Will The Body Shop find it’s easier being green?
The Body Shop, originally positioned as an ardent environmental brand, is testing a return to its roots with a new store concept.
Earlier this week in London, The Body Shop opened the new location that offers shower gel and water bottle refills, according to Business Green. The store also has a spot to facilitate package recycling and brings the chain’s core message to the forefront with an “activist corner” where customers can make issues-oriented pledges.
Next year, the beauty retailer intends to roll out eight of the concept stores throughout North America, Asia and Europe with an eye toward retooling the entire store footprint, if data from the pilot locations denote a success. The new concept isn’t the first time that The Body Shop has given refillable products a shot, but its earlier line of refillables was cut in the 1990s when customers weren’t buying.
The Body Shop, which has about 3,000 locations globally, was purchased by cosmetics company L’Oréal in 2006, and then purchased again by Brazilian cosmetics giant Natura in 2017.
The chain has by some accounts fallen from being a brand associated with environmentalism to one associated primarily with low-cost buys and gifts, as discussed in a BBC News article.
It could be the perfect time for The Body Shop to revive the environmentalist image of its early years, given growing consumer interest in environmental issues, sustainable products and corporate responsibility.
In May, the company announced that it was beginning to use recycled plastic from Bengalaru, India, while also helping to improve the working and sanitation conditions of the waste pickers involved in producing the plastic.
In its heyday, however, The Body Shop’s public stances did not always work in its favor. While the brand was built around environmental and ethical business practices at its inception, by the early-’90s it became mired in controversy. An award-winning article in the now-defunct Business Ethics magazine detailed a laundry list of ways in which the chain had fallen short of its purported ethical and environmental commitments.
- The Body Shop reimagines store as refill centre and ‘activist workshop’ – Business Green
- Exclusive: ‘Under Natura The Body Shop will return to its activist roots’ – Ethical Corp
- The Body Shop – what went wrong? – BBC
- COMMUNITY TRADE RECYCLED PLASTIC – The Body Shop
- Shattered Image – Business Ethics (archival)
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: How strongly should The Body Shop focus on “activism” as a part of its brand? Are customers as ready for refillable products as social trends seem to indicate, and will this benefit The Body Shop’s business?