“When we are talking about regeneration, it’s the opportunity to improve the health of every system we touch, going beyond sustainability by making a positive impact on the systems that we interact with,” explained Ruth Andrade, who is responsible for managing community networks, collaborative action and charitable giving strategies at Lush.
“The beauty industry needs to become much more circular, non-toxic, diverse and use its design buying and communication power to move us towards a regenerative future.”
How Lush supports cocoa producers in Sierra Leone
Responsible sourcing has always been fundamental to Lush’s business, according to Loedolff, and with the business’ new ambition to secure materials through regenerative practices, it has partnered with suppliers that source materials from farmers and producers, who actively engage in restoring damaged landscapes or other approaches to regeneration.
“There is a growing demand for cocoa and people want more and more of it,” Loedolff said. “It’s used heavily in the food industry and the cosmetics industry.”
To back Loedolff’s claim, data from the Market Reports World’s Global Organic Cocoa Market: Trends and Forecast report indicated that the global organic cocoa market is expected to reach 169 kilo tons by 2022. About 50 per cent of the cocoa is used by the food industry and about 13.33 per cent of this is used by the beauty industry.
“In Sierra Leone, we partnered with cocoa producers that work with the local communities and provide training to the farmers so they can increase the yield on their land so all income from that land is supporting them,” Loedolff said.
“The training can also provide certification, which means [producers] have a higher income for that cocoa because if you have organic certification, you have a guaranteed minimum price,” she explained.
Last year, about 4.8 million tons of cocoa beans were produced, but only around 300,000 tons were approved to be fair trade organic certified.
“Our partners in Sierra Leone are helping farmers increase their income from their piece of land,” explained Loedolff.
Sierra Leone’s cocoa industry was negatively impacted in the ’90s during the civil war and the subsequent Ebola crisis in 2014 which caused deaths in the region and left some farms abandoned.
“Training the farmers how to better utilise the land they have will also reduce the need to encroach on protected areas or forests because you don’t have to keep expanding to get more,” Loedolff said.
Tradin Organic, one of Lush’s existing suppliers of cocoa butter, has been one of the beauty brand’s partners to help local farmers in Sierra Leone obtain organic certification and receive training around regenerative farming. The organisation has also been working with regenerative agriculturists and organic growers to create farmer field schools.
Tradin Organic has also partnered with a reputable child safety organisation to help prevent incidences of child labour.
Social regeneration in Kenya
Groups of women in Laikipia, Kenya, have turned a semi-arid scrap of land into a model of sustainable agriculture, making money growing aloe and selling its leaves to Lush.
“There are five women’s groups that are actively cultivating the species of aloe, so we then buy the fresh aloe leaves from the women and they get the regular income through the sales of the aloe leaves. This has really helped the women in many ways,” Loedolff said.
The women have also learned how to make cosmetics and body products from the aloe, which they have then sold to hotels and guest houses in the country.
Lush has also been giving donations to the groups of women through the Sustainable Lush Fund, which have gone to the protection of the aloe plants from being trampled on by wild elephants and camels. The donations also funded an aloe nursery, a watering system, and farming equipment.
Steps toward regeneration
“The beauty industry can have a positive impact on society, contributing to all forms of regeneration,” explained Andrade.
Below are tips from Andrade on how businesses can help stop contributing to the destruction and pollution of ecosystems:
1. Businesses need to start investigating their supply chain to look for deforestation risks, pollution risks, among others, and create action plans to improve the impacts they have on the planet;
2. Consider the use of oils, butters, essences, fragrance materials and other ingredients traditionally used in cosmetics and how to create a regenerative supply chain.
“From creating opportunities for livelihoods on the buffer zones of protected areas as alternatives to poaching and deforestation, buying salt from salt pans involved in bird conservation to producing hydro-powered ylang ylang oil in agroforestry systems as an alternative to palm, every natural or naturally-derived material we source has the potential to be regenerative,” explained Andrade.
3. Packaging needs to go beyond just using recycled materials and now involve innovative materials that also encourage regeneration and circularity.
“We have a few examples at Lush with cork packaging, paper from a Golden Eagle habitat restoration and regenerative cotton, as some examples,” Andrade pointed out.