The Body Shop’s Camomile Cleansing Butter is one of my favourite skincare must-haves. By simply rubbing the product into your skin, all make-up essentially melts right off, including foundation, eyeshadow, and even those trickier eyeliners and mascaras (albeit with some added effort). Because this product eliminates the need for wipes, cotton wool and other forms of single-use makeup removal products, it is already a great, eco-friendly way to cleanse your pores. It retails at £11 for a 90ml pot and £5 for a 20ml pot. While this is more expensive than makeup wipes or micellar water, for example, my 90ml pot has lasted me well over half the year. If one is able toafford the initial cost, it saves more money in the long run.
The Body Shop’s website is extremely clear on their commitment to sustainability and their strategy to achieve this in line with the vision of their parent company, Natura&Co. The Body Shop does a great job at making their company seem extremely green and even more keen on social justice. It is certainly true that they are more committed to social and environmental issues than the average beauty company, and for this they should be appreciated. I would feel much better about purchasing The Body Shop products than I would most other beauty companies.
However, not all is as it seems. The Body Shop still has a way to go in terms of controlling their supply chain fully to ensure total sustainability at every point, and they could benefit moreover from further transparency regarding the ingredients in this product and many others, with some being derived from petroleum. Finally, The Body Shop At Home MLM scheme seems extremely problematic and exploitative, casting the rest of their good practise in doubt. Taking all of this into account, I’ve rated this product 1.8/3.
The ingredients list for this product contains natural products such as fruit oil, seed oil, flower extract and sheabutter. However, there are some less natural ingredients, too. For example, PEG-20 glyceryl triisostearate, used generally as a thickener, moisture-carrier or softener. PEGs are petroleum-based compounds widely used in the cosmetics industry which rely on the crude oil industry - a big environmental red flag. Petrochemicals such as PEGs can be harmful to the body - especially in high volumes - but are almost impossible to avoid in the beauty industry. There is no comment in The Body Shop’s sustainability report about petrochemicals or petroleum-derived ingredients and their effect both on human health and wider greenhouse gas emissions. They are aiming for at least 95% renewable or “natural” ingredients by 2030, however this is a vague commitment. It is not necessarily clear what makes a product “natural”, nor the effect the other 5% will have on the environment.
Ethylhexylpalmitate and caprylylglycol also feature as ingredients. As both are typically derivatives of palm oil, we could be a little sceptical as to how sustainable this product is. Their sustainability report claims they aim to have “fully traced and/or certified” palm oil supply chains by 2025, suggesting they currently do not have this in place. While it is good they have identified this and are seeking to solve the issue, it is worrying that the palm oil-derived products are currently not completely traceable and transparently ethical.
The Body Shop does get some points here, however, as they are a cruelty-free brand and this product is vegan. As mentioned above, the fact this product reduces the need for single-waste products such as wipes or cotton wool has great merit.
There is almost no information provided by The Body Shop on how this product is manufactured, and any information about where their factories are located globally is difficult to find. According to several of their own reports, The Body Shop has updated their policies to require the purchase of renewable energy across company controlled stores, distribution centres and offices. Moreover, The Body Shop ensures their factories and workers are working under ethical and environmental standards as established by Sedexaudits. They have also updated their data collection system to better track company vehicle mileage, and have taken steps to reduce energy usage across their sites globally. Finally, they have begun working with the Carbon Trust to measure and improve their Scope 1, 2 and 3 emission targets. This is good news as it means they are accounting not just for the carbon they emit directly as a company, but for the emissions caused indirectly through supplier activity, for example.
As many of the ingredients used in their products come from the Amazon rainforest, it is good to hear that this company is so aware, transparent and proactive in this area. While it is all well and good to share this information in their report, it is vital to see whether they achieve any of the goals they have set out. Due to their long history of social justice and environmental awareness, however, the consumer can be fairly optimisticabout this.
And what about packaging, plastic and recycling? It’s important to consider what the product comes in, rather than just is inside the product itself. The Body Shop relaunched its in-store recycling scheme in 2019 - a scheme they first pioneered in the early 90s. Partnered with eco-waste company TerraCycle, the beauty company offers their customers a £5 voucher for every 5 pieces of packaging they return. Customers are thus incentivised to drop their empties in store, where TerraCyclethen collects and recycles them to turn them into new products or facilities such as playgrounds.
