I’ve spent my fair share of working life within the confines of a retail environment. Long hours, seasonal stress, a pressure to deliver sales, appease and motivate staff and converse amicably with the lovely general public. Bloody hard work, even when the product at your fingertips, music and film, is a life’s passion. Straight from school, fumbling into the stockroom then toy department of WH Smiths, spending the vast majority of the following 25 years in a catalogue of shops, until a succession of redundancies forced my career (hmm…) path elsewhere. I know retail, I’ve done it and I’m glad I’m out.
I’m an anti-capitalist, vegetarian humanist. Most large retail organisations annoy and frustrate the hell out of me for a myriad of reasons connected with my moral stance. There is one company however, who are in the business of selling product multi-nationally who succeed on many levels; who actively stand up against, not sheepishly try to hide behind animal testing, who source their materials ethically, whose products are 100% vegetarian and handmade, whose packaging is, whenever possible, non-existent, and through their charity pots support dozens of grassroots organisations who dedicate their time to animal welfare, environmental issues and human rights campaigns. Lush.
I wouldn’t say I’m a frequent Lush shopper; bi-monthly, maybe more, purchasing soaps, massage bars and perfume for Michelle. It is however always a pleasure, which says much about Lush, as I couldn’t really say that about any other high street retailer. The fact that their entire product is sourced and produced ethically is extremely important, but the shopping experience wouldn’t be pleasurable if the people who represent Lush in store did so with disdain, apathy or without a clear focus on the needs of each customer. I’ve not yet ventured into a Lush store and not been greeted with smiles, friendly but not pushy service and an amiable ambiance that comes from a happy team of motivated staff. Sounds simple, but like I said retail is no easy environment to maintain positivity.
My admiration for Lush was already high, but then I recently stumbled across a product that earned them even greater respect. Charity pots. The fact that I was previously unaware of them means, like most customers I shop with my eyes closed. Also that they make no song and dance about the fact that since it was launched in 2007 the charity pot has raised over £7million for carefully selected grassroots charities, causes and campaigns. £2.5million was raised globally in 2013 alone. Also, unlike some ‘charity’ products every penny spent (minus the Government’s tax, sadly) on the pots goes to the cause. There’s more goodness. In 2010 they introduced the SLush Fund, where 2% of the money they spend sourcing materials is donated to the fund, then used on sustainable farming and community products. £1.2million has already supported 32 projects in 19 different countries, seven of which go towards the production of the charity pot. Ethical retailing at its very best.
The pinnacle of my respect for Lush came recently when I noticed a new campaign being featured on their charity pots – Save Shaker Aamer. Lush clearly sees the horrific, ongoing injustice of Guantanamo, the American hellhole, now in its 13th year, having previously campaigned with Reprieve (a fantastic charity who provide legal support to prisoners without the funds to help themselves) to secure the release of the Al-Jazeera journalist Sami al-Haj and British resident Binyam Mohamed. Both freed by February 2009, Lush continues to campaign against Guantanamo with Shaker Aamer’s plight now the focus of their efforts. A global day of action is set for 23rd May. Take action now. Spread the word. And Lush… if any multi-national retail brand deserves praise it is them – getting retail right.