Leadership
Enrich Not Exploit:
The Business Case for Bold Commitments

On significant birthdays, it is traditional across much of the world to receive gifts, but somewhat characteristically, one of the world’s most altruistic brands is bucking that trend.

Last month, on the eve of its 40th anniversary, The Body Shop launched its new CSR strategy, ‘Enrich not Exploit,’ setting out 14 targets for 2020 that assist vulnerable communities around the world, further reduce the environmental impact of the brand, and support The Body Shop in its aim to become the ‘World’s most ethical and sustainable global business.’

What is the significance of using a bold term such as ‘exploit’?

JMB: We’ve always talked about business being a force for good. As a brand, we can’t ignore the challenges that our climate or natural world are facing right now, or overlook the role business has to play in that.

‘Exploit’ is an evocative word, but The Body Shop is a campaigning brand and we’ve never been afraid to use tough language to confront difficult topics. We feel that transparency about the social and environmental exploitation that occurs within business is something that is very much needed at this moment in time.

Where is the business case for ethical commitments of this magnitude and scale?

JMB: Enrich Not Exploit continues the long heritage of The Body Shop. Responsibility is part of our brand and it’s one of the main reasons our customers shop with us. These commitments maintain that appeal into the future.

In that way, ‘Enrich not Exploit’ just makes good business sense.

Are there benefits to being a sustainability leader, rather than a follower?

JMB: The Body Shop has always been a leader. 40 years ago we pioneered a community trade programme that remains the largest in the industry, and since then we’ve led the charge against things like animal testing in cosmetics and defending human rights.

Being a leader is inspiring. Personally, it’s the reason I joined The Body Shop. It’s much more exciting to have the freedom to be pioneering, to be innovative, to say ‘Hey, no one’s ever done this before, let’s try it.’

MT: Being known as a leader in corporate responsibility creates a snowball effect. It helps us attract talented employees with a sustainability mindset, which in turn helps us grow our organisation and expand our ability to create social and environmental change.

What did a partnership with Future Fit bring to the table?

JMB: When we considered the challenges in the world around us and where we desired to go as a brand, we wanted a science-based approach. Future Fit could offer us that. As experts in benchmarking sustainability, they had the scientific knowledge to help us shape our vision and quantify our business goals.

Crucially, they also shared the same corporate goal as us: bringing the power of business to bear on society’s most pressing problems. I think it’s incredibly important to work with a partner that shares your ambitions.

Where will you be focusing your initial efforts?

MT: For us this is not a just a campaign, it’s our corporate responsibility strategy. We’re embedding it into the brand. It will touch everyone in the business and inform everything we do across all departments.

Our main focus at the moment is getting the foundations in place to launch that vision. We’re working with our community trade team to develop a larger supplier network within marginalised communities that will be able to produce the next generation of sustainable ingredients.

JMB: We’re also working on new reporting mechanisms to help us meet commitments like reducing our energy consumption in our stores by 10 percent. When you’re a global brand with franchises around the world that all use different systems, it can be hard to measure baselines such as that.

MT: These are really ambitious goals that we’ve set for ourselves. Although this is essentially the way we’ve done business for the past 40 years, it’s the first time we’ve set such tangible goals and actively encouraged the public to hold us accountable. We’re prepared for a lot of hard work between now and 2020 to achieve them.

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