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The Secret Lush Cosmetics Master Plan

What’s next for Lush? Co-founder and CEO Mark Constantine reflects on 18 years of creativity, campaigning and innovation and introduces The Secret Lush Cosmetics Master Plan. Just keep it to yourself.

All companies need a vision. Although we didn’t really understand it, the Lush founders did have a vision. We believed you wanted effective products. Natural (although who knew exactly what that meant), fresh (and by that we were throwing shade at our competitors who were selling sterile, stale chemical concoctions that were three years old), and we didn’t want to spend more money on the packaging than on the contents. So, above all, we believed you wanted good value products, not cheap, but loads of hair and body goodness for your money.

Hindsight is great and it’s only looking back now that we realise our vision was just a dissatisfied reaction to our competitors’ products: a wish for something more wholesome and more in tune with the flowers and the bees than air-conditioned skyscrapers and a morning that starts with a pumpkin spice latte.

When faced with life’s challenges, we often discover that while we may want a lot of things, what we need is very simple. We thought that while our products weren’t everything you, the customer, wanted - age-reducing, silicone, shiny, botoxy sort of stuff - we can now see that what we make is all you need.

So, where are we now? Let’s reassess.

Natural - have we got there yet? No but we’re not far off. In the financial year of 2017 to 2018, natural ingredients represented 65% of our global raw material spend compared to 35% spent on safe synthetic materials. When I first sold my products with Liz Weir in 1977, I used to get told off for them being too natural, yet they were miles off from where they are today…

Take soap for example. When we first looked at soap, it was being made from animal fats, so we tried to get people to make it from vegetable fats, one of which was palm oil. Then, after some time, we realised far too much palm oil was being used and it was causing an environmental disaster. We didn’t want to return to animal fat so we started to make soap from coconuts, rapeseed and friendlier stuff. All the while, we were selling tonnes and tonnes of soap, but everywhere else, soap was disappearing.

Let me just say, soap is wonderful. It doesn’t need a bottle, it doesn’t need a preservative, it keeps its perfume in the most appalling wet conditions and it deals with funguses, yeast and bacteria. Day after day it never fails. It fulfils all of our criteria and doesn’t leave you with a stupid bottle with a pump and a spring, that can’t be recycled. Soap is great value for money.

You don’t like soap? It’s our job to invent one that you can’t resist.

Mark's presents the Secret Lush Master Plan 2

According to the National Geographic shampoo bars are the ‘latest trend’. Awareness of plastic pollution is at an all-time high since Blue Planet II, and we’ve always known the plastic waste produced by the global cosmetics industry was a problem.

Mo and Stan invented the shampoo bar in our shed in 1987, and it took us 30 years to become an overnight sensation. I would add that I am very, very grateful to the National Geographic for saying it nonetheless.

Over the last 13 years, we have sold 37.9 million solid shampoo bars globally. This has meant 114 million plastic bottles (2,850 tonnes of plastic) were never made. That’s equivalent to 3.6% of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

What about bath bombs and other naked products? Well, in 2010, Lush sold 49 million units of naked products and in 2018, Lush sold 93 million units of naked products.

Now the weird thing is that the percentages haven’t really changed. In 2010, 60.5% of our products were unpackaged, and, in 2018, 60% of our products are unpackaged. Why? Because when we opened our first shop we had around 200 products in six categories and a good half of it was unpackaged. Then we became more ambitious and had a go at inventing products for category after category, including, for example, oral care, and makeup.

When we first did makeup, we had to use quite a lot of plastic packaging and there are hundreds of eyeshadows, lipsticks, blushers and foundations so you can end up with a lot of extra plastic packaging. The only way out of that is to innovate.

How many of you have unused products sitting in your bathrooms? Because when you got home you found that product isn’t what you hoped for, or it doesn’t suit your skin, hair or lifestyle. You end up with bathroom cabinets, window sills and shelves full of unwanted stuff, on its way to landfill. When we make products for every need, everyone is able to buy exactly what’s required and ultimately reduce waste.

Providing personal service is the best environmental practice. If we can get you connected to the appropriate product for your needs, you get really good value for money, we get a regular customer, the consumption of unneeded product falls and money is no longer wasted. When you think about the product people really want, they want products to be made from rainbows, unicorns and waterfalls and we’ve got it!

Our raw materials are the best they can be. As just one example, we’re using salt in our products with genuine benefits, and we’re sourcing it from the flight paths of birds. One of our suppliers, Antonio, both harvests our saltworks and works to protect and sustain the salt marshes of the western Algarve in Portugal. Birds including greater flamingos, spoonbills, black-winged stilts and many species of ducks use the salt marshes as wintering grounds while whimbrels and curlews rely on the site as a resting place on their migratory journeys.

Preserving this beautiful and important coastline is essential to the wildlife flourishing here and the generations of salt shepherds to come, so we’re protecting those birds and the salt shepherds. Just in the UK alone, 67% of our supply chain is from direct relationships with manufacturers and growers like Antonio. Now if that isn’t unicorns, rainbows and waterfalls then I don’t know what is.

