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Lush believes in Freedom Of Movement for all

Travel gives us the opportunity to visit different places and people and learn about cultures that are unlike our own. And yet, in recent years, freedom of movement has been increasingly demonised in politics and made a privilege of a few, not the right of all. 

President Trump’s commitment to passing controversial travel legislation that will target six Muslim-majority nations and plans to build a wall over the border with Mexico make him a figurehead for this dangerous kind of new immigration politics, although he is by no means the only figure cultivating a rhetoric of fear and hatred on the issue.

Back in July 2015, former UK Prime Minister David Cameron came under fire for describing migrants trying to cross from Calais, France, as “a swarm of people”. Only a few months previously, an emergency EU meeting on the illegal immigration concluded in a ten-point plan that allowed the use of military force “to capture and destroy” boats used to transport migrants. In the aftermath, east European countries like Hungary erected wire fences, and Germany, Austria, Sweden, France and Denmark reintroduced old border controls.

Pointedly, the Schengen zone, an area of limited border checks between 22 EU and four non-EU countries also had some controls re-established in 2015 - a devastating blow to what was once Europe’s dream of collective movement. This 1985 agreement abolished checks at the internal borders of the signatory states and created a single external border where immigration checks for the entire area were carried out in accordance with identical procedures.

Yet, in 2016, as high numbers of refugees and migrants left conflict zones, Sweden reintroduced border controls and Austria, Germany, France, Sweden, Denmark and non-EU member Norway followed suit.  In a statement, Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen said: “We are simply reacting to a decision made in Sweden. This is not a happy moment at all,” and that without action the controls in Sweden could “increase the risk of a large number of illegal immigrants accumulating in and around Copenhagen.”

We have become accustomed to actions like these being blanketed in a language of sovereignty and safety; rhetoric President Trump is borrowing once more as he prepares to roll out a revised order on immigration that will “protect [American] people”.

Yet, this issue of protection - the protection of one nation from another, of one person from another - creates a fear of the ‘other’. By locking ourselves in, politicians tell us, we keep the dangerous, illegal people out. We, in essence, create a prison for ourselves.

Director of the Centre for Research on Conflicts, Liberty and Security Didier Bigo and international relations professor Emmanuel-Pierre Guittet explain, “All those who move become somehow guilty by association, for moving too much, for creating flows that are becoming uncontrollable due to their scale, especially when they are fleeing or are prevented from travelling by air and instead arrive by sea or overland.

“The face of the terrorist enemy has changed. It is now not so much that of an infiltrating danger hidden among refugees and migrants, who are themselves under rigorous surveillance, but that of an infiltrator amidst the travellers and tourists that we ourselves are, the couples who have found love abroad and have brought their partner and family with them.”

The cost to our ecosystems

And yet people are not the only victims of these divides. Animals following ancient and shifting migration routes are also routinely disrupted and threatened by our carving up of the globe.

In the 1880s, tens of thousands of antelope died because they were unable to cross newly laid railway tracks in California. In the 1950s, a 3,000-mile-long ‘Dingo Fence’ was constructed in south-eastern Australia to protect grazing sheep from attack. Kangaroo populations, however, flourished from the decrease in predation and competed with the sheep for pasture, causing an even bigger problem for farmers.

Annual salmon and steelhead trout migration in the Columbia River basin is estimated to have numbered up to 16 million fish before the 19th century. But the impact of 130 dams built in the area since then has caused numbers to drop to 1.5 million, around three-quarters of which are hatchery-reared rather than wild.

Trump’s plans to build a wall across the Mexican-US border are just one example of the way our dividing of nations has a dramatic effect on ecosystems. Speaking to the BBC in 2016, conservation scientist Sergio Avila-Villegas explained: “Border infrastructure not only blocks the movement of wildlife, but [...] destroys the habitats, fragments the habitats and the connectivity that these animals use to move from one place to another.”

Dr Clint Epps, a wildlife biologist at Oregon State University, USA, expressed concerns over President Bush’s planned barrier across the border in as early as 2009, explaining: “This barrier will break small populations of animals into even smaller pieces that will result in fewer animals interacting. A major barrier such as this could lead to significant degradation of connectivity for many different species, ultimately threatening their populations." Yet years later, he is having to voice the same concerns, citing examples such as desert bighorn sheep which “depend on those movements for maintaining genetic diversity, for recolonising habitat where they've suffered local extinctions."

Executive director of Border Action Network Juanita Molina adds, "When you have such beautiful wilderness areas as we have here in Arizona, the idea of putting this large wall that prevents the migration of animals, that scars the earth itself, and especially knowing how ineffectual it is, is something that is just sad. The reality is that border communities are porous by nature."

