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.
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 BogotÃ¡ 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.
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