We’ve reinvented makeup too. We have new foundations called Slap Sticks: 40 shades of innovative, solid, naked, unpreserved foundations sold in 19 markets. We’ve also made Glow Sticks: highlighters that you can use anywhere from your cheekbones to your bottom bones.

We don’t only invent products…in the Lush Spa, we develop and perfect complex treatments choreographed to original music with specialist techniques that I am really proud of.

Not only do we do industry-leading spa treatments but we invent shops as well. We have been working on opening feature shops around the world, starting with the Naked Shop in Milan: our first shop with no plastic at all just naked products. We’re opening another one in Berlin at the start of October. You’ve seen at the Lush Showcase 2018: the beginnings of a Hairdressing Salon, the start of a Bath Bomb Shop, further draw-dropping oral care and the beginnings of a completely Fresh Shop for Paris. And we’re putting them all together into a big new shop, just up the road in Liverpool, opening in February 2019.

Our first Fresh Shop is set to open in Paris in 2019 alongside the usual French bakers and florists...and, yes, we will be selling flowers and making products by cutting their heads off and encouraging customers to pop in for a fresh, handmade beauty treat.

What we do is not rocket science; humans have been preening and grooming forever. But in recent years many formulae have become synthetic, complicated, over emulsified and most of all over preserved. All of our lives we’ve been working hard to remove preservatives from your products, without compromising on effect. We’ve worked on it and worked on it until we’re experts and still a few people complain about parabens. When we can’t remove the preservatives, we have to look for the safest and most researched option. We use parabens because all of the other preservatives available don’t have the research parabens have.

Preservatives have to be poison, it’s their nature, but we have learnt that we don’t need to preserve anything AT ALL. That’s where we’re going.

From 2015 to 2017, our purchase of parabens has dropped from 11.7 tonnes annually to 7.7 tonnes, even though our sales have increased in the same time period.  Why are our sales increasing while our use of preservatives decreases? Because our customers are kind enough to buy the naked, or self-preserving version.

A good example of this is Dream Cream. In 2014, we started extending our self-preserving capabilities to go beyond solid products and venture into the world of liquids and creams, like Dream Cream. By 2015, the self-preserving version had launched everywhere and at the beginning of 2016 sales of Dream Cream Self-Preserving overtook sales of the preserved version.

None of these amazing ingredients are tested on animals. Since the beginning, we have continuously proved that a brand doesn’t need to test on animals. The Lush Prize launched in 2011 and we’ve had 93 winners and awarded £1.86 million towards alternatives to animal testing. So far, the USA has had the highest number of Lush Prize winners.

If Lush can do it, why can’t everybody else? When I think back to animal testing, what seemed like a sensible idea in my bedroom all those years ago [banning it], has turned into legislation banning animal tests for cosmetics in 40 countries. We have fought for an end to animal testing for years, from trying to deposit two tonnes of animal manure on the doorstep of the EU to losing our Regent Street shop expressly because the landlords didn’t like three million viewers watching the people-testing video filmed in that shop window. We continue to fight animal testing now.

Then there is the giving. You soon got the hang of Knot Wrap. Since 2009, we have sold (and consequently upcycled) 47 tonnes of beautiful scarves. That’s not even taking into account the 124 women who have found employment with re-wrap making our canvas bags.

In the last five years, we have raised and given £50 million and last year alone we funded 3,500 groups.

So, what’s next?

Working on your aspirations is a challenge. Lush has been working hard for a long time, so it can be tricky to think about what we can do next. This has been playing on my mind ever since a journalist recently asked me just how much more creativity we can have left after 23 years. The answer is: it’s everywhere. Lush is oozing with creativity, sometimes I even find it hard to contain; it’s fantastic.

For many years I haven’t written a plan for Lush. I think the last time we had a cohesive plan was back in 2013; it was a good plan and it lasted us quite a long time. Each year we kept trying to renew it, but we never did. This year, I wanted to write a new plan. So here it is, on the internet for all to see.

The Secret Lush Cosmetics Master Plan

1. Make products for every need. It’s not what customers want, it’s what they need.

2. Be number one in every category. Do not accept the status quo: invent new products that fulfil all of the vision.

3. Create a cosmetic revolution to save the planet. We’re running out of time – we need a revolution.

In the latest WWD Beauty top 100, L’Oréal is number 1 and we are number 33. That means we’re 3.8% of L’Oréal. For 23 years, we have made great products, with beautiful ingredients, we’re transparent with our customers and we don’t sell them fake benefits. It’s a real puzzler why we’re not the number one cosmetics company. For the sake of the environment, we NEED to be number one.

The thing is, there is a group of us reaching the pinnacle of our careers and we’re in sight of what we wanted to do all our lives. We wanted no preservatives, we wanted no packaging, and bit by bit we’ve worked towards doing it.

We should be the gleaming example that every other cosmetics company wants to be, it shouldn’t be Proctor and Gamble or L’Oréal, because Lush is doing the right things over and over again. Fiercely, bravely, sometimes foolishly, and with courage.

Comment (1)
1 Comment

about 2 years ago

Well said, superb vision and one that will duely enamour both the public and press- Rome wasnt built in a day and LUSH will surely achieve what it deserves. Keep it up!