I was pleasantly surprised by LUSH’s business model and production methods. The more I researched and sifted through their website, the more I admired their constant ethics and dedication to transparency. I was also grateful that all of the information I needed was provided through their website. LUSH is making significant progress towards environmental sustainability and social justice by campaigning alongside leading organizations to support movements that relate their own business, such as fighting animal testing, going palm oil-free, and banning microbeads. I was most impressed by how they went above and beyond by also having ethical campaigns supporting causes that they feel are important, regardless if they are related to LUSH, such as marriage equality, ending the fur trade, and supporting refugee resettlement. The LUSH platform encourages their employees to volunteer with local groups and with their partners so they can play a role in contributing to organizations’ efforts and build relationships within their communities. LUSH’s focus on individuality and grassroots involvement makes meaningful positive impacts during all stages of production. For example, LUSH works with small-scale farmers in Uganda, Guatemala, Peru, Haiti, and Morocco to grow fair trade and high-quality ingredients that align with their own values and help support growers, empower women, and form deeper ties to the land and its communities. Even at the headquarters in Vancouver, LUSH is actively focused on their environmental impact by providing a Community Bike Share program and subsidizing public transit to encourage and support employees to use more sustainable commuting options. LUSH is definitely one of the most sustainable options for buying beauty and health products. There are other similar options, such as EcoRoots and Ethique, that provide low to no waste alternatives, but all of the price ranges are about the same.
The ingredients for any LUSH product can be found on their website with an in-depth synopsis of the purpose/benefits of each individual ingredient. The ingredients printed on the container in green are natural, and the ones in black are safe synthetics. For the Mask of Magnaminty, 12 of the ingredients are green (natural) while the other 2, fragrance and methylparaben, are in black (safe synthetics). The fragrances they use in the mask are peppermint oil, which is used to clear pores, and fair trade vanilla absolute, which soothes skin redness. In my personal opinion, the peppermint oil is a bit aggressive and sometimes causes my eyes to water, but that’s just me. Methylparaben is an odorless and non-irritating powder that slows the growth of bacteria, yeast, and mold, which is very important, given that the majority of the ingredients are perishable. The version of the mask that I am choosing to focus on is the non-self-preserving one, which uses Methylparaben as a safe preservative, although they also sell a self-preserving Mask of Magnaminty that is made with honey instead for the same price. They source their honey from apiaries local to their facilities in Ontario and British Columbia, which is important to note since there are many unsustainable ways to harvest honey. The mint green color of the mask is because they add Chlorophyllin, a chlorophyll extract, which is high in mineral, vitamin, and amino acid content. LUSH had originally made all of their products self-preserving, but now 35% of their products contain safe synthetics. The Mask of Magnaminty is stored in a container made of 100% post-consumer recycled material. Gary Calicdan is LUSH North America’s print and packaging buyer and continues to make efforts to reduce LUSH’s environmental and social impacts. For example, in 2015, Calicdan helped reduce the thickness of each bottle by 13%, which reduce plastic waste by 13,600 lbs that year alone.
The Mask of Magnaminty, along with all other products sold at lush, is made by hand by LUSH employees in either their Vancouver or Toronto factory. First, they add the chlorophyllin to a vessel of water and combine that with Bentonite powder. Bentonite is a thickening agent derived from volcanic ash. Plant-based Glycerine is then poured into the mixture, along with the Methylparaben and fragrance. They add primrose seeds and ground aduki beans for exfoliation and Kaolin and Talc powder for cleansing and balancing properties. They combine all of these ingredients in an industrial-sized mixer to form the mask, which ends up being a mint green paste.
LUSH’s operations are powered by 60% renewable energy, with goals to increase that to 100% in the near future. LUSH also became a founding member in a project supporting community-scale, pollinator-friendly solar and wind projects to source renewable energy for their shops. Renewable natural gas powers 40% of their home offices, manufacturing, and distribution facilities. A biogas facility nearby processes some of the organic waste as a circular flow of materials and energy. LUSH also has a YouTube channel where they post videos on how they make and how to use each product. I would highly recommend watching these videos if you want to learn more (plus they're super satisfying).
The transportation of goods and products is by far the most energy-intensive process at LUSH. However, LUSH still makes efforts to reduce their carbon emissions by prioritizing lower-carbon impact modes of transportation, such as using cargo ships and freight trains instead of planes. LUSH's products are also heavily dependent on water. Because of this, LUSH has set explicit goals to have closed-loop process water systems at the factories and support ecological restoration projects in the supply chain to promote a cleaner watershed. These goals remain on their website with no updates on how they plan to implement them.
Every LUSH product, other than the perfume, is handmade by LUSH employees in Vancouver or Toronto. On any bottle or container that you buy, there is a sticker with the name and face of the employee who made that specific product. This sticker also comes printed with the date it was made and the “best by” date. This ensures that the consumer has the freshest possible product to bring home. LUSH sources all of their raw materials internationally from small-scale farmers. This allows LUSH to work directly with growers so they can understand the impact their product has on people and the environment. Because of this depth of involvement, LUSH can make responsible business decisions that promote social and environmental sustainability. LUSH shows dedication to transparency on their website by providing all necessary information to the consumer. They also promote low-waste behaviors by creating the “take-back pot” program, where customers can receive a free face mask if they return 5 empty LUSH containers.
Although LUSH provides extensive information on it’s relationships with small farms and businesses, they do not provide much information on their own labor practices within the factories. With additional snooping, I found multiple articles exposing LUSH through whistle blowers who have spoken out against the inhumane labor concerns. Working in a LUSH factory is very labor intensive and poses multiple health concerns. For example, the large amount of airborne particles (from the thousands of pounds of powder mixtures and ingredients) makes working in the factory very difficult. During the pandemic, PPE was in high demand and the LUSH workers were not provided acceptable face coverings for the working conditions. Because of this, multiple LUSH factory workers have developed exercise-induced asthma. There are also allegations of sexual harassment and homophobia against LUSH management in the Australia branch that were not handled appropriately. LUSH management in Toronto also shut down a unionization movement within the factory and threatened workers who spoke up about their concerns. Obviously, LUSH does not include this on their website so they can maintain their “cruelty-free” and “socially responsible” influence.