Lush: We believe in Freedom Of Movement

The cost to our businesses

Restricting global travel also has the potential to affect business too. In his role as head Lush buyer, Simon Constantine has experienced firsthand the consequences of tighter border controls. He explains: “In the buying team we rely very heavily on freedom of movement. If we can’t go anywhere, we lose understanding of our supply chain.

“One of the things that became obvious quite early on was that we can go to a country, we can see great projects, we can see people growing great ingredients, we can bring those ingredients to the UK, to the US, to Canada but when we try to bring the people over we have a really, really hard time. A lot of the time we can’t get those people into the country. It’s always been there, and really from our perspective is institutionally racist.

“A lot of the people coming over have viable skills to offer, they have jobs back home but nobody gives a… It’s a case of ‘you want my cocoa, but you don’t want me. You want my resources, you want me to do all of this work, but you won’t let me come over and have freedom of movement.’”

Sustainable Lush Fund co-ordinator Jo Bridger has also come across numerous problems when trying to visit global ingredients suppliers, as she explains: “Britain's border policies which deny and hamper entry to the UK has meant that friends and business partners of Lush from Ghana, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Iran have been refused visas enable to visit us.

“We have had to find ways around this - however these solutions are based on the travel privileges that Europeans have, as we can easily travel to countries previously colonised by us, with relatively little cost, and apply in English, and without having to provide numerous 'proofs', which our guest are required to provide.

“Likewise, Britain's foreign policies abroad have meant that some countries can be 'dangerous' for us to travel to, and require Lush to travel with care and consideration. This sometimes means that we don't travel to the countries where materials are grown, such as Frankincense in Somalia. To buy fresh, organic fruit and vegetables, the finest essential oils and safe synthetics, we need to have good, close relationships with our suppliers, of which face to face meetings and an understanding of land use and growing are key.”

This limiting, privilege-based system has its foundations in age-old colonialism and greed. For decades colonising European powers have divided nations and continents between them like the Middle East, Africa and the Americas. King Leopold of Belgium’s infamous remark - “I do not want to miss a good chance of getting us a slice of this magnificent African cake” - made during the 1870s conquest of the Congo still resonates in more modern history when we look at the harmful divisions made to the former Ottoman Empire in 1918, the compartmentalising of Germany at the end of both World Wars, and the annexation of the Crimea by Russia in 2014. Below the surface, political attitudes towards land ownership, control and distribution haven’t changed - and neither has our empathy for displaced people or animals.

The case for diversity

Yet sage businesses also recognise the value of promoting diversity within. For Lush co-founder Mark Constantine keeping immigration routes for people open is as much of a no-brainer as preserving animal migration routes: “In earlier days, Mo [Constantine] and I used to go to the great forest in Poland to watch the huge flyways, all these marvellous eagles and stalks and so on flying through. Birds don’t have borders, They go wherever they fancy. Their main problem is when we shoot them and take their food away. When we do create an oasis of green space, they absolutely love it.”

Simon also draws a parallel between human and animal migration, explaining, “Borders are a way of carving land up and extracting the resource, then keeping the bit you want for yourself. Migration is a natural phenomenon that you can’t really control which gives me hope for the future. It’s required by nature to diversify, to build its fertility and resilience.

“If you put a fence up you start to compartmentalise that ecosystem, it’s not as broad or diverse as it could be and species start to struggle. We have to ask how do we turn some of those problems like understanding the natural pattern and connecting with nature around to make the problem the solution? In buying, we’re trying to find solutions through SLush Fund or regenerative buying that link problems like bird migration and refugee migration.”

Upcoming SLush Fund projects hoping to help regenerate affected areas include converting exotic monoculture plantations of pine and eucalyptus back into native coastal forest and using cork from increasingly rare, sustainably harvested trees in healthy ecosystems such as the cork oak savannah. 

In fact, Lush co-founders including Mark Constantine are so convinced that restricting freedom of movement is so damaging, both for people and ecosystems that they have added the declaration “'We believe that all people should enjoy freedom of movement across the world' to the business’ ‘We Believe’ statement - a transparent policy available for customers to see.

It’s a powerful declaration for human and animal rights, as Jo Bridger explains: “Freedom of movement across the world is not only vital for buying in a socially and environmentally regenerative way, but a reflection of our belief in the value of every person, and that they should enjoy the same rights as us.”

History tells us that the divisive political climate currently heating up all over the globe will have dire consequences for dwindling animal populations and ourselves. Confronting the desire to build physical borders must be the first step in defeating attempts to divide us geographically and racially.


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