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LUSH Cosmetics: How a Brand Balances Ethics With Profit

Although most customers enter a LUSH Cosmetics store in pursuit of fair-trade shampoo or soap, it's likely they'll walk out with much more than that. In fact, they'll probably become intrigued by an animal rights protest and sign a petition before they even smell the bath bombs bursting with biodegradable glitter.

LUSH was founded on ethical principles, yet they don’t spend money on advertising and they don't label themselves as an ethical brand. Brandi Halls, Director of Brand Communications at LUSH, explains how the company maintains a deep relationship with sustainability, animal rights, and fair trade ingredients, all while boasting high profits.

Can you walk us through the story behind the LUSH brand name?

Brandi: After a number of business ventures, the founders of LUSH were ready for a new endeavor. In 1995, they began working on a project where they used fresh fruits and vegetables from the market to manufacture handmade cosmetics for their shop in Poole, England. They launched a competition, which asked customers to submit ideas for their new company’s name. The word lush signifies fresh, green and verdant.

LUSH was a pioneer in the cruelty-free cosmetics industry. What challenges have you faced in maintaining this ethos throughout the years?

Brandi: It has never been a challenge for us to maintain a cruelty-free ethos because it’s the only way that we know how to do business. What has been challenging is seeing an end to animal testing for cosmetics purposes altogether. Despite having the strongest stance against animal testing in the cosmetics industry and using our 900 shops globally to campaign for a better and safer future for animals, testing on animals continues today.

In 2012, we decided to put our money where our mouth is and offered up the inaugural LUSH Prize—a £250,000 fund awarded annually to those making advancements in the areas of non-animal tests. In addition to awarding the LUSH prize annually, we use our shops as a platform to educate consumers, industry leaders, and government players to bring an end to this cruel and unnecessary practice.

How do you balance your commitment to ethics when you’re also trying to stand out from these other brands in the increasingly crowded “green” space?

Brandi: Ethics have and always will be at the heart of the company. For us, you really can balance sustainability and profit—the two can’t be separated. We attract passionate and loyal staff and we allow them the opportunity to apply their passions on the shop floor. When we launched the #makefurhistory campaign against the use of furs in the fashion industry, this was prevalent across all of our retail stores and on social media.

This type of activism is quite nontraditional in the retail space, so too is our lack of focus on sales during these ethical campaigns. Yes we make soap, but we also believe it’s our obligation to do so much more. This ignites a passion in our staff—they can discuss what they care about with customers all while selling bath bombs and body butter. Having these core values really does drive the passion of the company and it’s important to have staff whose ethics align with ours.

From energetic sales reps to colorful displays of soap, being in a LUSH store is a sensory, invigorating experience. How does your online presence help recreate this unique buying experience for the e-commerce shopper?

Brandi: The in-store LUSH experience is certainly difficult to replicate and that’s something that we are proud of. At the same time, we wanted to offer our loyal online customers the unique LUSH experience right in their own homes. Launched first in the UK, the LUSH Kitchen is a window into our handmade cosmetics manufacturing business. Each week a fresh batch of limited edition products are whipped up in the Kitchen, available only online and only that week. Customers lucky enough to get their hands on these Kitchen products are sent a personalized package detailing who made them and when, reinforcing our values of freshness and transparency. It’s a wonderful thing because people know the product was handmade especially for them, and they know there are real people and fresh ingredients behind it.

The LUSH Kitchen is set to open in North America in Spring of 2016.