Greenwash Of The Week: The Body Shop Business Ethics.

September 30, 2009

We all know about The Body Shop, which is that store in the mall that claims to be making products that are all about being “natural” and showing their care for the environment. In fact, on their website, they state “For many years, The Body Shop has constantly sought out wonderful natural ingredients from all four corners of the globe, and brings you products bursting with effectiveness to enhance your natural beauty. While doing all of this The Body Shop also strives to protect this beautiful planet and the people who depend on it , not because it’s fashionable, but based on the belief that it’s the only way to do business.” The part I view as greenwashing, in light of a recent article I read, is that last sentence — “strives to protect this beautiful planet and the people who depend on it“. Well, it seems like that may not really be the case. But more on that in a minute.

The Body Shop was started by Anita Roddick in 1976 in England, and through the years has had several articles/books/complaints written about their “faux” natural products, meaning they contained only a smidgen of natural ingredients but were otherwise made from inexpensive off the shelf ingredients with dyes, petrochemical based preservatives, and artificial scents found in drug store quality products (Wikipedia). And as for its record in support of the environment, women’s rights, and other social causes issues, well, what they told people wasn’t/isn’t necessarily the truth. An investigative article found Roddick gave less than half what average companies give to charity, and gave nothing at all over its first 11 years of existence while claiming in speeches and articles that she and her company gave “most of our profits away.” So, as you can see, their concern for the health of people and planet has had somewhat of a checkered past. And while they did start to do some cleaning up over the last many years starting in the 1990’s, in 2006 they sold out to cosmetics giant L’Oreal, which is in turn owned by Nestle — two companies not exactly known for their concern for our planet or the people on it. My friend Siel over at GreenLA Girl even switched from The Body Shop products to safer ones made by more responsible companies back in 2006. But I digress, and I want to get to the latest greenwashing for this week’s article.


Palm Oil Fruit
Photo from Shutterstock

See, The Body Shop buys the palm oil for their products from an organization that pushed for the eviction of peasant families to develop a new plantation. So much for their concern about creating “sustainable trading relationships with disadvantaged communities around the world”. From a recent article in The Guardian newspaper in the UK:

Daabon Organics, a Colombian firm that provides the British chain with 90% of all its palm oil, was part of a consortium that asked the courts to remove farmers from a sprawling ranch 320km north of the capital Bogotá with a plan to grow African palm. Police in riot gear evicted the farmers in July…The disclosure will embarrass the Body Shop, which has claimed that it respects the rights of local farmers in developing countries and uses Daabon’s oil to make the equivalent of 7.5 million bars of soap every year. It will also highlight the many battles between farmers and palm oil companies across the globe as the product becomes increasingly lucrative.

Just because a company says they are eco-friendly, pro-environment, and do their “best” to be sustainable, doesn’t really mean that they are. Don’t fall for words – do your homework and buy products made by truly responsible companies. Our planet, your body, and our future will thank you for your efforts.

Green PolkaDot Box
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About the Author:

After a varied past of being a test driver for automotive television programs, a Hollywood studio lackey, and an online media sales director, David is now the publisher and editor of The Good Human. In his spare time he rides motorcycles, drinks good beer, and builds stuff in the garage. You can follow him on Twitter at @thegoodhuman or G+ at Google
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Comments (10)

  1. Jane says:

    The Body Shop is one of the reasons I began more research into personal products. I read the ingredients & decided that I didn’t want to buy their products. In the end, I concluded that things like virgin, organic oils from places where they have always grown are the most effective & sustainable skin conditioners.

  2. Liz says:

    There was a time, long ago, when I bought the Body Shop “ethic.” Then I started reading labels. Ditched them right quick! Now when I walk by the place I hold my nose at the petrochemical smells wafting out of the place. P-U!

    Glad someone finally called them out. Great post.

  3. Liz says:

    There was a time, long ago, when I bought the Body Shop “ethic.” Then I started reading labels. Ditched them right quick! Now when I walk by the place I hold my nose at the petrochemical smells wafting out of the place. P-U!

    Glad someone finally called them out. Great post.
    BTW I love your blog!

  4. Excellent article…that is why I always say “Going Green” should be a lifetime commitment, rather than a marketing ploy to boost business. I hope the term “ethical leadership” is not an oxymoron. In other words, businesspersons and others should not try to deceive the public by making false claims, false promises, etc.

  5. sakoiya says:

    I must say that you should read up on you facts. I have been with the The Body Shop for 6yrs now and I’ve seen changes. We have NEVER claimed to be natural. We are NATURE inspired. My company is working to be carbon neutral by the end of 2010! Also our PALM OIL is NOW sustainable(we just did this). Most of our funraising for diffrent causes comes from individual stores. Our gift bags went to a domestic vilolence cause for YEARS! My store(barton creek mall austin,texas) works with safe place(domestic violence shelter) and we have raised money and donated clothes and various other body products. We participate in Aids walks, Breast Cancer walks and just did a Stop SEX Traffic walk. The individuals who work for the company do our own things to uphold The Body Shop Values and we ALSO create our own. I was able to meet with Somaly Mam in September(look her up) who is a sex traffic survivor! So to say that the company I work for is bad!I disagree! All of our containers are made with recycled materials. We try but we are not perfect and have never claimed to be.
    Peace and Love
    Sakoiya-The Body Shop
    BartonCreek Mall Austin,Tx

    • david says:

      And I must say that you might want to dig a little deeper under the dirt of the company you work for. :)

  6. Naive says:

    I wished I was less naive and took heed of all the negative publicity that was directed at The Body Shop. Why? I was hired 2 years ago by the Asia Pacific team and was hastily told to go, less than 3 months into the job coz I found out I was pregnant. They said its a business decision, and didnt want to be responsible for my maternity benefit – 4 months of paid leave. Nature inspired or not, judge for yourself if this is ethnical behaviour?

    There’s more, while I was there, I got to realize how low quality the products really are. The thing abt animal testing, they claim to not test new products on animals…guess what they test on? Their EMPLOYEES! We were given samples and told to give feedback. Upon trying some of them, I broke out in hives and rashes! That went away after I stopped using the products, well maybe it was just me and my unworthy skin…

    Anyway, when I talk to some of the veteran staff, they told me they wouldnt use the products themselves, you really dont know if it’s safe!

    Oh well, sharing this so people are more aware of what they are buying into and dont believe a word they say.

  7. C Bradley says:

    I am writing an article about The Body Shop and Anita Roddick. If any one can assist me with this article I would be grateful.

    I am looking for all the positive things about The Body Shop, however those whom wish to share their other feelings, I will also welcome.

    Respectfully submitted,
    C. Bradley
    cbradley@altruismfoundation.com
    310.594.9618

  8. wow.. another gr8 eye opening post thanks.

    I once was a fan of the Body Shop but recently stopped buying any of their products with the Lo(un)real take over.
    It’s true …we do need to be more thorough in our research. Obviously I hadn’t been very good at mine but we live and learn these things together. (And it’s important to subscribe to gr8 blogs like this to keep updated)

    oer testing on employees??? what’s that all about?

  9. roger matheson says:

    i am sorry for the animals ;-(