The Body Shop – Back to the Future
If doing good is not enough, where do you go? The Body Shop revisits original values to create a brand to fit the future – doing more than ever before to become truly sustainable.
As part of the Sustainable Brands Conference in Copenhagen in September, CSR LINK sat down with Christopher Davis – the man in charge of change.
When you’re already an iconic brand with a legacy to others only dream of, isn’t that pretty damn decent? No, says Christopher Davis, International Director of Corporate Responsibility and Campaigns at The Body Shop International, who calls traditional CSR out, for failing to do more than just “less bad”.
“Naturally The Body Shop in itself cannot rescue the entire world. But we should all recognize that if doing good isn’t actually providing actual sustainability, then all we’re doing in CSR is misleading.” says Christopher Davis, and adds “When we claim to work for sustainability we have an obligation to be realistic, be based in science and to ask ourselves; ‘are we actually helping, or are we still part of the problem?’”
These days The Body Shop stretches it’s more than 3.000 stores across more than 60 countries – with some 1.200 products to keep track of. So regardless of this being a massive challenge, this realisation has led to an entirely new vision in the decision to become a Future Fit company, and with it the introduction of a range of completely new metrics for performance, that gives a far better path to asses the actual progress towards true sustainability – and not just a “less worse” 5 or 7% improvement every year.
“The Body Shop was built on Purpose. It’s of course at the centre of our DNA. But technological advances are actually giving us much better tools to work in a strategic and systematic approach towards sustainability. So instead of succeeding by trial and error as in a Columbus-ish way, this time we’re going to venture ahead with GPS, metrics galore, and a very, very good idea about where we just need to end up,” he adds.
The restructuring of CSR-efforts in The Body Shop rests on three pillars: the behind the scenes initiatives (e.g. transport, use of ressources, energy etc), a product innovation and reformulation initiative, and a customer engagement programme. All three though on a completely different level of ambition than what one may expect, Christopher Davis underlines; “We’ve looked and learned a lot from the Future Fit-model, that essentially provides an entirely new metric-system, that’s scientifically based, to make sure that when we say sustainable, we are talking about the green kind, and not just 50 shades of grey.”
A key point for Christopher Davis is also the natural evolution of using all the original values of The Body Shop since it’s foundation, and to basically use these, as they were always meant to be used – literally change the world as we know it, because it’s the right thing to do – and so even in the face of “it cannot be done” we’ll have to find ways to do it anyway, as he says.
So with the need for solid evolution and change, new partnerships with great thinkers and models like Future Fit, but likewise partners in academia are essential. “Though we are as ever a commercial enterprise, we need the strong force of scientists to help us create new solutions and to use our new metrics for change,” says Christopher Davis with a touch of glee “Partnerships for knowledge is vital – but for me it is also just a tad cool to get to explore so many new fields of science.”
The new metrics are not something to introduce overnight, however. In fact Christopher Davis expects this to take a few years for the system to be in place and to provide reliable data. So in the meantime the efforts are centered on the Enrich Not Exploit-programme with 14 quite clear, ambitious goals before 2020, eg. a doubling of Community Trade programmes, the investments of 250,000 voluntary hours to enrich the biodiversity of local communities, and the reduction of power use by at least 10% – and only use renewable or carbon balance sources to do it.
Driving Christopher Davis on is very much the logic of the legacy that The Body Shop still carries with it – “We may not be the innovative teenager anymore – but with experience comes the knowhow to not only do things, but to do them with even more vigour, strategy and full force. And so to make sure that we do our part in also making the globe Future Fit.”
To learn more about The Body Shop Internationals current Enrich Not Exploit commitment visit; https://www.thebodyshop.com/en-gb/commitment/manifesto
To learn more about the Future Fit-model visit; http://futurefitbusiness.org/