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?
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5 Comments on "Will The Body Shop find it’s easier being green?"
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EVP Thought Leadership, Marketing, WD Partners
Given the most recent Global Climate March, I’d say it’s absolutely the right thing to do, especially for a younger target demographic. What’s too bad though is the fact that they didn’t stick to their credo the entire time — this could cost them as others, like Lush and La Flore, have passed them in the battle for the perception of being green. Still, I think they have the chops to make a comeback in that arena.
Chief Amazement Officer, Shepard Presentations, LLC
I don’t know if being green is considered “activism.” It is about a cause. It is about alignment with people who believe in something they think is important. Cosmetic companies that are against animal testing are engaging in a form of “cause marketing.” So are companies that are green. It will attract a segment of the population that strongly believes in the cause. The Body Shop must do their due diligence to know if this cause is important or not to their customers. Some customers won’t care. Some customers will appreciate the effort, but it won’t make that big of a difference. And then some customers will only deal with a company that is green. So is it enough to make The Body Shop a stronger brand? Time will tell, but the effort to stand for something is almost always better than not.
Retail Transformation Thought Leader, Advisor, & Strategist
The Body Shop needs to convince its customers and target audience that they stand for something those customers also believe in. Will that be enough to propel the business forward? Possibly, assuming they have chosen the right causes and can stand up and be counted in a way that resonates and agrees with their target customers. Shoppers can see through veiled social activism and determine how true it rings for them. If The Body Shop can take actions that show they have purpose, then they can succeed.
Content Marketing Manager, Surefront
Nothing like getting called out as hypocrites to make a brand rethink their entire strategy. The Body Shop’s branding is rooted in eco-consciousness and, as Gen Z steps up, returning to an environmental focus will be the only way that this brand can survive.
I do believe that there is a space for refillable cosmetics if marketed correctly. Just take a look at home delivery services such as Loop and the rise in zero-waste stores. This could be a great move by The Body Shop, but they’re going to have to really double down on the transparency message to regain consumer trust after the Business Ethics exposé.
Head of Trends, Insider Trends
It’s interesting that The Body Shop says that they tried refill stations 20 years ago but dropped the idea as consumer uptake was too low. The world is a different place now and customers are looking for sustainable options and brands. It’s a very clear example of how important consumer buy-in is when it comes to innovation and how retailers need to be aware of customer habits and wants when making decisions. Something that might be too out there now may be exactly what your shoppers want in 5 or 10 years from now.
I think it makes sense for The Body Shop to be tapping into its green, natural, sustainable heritage as a way to position the brand today. As others have mentioned, it’s a shame that it lost sight of this over the years. At the same time, other brands like Lush are pushing much further ahead when it comes to innovation — you don’t need to refill a bottle if you’ve got no packaging, for example.