„We’re About More Than Sustainability, we’re About Regeneration“

Sustainability is one of the most important maxims of Lush Fresh Handmade Cosmetics – in the area of packaging as well. Ruth Andrade, Head of Regenerative Impact & Earth Care, talks in an interview about the company’s philosophy, recyclable materials and future plans.

Lush wants to leave the world a better place than the company found it. How can that be accomplished?

Ruth Andrade: By Lush living a holistic corporate philosophy. It encompasses four areas: Earth Care is the Climate and Nature Plan, which aims, among other things, to stop producing greenhouse gases as much as possible, while People Care means our work for equality, diversity and inclusion. Fair Shares includes the Employee Benefit Trust, the Fair Tax label, donation programs and fair payment to suppliers. Under Animal Rights we subsume our long-term efforts, to put an end to animal testing. This takes time.

Which milestones could or can be achieved quickly?

Since we have been working on our projects for over a decade, we have already achieved many milestones. In Germany, for example, we obtain electricity exclusively from renewable sources for all our sites and the factory in Düsseldorf. In addition, we have been using almost 100 percent recycled pots and bottles since 2008. The paper we use is currently 98 percent recycled fiber or agricultural waste.

What measures are you thinking about in the long term?

In the long term, we are concerned with more than sustainability; it’s about regeneration. We don’t just want to prevent damage, we want to actively repair some of the damage already done, for example by restoring lost forests and removing plastic waste from the oceans. In times of growing mountains of waste, packaging is increasingly coming into focus.

How is Lush helping to keep the waste problem from growing?

For 27 years, the company has been developing products that do not use any packaging at all, for example. We invented the world’s first solid shampoo in 1987. As a result, we have been able to save 167.5 million bottles over the past 27 years; currently, 66 percent of the Lush range consists of unpackaged products. Our goal is to take responsibility for our waste. Nevertheless, the company cannot get around all packaging.

What materials is this packaging made of?

We use a wide range of materials, mainly recycled plastic for our liquid products and paper made from different fibers such as hemp or banana. For some gifts, we also use cloth made from regenerative organic cotton. When we consider all packaging, including shipping packaging, it is currently 98 percent recycled paper and 67 percent recycled plastic.

How does Lush ensure that packaging suppliers don’t use raw materials that are questionable after all?

When it comes to sourcing materials, our Creative Buying team has a strict policy: we conduct surveys with our suppliers, make visits and maintain direct relationships. In addition, we have just tightened our paper and pulp policies, and we avoid materials such as natural mica, the supply chain of which is deeply entangled with modern slavery, altogether.

What eco-friendly or climate-positive storage boxes are part of the range?

A good example is our so-called Cork Pot, a container made of cork. We have calculated and proven that a pot, weighing only 33 grams, is CO2 negative. Consequently, it absorbs more carbon dioxide than is emitted through production, 1.2 kilograms of CO2 per container to be exact.

But you also offer aluminum boxes, even though large amounts of raw materials and energy are needed to produce this material. How does that fit in with your sustainability claim?

We are very committed to switching to 100 percent recycled and recyclable materials, but the process is not yet complete. However, our aluminum cans are 65 to 67 percent recycled material, which can be recycled indefinitely with a fraction of the energy. In addition, they are containers for long-term storage rather than disposable packaging. In addition, as part of our current research and development project for refill packs, the first European-made packaging made from 100 percent recycled aluminum. And because we want the materials we use to stay in a cycle, we launched the new „Bring it Back“ recycling program in Germany in March 2022.

We continue to look at „future fibers“ like hemp and renewable materials, especially for our gift packaging. For products, refill is now the big issue. Our products are made with fresh ingredients and little to no preservatives, so refilling into containers that are not entirely clean would pose microbiological risks. Fortunately, we have now found a way to have the containers cleaned externally. Customers can therefore exchange their empty packaging for a clean one and have the product filled in. We are testing this refill offer in a pilot project in the UK.

Ruth Andrade grew up in a concrete jungle in Brazil, where she experienced environmental destruction at first hand. Because of these impressions, years later she decided to pursue a master’s degree in environmental and energy research. She also founded the Blueprint Alliance, a collective of regenerative design experts in the humanitarian field. Andrade first joined the Lush team as an environmental affairs contact from 2004 to 2014. She returned to the U.K.-based company in 2019, and has since led brand strategy in the area of carbon reduction.

by Andrea Möller