Driven by the belief that sustainability is not enough, the Sustainable Lush Fund (or SLush) is undergoing a transformation, and becoming Re:Fund - a £1.5 million a year fund to support global regeneration in the areas of disaster and displacement, permaculture and agroecology, and rewilding and biodiversity.
What is RE:Fund?
Re:Fund is Lush’s regenerative fund, and is the evolution of the SLush Fund. It uses a percentage of the budget that Lush spends on buying raw materials and packaging, locking that amount into a fund to support people demonstrating regenerative practices in key areas. This year , the Re:Fund pot has had a £1.5 million addition.
Through Re:Fund, grants are made to projects working on three different areas: disaster and displacement, permaculture and agroecology, and rewilding and biodiversity. The Lush Spring Prize is also part of Re:Fund, helping to raise the profile of regeneration globally and reward the people behind this important work.
What’s the purpose of Re:Fund?
Due to human action, the planet’s capacity to sustain life is being eroded. If humans got us into these conditions, then we believe that humans can work with nature to get us out.
Besides supporting projects that are putting regeneration into practice, Re:Fund also aims to raise awareness that humans can become agents of regeneration. It is time to give back more than we take from natural systems, and to develop deeper connections to all life.
What is regeneration, and why is it important? Why is sustainability not enough?
Sustainability is an important step towards regeneration, but it is not enough. Perhaps many decades ago it still made sense to simply stop causing damage, and stop anything from getting worse. But now, we also need to start repairing the damage that has been done. That’s where regeneration comes in.
There is no hard definition for regeneration, but there are a few key concepts that crop up repeatedly.
Regeneration is about taking a holistic approach and seeing the bigger picture of how everything on the planet is connected. It is about restoring and regenerating the health of Planet Earth and every single part of that system, be it soil, water, plants, air, animals, fungi, bacteria, or people. And beyond this, these elements need healthy connections between them. A strong system means a better ability to recover after shocks, or to develop and become more mature.
Why does Lush care about this?
First and foremost, because we should all care about this, and it just feels like the right thing to do.
Secondly, it is because Lush as a business relies so much on having fertile soils, stable rain patterns, predictable weather, peaceful and cooperating societies, and a thriving green economy. Without this, there is no business.
What was SLush? Why is it changing?
The ‘Sustainable Lush’ fund, or SLush, was founded in the UK in 2010, with SLush North America launching in 2014.
SLush was developed to help set up and fund permaculture and regenerative agriculture projects from the ground up, around the world. In the past, some of these projects also supplied ingredients for Lush products, and many were recipients of grants and financial support. In North America, SLush has always been more focused on supplying regenerative raw materials to Lush.
SLush was a very bold experiment, and in the past few years there have been many changes in its aims. Some of the original SLush groups became suppliers, others only recipients of donations, and other projects slowly came to an end. So it was the right time for a revamp.
Now, Lush’s regenerative supply chain investments have been separated from giving. SLush has evolved into two separate identities: Buying Investments and Re:Fund.
Funding granted through Re:Fund will not be focused on supplying ingredients to Lush, but will instead be centred around supporting the vital work of projects working in areas of environmental and social regeneration.
In North America, SLush will continue, as it operates a little differently.
What are buying investments?
Buying Investment projects involve setting up structures which mean Lush can grow and process materials in regenerative ways. That could involve setting up business entities, or creating partnerships with organisations. There’s a focus on experimenting with alternative ecological agriculture methods and adding value to the communities on the ground which grow the materials.
Some examples include patchouli oil from The Gayo Permaculture Centre in Sumatra, and geranium oil from Mount Kenya Regenerative Oils in Kenya.
There are also exciting new Buying Investments arriving on the scene, like cork shampoo pots and neroli oil from Lebanon. But whatever the case, these groups are always putting regeneration into action.
Is Re:Fund different from Charity Pot?
Charity Pot is a completely separate fund. The money from the sales of Charity Pot continues to fund grassroots activism through capped donations in the areas of human rights, environmental justice, and animal rights.
Like Charity Pot though, Re:Fund prioritises issues that lack funding, and focuses on areas where small amounts of money can have a big impact.
Re:Fund is a separate £1.5 million fund connected to Buying that funds regeneration, and usually works with medium-sized projects over more than one year, with the ability to provide ongoing funding. For example, one project in the Philippines is being funded by Re:Fund for three years, working with villages vulnerable to typhoons.
Aren’t all Lush’s ingredients regenerative?
Lush’s ingredients come from over 300 suppliers, and although they comply with the buying policy (and are in the process of being assessed by the pesticide policy), it would be a big statement to say they are all regenerative.
Getting full traceability on some ingredients can be very tricky, others are still farmed under conventional agriculture methods, and there are still a few safe synthetics in use.
If the way an ingredient is grown and processed brings multiple positive benefits to the community and life in that area, then it can be a regenerative ingredient. Does it protect and increase biodiversity? Does it enrich the soil, improve the watershed, or sink carbon? Does it enhance the health and prosperity of the community?
The list of ingredients employing these values is only growing.
Will the SLush projects stop receiving funding?
While Lush may continue purchasing ingredients from some groups that have previously been funded through SLush, this will now be done through the regular buying channels. Previous SLush funded projects may also be supported through Buying Investments.
Where appropriate, some projects may also be eligible for grants through Re:Fund. One non-ingredient project that will still receive funding until the end of 2019 is Mama Na Bana in the Democratic Republic of Congo. This is the last ‘SLush’ project, and all other non-ingredient groups will be supported through Re:Fund.
Why is SLush North America continuing?
North America has a different social and political climate to Europe, and as such businesses there need to be operated differently. The Lush North American business has a few different structures and processes compared to Lush in Europe, and so SLush is the right model to keep using in Lush North America.
How do I apply to Re:Fund?
Because Re:Fund involves a close relationship with groups, at the moment it is funded through invitation, usually through the networks of trust that have been built over time. The Lush Spring Prize offers an open application process, and will now take place once every two years.
Read more about the launch of Re:Fund.
Photo: Joyce and Margaret are farmers in Uganda working with YICE, a project supported by Re:Fund.