Ruth Andrade on Lush's 'Earth Care Team'
Ruth Andrade began her career with British cosmetics company Lush in 2004 as a sales assistant in its flagship store in Covent Garden, London. Originally from Brazil, the long-time vegan and nature enthusiast became Lush's first environmental manager nineteen years ago. An almost accidental assumption of the position, which came about during a discussion with Mark Constantine, one of the co-founders of Lush, who visited the store at the time. Since 2018, after having worked outside the group for a few years, Andrade has been in charge of Lush's 'Earth Care Team' in the UK and Europe, a department that manages Lush's sustainable development strategy. The brand has always asserted its commitments, whether in support of animal causes, the environment or even mental health. Lush has sold 19.8% of its capital to the British investment company Silverwood Brands and has 919 stores worldwide with sales of 480 million euros in 2021, below its pre-pandemic performance.
FashionNetwork.com: What exactly is the Earth Care Team at Lush? How long has it been in existence and what are its main missions?
Ruth Andrade: We decided to call what is usually referred to as the 'environment' or 'sustainability' team 'Earth Care', to always remind us of our purpose. The team has evolved from a one-person team in 2005 to a ten-person team today. It now has ten people in the UK and 20 worldwide.
Our main goals are to increase our influence, engagement and reach within the company, so that we can advise all teams and help them align their work with our goal of "leaving the world better than we found it."
On a day-to-day basis, we collaborate with all other departments, from providing training sessions and behavior change projects, to consulting on new stores and production buildings, to helping purchase renewable energy, to developing waste and energy reduction projects, to reporting on our environmental performance, to internal and external commitments.
In the UK, we are also a self-organizing team, which means that each person has considerable autonomy in their role and is involved in decisions on how the team works, who we recruit and how their role develops. My role is to help them develop their own mastery and leadership.
FNW: What are the ways in which a brand like Lush can reduce its environmental impact?
RA: Our main leverage is the level of vertical integration we have in the company. We invent our own products, we design our packaging, we manufacture our fragrances and products close to key markets, we sell primarily on our own digital channels and in our physical stores, and we have a dedicated buying team that sources most materials directly from farmers or manufacturers. This means we can quickly make changes on any of these fronts, and it has allowed us to be radical and bold in our decisions. For example, setting up the world's first entirely packaging-free store, or investing millions in developing regenerative raw material projects with farming communities.
Our second leverage is that we are a private company, and 10% of our capital is held by the staff, who are responsible for ensuring that our ethical guidelines are respected. Our employees are passionate about environmental causes, human and animal rights, which makes things easier. At Lush, there are always many projects underway.
FNW: Can you tell us about your latest project?
RA: One of our most exciting projects is our Green Hub, version 2.0, which will open in the spring. This is our reuse, repurpose and recycle center, which supports our Poole factory and our UK stores. Since 2007, we have been working more closely with our suppliers and developing projects to provide raw materials from regenerative agriculture, women-led projects and biodiversity conservation. In recent years, given that our supply chain is our main source of impact, we have begun to measure the impact of our top 100 raw materials and have set up a new fund and several projects to help existing suppliers reduce the impact of the raw materials they sell to us, or increase their positive impact on biodiversity, for example. From reforestation and agroforestry to improving agricultural practices and protecting wildlife, all of these projects are in line with our mission to leave the world better than we found it.
FNW: Do you use open-source to share your work methods?
RA: We wish more companies would do this. We invented solid shampoo and bath bombs and didn't renew the patents in order to allow others to develop these products. A lot of packaging has been avoided as more and more companies are launching plastic-free solid cosmetics.
We also launched an award in 2017 called the Spring Prize to help promote and reward initiatives in permaculture, regenerative agriculture and agroecology and the Lush Prize, which celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2022, to promote and reward alternatives to animal testing. The Green Hub is open for tours and Lush hosts a local collaboration of companies working on their net zero carbon and zero waste strategies. But indeed, I believe we can do much more to spread these practices.
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