustainable Brands 2018 is investing in regenerative projects that grow your ingredients, increase transparency in your supply chain and bring employment and training to small growing communities across the world. What’s the background on that?

For the last six years, our Ethical Buying team has turned their focus from simply buying responsibly to investing in projects that allow us to trace our ingredients from start to finish. Through training and promotion of regenerative agriculture methods, they are able to support small growing communities in becoming more sustainable, while strengthening our suppliers’ access to new markets.

Over the last six years, we’ve invested $5.1 million in community agroecology projects as far afield as Uganda, Guatemala and the Congo; places that have suffered environmental devastation through decades of deforestation, conflict and climate change. We firmly believe that every ingredient we use should have a positive impact on the community from which it’s harvested while is why our Ethical Buying policy is one of the most robust in the industry.

The Lush brand has long been known for recycling and using as little packaging as possible. Can you talk about that, and what you’re doing with ocean plastics these days?

In line with our commitment to reducing our environmental impact, we use as little packaging as possible and give our customers the choice to go packaging-free (or as we like to say, naked) by creating solid, unpackaged products. About 35% of our range now comes naked and the rest is wrapped in recycled, reusable or biodegradable materials. By offering innovations like our naked shower gels and packaging-free shampoo bars (which save 6 million recycled plastic bottles from being produced every year), we aim to get customers considering their environmental impact and if they really need the packaging both in our shops and beyond.

We’re also working with environmental partners down the coast to collect ocean-bound plastics and have determined through trail batches that we can incorporate approx. 5% ocean-bound plastic with other post-consumer recycled materials to create our iconic black pots. We use ocean-bound plastic as and when it’s available and hope to one day incorporate it into our packaging as standard, long-term.

Read more in Brandi’s recent Fast Company profile:


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