Moreover, The Body Shop highlights their commitment to a circular economy by promoting a refill scheme - going beyond good plastic recycling measures. Currently, according totheir website, this refill scheme is only available in two stores, one in London and one in Vancouver. As many companieswould not even mention the term “circular economy” on their website, this is good to see. We can both hope and apply pressure on The Body Shop to expand this programme and to prove their commitment to this type of economy with action.
The Body Shop claims they are a “feminist brand” who seek to empower women and girls. But does this pledge stand up to scrutiny? The Body Shop claim they use their platform to amplify feministvoices and to reject beauty standards, and, according totheir website, evidence abounds. For example, they have held successful campaigns against domestic violence, sex trafficking, period poverty, and more. The list really doesgo on. This demonstrates The Body Shop has a keen interest for social justice, and uses its resources to achieve material ends.
According totheir sustainability report, The Body Shop has an evidenced commitment to inclusion and diversity amongst their employees. For example, half of their UK leadership team is made up of women, and they are hoping to launch a mentoring scheme this year to support those women from under-represented groups. In the US, they held racial awareness training and donated to the Black Lives Matter Foundation. Across the world, The Body Shop currently pay a living wage to their employees in two-thirds of their markets, and are supposedly on track to raise this to 100% by 2023. It will be good to see whether they achieve this, and if they could in any way speed up this process.
The Body Shop used to be owned by L’Oréal, notorious for animal testing and all-round detrimental environmental and ethical practise. The Body Shop was sold to Brazilian cosmetics giant Natura in 2017, however, and continuous consumer pressure led to Natura committing to adopting a Fixed Cut-Off Date animal testing policy. This is the “gold standard” of cruelty-free policies. Natura are also certified as cruelty-free by Cruelty Free International, who regularly audit their companies to ensure the certification is deserved. As such, we can assume The Body Shop is ethical in regards to animal testing and being cruelty-free.
According tothe Ellen MacArthur Foundation, Natura relies on the biodiversity of the Amazon to produce products for their companies, including The Body Shop, Aesop and Avon. However, Natura’s business model revolves around the idea of the ‘standing forest’, and as such they have preserved over 2 million hectares of the Amazon with a million more hectares in sight by 2030. This is basically a tree-themed circular economy. More than this, Natura have an inclusive business model which seeks to utilise Indigenous community knowledge, improve local Brazilian infrastructure and education, and provide their employees with private supplemental insurance. In 2018, they became the largest company with a B-Corp certification. With Natura owning The Body Shop (as opposed to L’Oréal), consumers should feel in safe hands.
Possibly one of the most important things to note about The Body Shop is its“The Body Shop AtHome” multi-level marketing (MLM) scheme. I did not realise The Body Shop had this side to their business, having assumed their online and brick-and-mortar stores were the extent of their business. According totheir website, this scheme allows individuals to become “beauty consultants” by selling The Body Shop products themselves, typically by hosting demonstration parties with their friends or family. This apparently allows people to earn extra income under flexible hours, with over 75,000 people worldwide currently partaking in the scheme.
While this all sounds extremely positive, there is a dark side to MLM schemes which can leave “consultants” worse off than when they started the scheme. MLMs are known for being predatory by targeting vulnerable people who are financially unstable, promising unrealistically high sales to make up for the fact consultants must pay exorbitantly high costs for products, starter kits, training, uniforms, and so forth. The Body Shop does not publish any sort of income disclosure statement, instead suggesting their MLM scheme has been helpful for many consultants during the pandemic. This is difficult to believe, however, as MLMs are based on hosting parties to show off the product. As this has been largely impossible during the pandemic, it seems even less likely that their consultants have actually earnedany extra income, and instead that this MLM scheme has targeted financially vulnerable people during times of global economic crisis.
Although slightly different to pyramid schemes, MLMs are quite similar and pyramid schemes often masquerade as MLMs. While TheBody Shop At Home is not a pyramid scheme, it is still an exploitative business practice which leaves most consultants with few gains and high losses. It is unfortunate that The Body Shop has this side to their business and it leaves me with a sour taste in my mouth. Are the sales from their proper stores not enough? Why is there an utter lack of transparency from The Body Shop regarding the negative side of MLM schemes? It is for these reasons I’ve had to lower the rating of this section in spite ofthe many other positive actions of the company.